Preventing Harassment from Occurring in Your Workplace

Many employers realize that preventing harassment in the workplace can mean the difference between a productive and profitable business and a business that faces legal threats and compromised profitability. Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination and can be based on sex, race, disability, age, ethnicity/national origin, color and religion. EEOC Study on Harassment Recently, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released the results of a study about harassment along with recommendations that employers may find valuable in preventing workplace harassment. The study found that: Workplace harassment problems have persisted. In fact, about one-third (90,000) of the charges received by the EEOC in 2015 dealt with allegations of workplace harassment. Most employees fail to report workplace harassment and instead avoid the harasser, downplay the gravity of it, try to ignore it, forget or endure the harassment. The costs of workplace harassment through actions taken by the EEOC in 2016 totaled $164.5 million. Harassment is costly for businesses. Accountability for harassment must begin at the top of the work culture with its leaders. Training for sexual harassment over the past 30 years focuses on how to avoid legal liability rather than how to change the harassing behavior. This wrong form of training has allowed the problem to persist. EEOC Recommendations for Changing the Work Culture Different approaches to training would include some techniques that have proven to be effective on school campuses. The focus is on creating a culture that prevents discrimination. Approaches include: Bystander intervention training. Workers are trained to speak up and object when they see a co-worker being harassed by another worker. This is particularly necessary for supervisors...

Fox News Embroiled in Discrimination Lawsuits

Recently, Fox News has been high profile in the media for discrimination lawsuits brought by employees who are alleging sexual harassment and racial discrimination. The most shocking news report that hit the media and rocked the nation was about the firing of Bill O’Reilly due to sexual harassment allegations. Bill O’Reilly Discrimination Lawsuits Based on Sexual Harassment According to The New York Times , Fox settled complaints brought by five women who alleged Bill O’Reilly had sexually harassed them. The network launched an investigation into O’Reilly and discovered multiple women had reported inappropriate behavior that involved him. The Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox, decided the outcome, and in particular, Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan arrived at their decision after the internal investigation. They paid $13 million to settle the women’s complaints. O’Reilly’s termination came during his visit to Italy where he met Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. O’Reilly’s Rebuttal CBS News reported that O’Reilly denied the sexual harassment allegations and has said he is confident the truth will come out. He said when it does, he expects everyone to be as shaken as he is. More Lawsuits Against Fox News The Washington Post reported that more employees have filed lawsuits against Fox News, and one of these lawsuits includes racial discrimination. A total of 13 current and former employees took separate legal actions against the news media outlet and alleged years of “hostile racial discrimination.” Emmy-winning reporter Kelly Wright was among eleven of these people who filed a class action lawsuit against the network in the NY Supreme Court. All...

What Is the New York Women’s Equality Agenda?

In October 2015, New York passed eight bills that were known as the Women’s Equality Agenda. Seven of the provisions of this law went into effect on January 19, 2016. As an employer, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities under this new equal pay law in New York. What Are the Main Changes in the Women’s Equality Agenda that Affect Employers? One aspect of the Women’s Equality Agenda increases women’s protection against pay differentials based on sex by replacing the current “any other factor than sex” exception, which typically referred to seniority, merit, or a quantity/quality of production system and other non-sex related factors. The law replaces the “any other factor than sex” with “a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience.” The factor must be job-related and the exception would not be valid if the employee could demonstrate that: The employer uses “a particular employment practice that causes a disparate impact on the basis of sex.” There was an alternate employment practice that would accomplish the same business purpose and the “employer has refused to adopt such a practice.” Also, the law defines “business necessity” as a factor that bears a relevant relationship to the employment in question. Geographical Location Two comparable employees in two different physical locations that are in the same geographic region should not show a differential in pay. Right to Share Wage Information Companies cannot prohibit employees from sharing wage information, and this would allow employees to discover whether pay was equal for both sexes. Penalty for Wage Violation Previously, employees who did not receive equal...

Court’s Decision Favors Employers in Case EEOC Brought Against a Wendy’s Franchise

Recently a federal district Court in Tennessee ruled that the EEOC could not force a Wendy’s restaurant franchisee to turn over broad information based on a single discrimination charge. Bloomberg BNA  reported about the decision in this case, which was a victory for employers. Details of the Case EEOC Brought Against a Wendy’s Franchise An employee at Southeast Food Services, a Wendy’s franchise, filed an EEOC complaint that alleged the franchise unlawfully retaliated against her because as a condition of promotion, she refused to sign a general release of past claims. The EEOC issued a subpoena for the franchise to submit all contact information for its employees since 2014, including employees who were promoted and who signed releases. The information was to include job titles and hiring and termination dates. Court’s Decision Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton found that the EEOC could not use a single charge as a reason to expand an investigation into information that is not relevant to the single charge. A realistic expectation must exist to advance a broader investigation and none existed in this case. The EEOC would have to file a new commissioner’s charge to launch a broader investigation. A statement that stood out in the court’s decision was that an EEOC “decision to expand its investigation does not statutorily expand its investigable power.” In most cases, employers agree to provide the EEOC with requested information as part of reaching a compromise. Similar Case Pending Before the U.S. Supreme Court Currently, McLane Co v. EEOC, a similar case, is pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling. This case also involves an employer who challenged the...

How Can You Avoid Religious Discrimination Claims?

When employers deal with a worker unfavorably because of religious beliefs, they open themselves up to discrimination lawsuits. Laws prohibiting religious discrimination protect people who adhere to traditional religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. The also apply to other people who hold sincere religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Tips the EEOC Provides to Employers to Avoid Religious Discrimination Charges Based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC encourages employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for workers so they can practice or observe their religions. The only exception is when the accommodation causes the business an undue hardship, making it difficult to operate the business. What is involved with making reasonable accommodations? You should make sure you understand the religious request by discussing it with the job applicant or worker and should consider what options are available to accommodate the request. Perhaps the request is to have a certain day off to observe religious services. A schedule adjustment could be an alternative to accommodate the individual. Or perhaps the worker must wear a hat (yarmulke) or head covering (hijab) and allowing the person to do so would be the accommodation. What Qualifies as Undue Hardship? Examples of accommodations causing undue hardship include: The company suffers from diminished efficiency in relation to other jobs Infringement of other employee’s rights or jobs occurs The accommodation impairs workplace safety Co-workers have to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work The accommodation conflicts with another law The company suffers from more than a minimal or trivial cost in its operation What Does Proving Undue Hardship...