Myths in Employment Civil Rights Litigation

Myth 8. Many plaintiffs’ lawsuits are frivolous.

Our interviews with defendants and their lawyers reveal that they often believe plaintiffs are ill-informed about the law or seeking undeserved compensation. Yet there is no straightforward test to determine at the outset of a case whether it is weak on the merits. Unlike medical treatment files, which can be objectively reviewed by experts, employment files are themselves created by employer-defendants and may contain subjective assessment of performance and misconduct.

One indication of this difficulty can be seen in our data. The EEOC created priority codes to predict the odds of success when charges are filed. We obtained commission records and matched them to a large subset of our filings cases. The EEOC priority codes had no power to predict the outcomes of our cases.

from the ABA: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/myths_show_the_harsh_realities_of_civil_rights_litigation/P1

News Flash: Update on Tip Pooling

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the tip regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the proposed rule, workplaces would have the freedom to allow sharing of tips among more employees – an option that is currently restricted by a rule promulgated in 2011 that has been challenged in a number of courts.
 
The NPRM will be published in the Federal Register on December 5, 2017, and be available for public comment for 30 days. The Department encourages interested parties to submit comments on the proposed rule. The NPRM, along with the procedures for submitting comments, can be found at the Wage and Hour Division’s Proposed Rule website.

- From the USDOL WHD

Discrimination 101

Recently there have been a number of significant decisions regarding discrimination in the workplace highlighting the fact that preventing discrimination is a responsibility of every employer. Employers who fail to meet this challenge by failing to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination can be held directly responsible for discrimination or vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.

What constitutes discrimination has varied by court or even by judge; however, the law is clear that employers should ensure that they do not discriminate (or allow their employees to discriminate) on the basis of the following:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Political affiliation
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy
  • Gender/Gender identity/Gender orientation
  • Creed

This is not an exhaustive list depending on your jurisdiction (federal, state, municipal etc.) but it covers most of the basics.

For example, in a recent case, a major rail network was held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees who had sexually harassed a female manager. The manager was subjected to having graffiti of a “particularly graphic and highly offensive nature” written about her in the men’s bathroom at work. In a further incident, a pornographic magazine was pushed under the door of her office. The female manager successfully obtained a large monetary award as a token of the employer’s failures.

Employers will be held accountable for failing to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in their workplace and to address complaint of discrimination and harassment quickly and confidentially. Some of the steps that employers should take to prevent harassment and discrimination are:

  • Having comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that are committed to by all workplace stakeholders (owners, operators, managers, directors, employees and contractors)
  • Having a grievance resolution procedure that is clear and concise
  • Providing information to your employee of where they can go to get assistance outside of your workplace
  • Training all employees on what is discrimination and harassment, and what behaviors are prohibited
  • Ensuring all managers are trained on how to appropriately investigate and handle complaints
  • Making discrimination and harassment a feature of discussion at staff meetings
  • Displaying posters and notices that clearly state that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated

#metoo movement - Sexual Harassment and Discrimination at Work

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In a world where publicizing the intimacy of what goes on behind closed doors is both easy and pervasive, employers are urged to audit their anti-harassment processes and employees are encouraged to come forward if they have experienced or are experiencing sexual harassment at work.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, which strive to create harassment-free workplaces by ensuring that employers fulfil their duties under federal legislation, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Among a vast array of other things, these laws require that:

  • Employers do not condone sexual harassment in hiring, firing, compensation, promotion, layoff, recruitment, training, benefits, etc.
  • Employers do post notices visible to all employees outlining their rights under EEO laws

Sexual harassment is offensive behavior towards someone based on their gender, sexual orientation or sex. Harassment can be a wide range of actions. For instance, bullying, whether physical, verbal or nonverbal; targeted pestering; stalking; antagonistic teasing; name calling; damage to person or property; threatening or derogatory comments. Add sexual assault, including unwanted indecent touching and rape; lewd gestures and exposure. These all fit under the harassment umbrella. Unwelcome sexual advances, request of sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment

Although most people thing of sexual harassment as something that happens only to women, men can be sexually harassed as well.

Clients have reported that being sexually harassed can devastate the victim’s psychological health, physical well-being and vocational development. Women who have been harassed often change their jobs, career goals, job assignments or educational pursuits. In addition, women have reported psychological and physical reactions to being harassed that are similar to reactions to other forms of stress and abuse.

Sexual harassment, especially in the workplace has gained increasing recognition in every society, causing employers to wake up to the potential of it going on amongst co-workers, supervisors and subordinates.

Employers: audit your policies now, revise them as necessary, implement them uniformly across genders and treat every case seriously.

Employees: it can be scary to say #metoo; however, it is important that you let someone know about your difficulties before it goes too far, or before someone suffers the same abuse.

Assessment Tool: Discrimination in Employment

So you think you have a discrimination claim against your employer? Hold that thought. Your answers to the following questions might indicate otherwise.

  1. Have you suffered an adverse employment-related action such as a refusal to hire, verbal or written infraction, refusal to promote, demotion, denial of benefits, suspension or dismissal?
  2. Do you have evidence that the adverse employment-related action which you have suffered was taken by the employer because of the protected class (your race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, veteran or active military status) to which you belong?
  3. If the employer has provided reasons for the adverse employment-related action, do you have evidence that those reasons are false?