A Look Back on Sexual Harassment Charges in 2018

EEOC Sexual Harassment Charges Statistics Surged The increase in sexual harassment lawsuits brought by the EEOC was 50 percent higher in 2018 than they were in 2017. The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, and of those, 41 involved allegations of sexual harassment. New charges filed with the EEOC that alleged sexual harassment were more than 7,500, which was 12 percent higher than in 2017. The EEOC recovered close to $70 million in settlements of cases that involved sexual harassment issues, which compared with the $47.5 million in settlements recovered for 2017. As the new year begins, we often look back to the previous year, reflect on the changes and hone our perspectives toward progress for the coming year. Facts about the #MeToo Movement and Its Effect on Sexual Harassment In October of 2017, rape and sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein were the springboard that propelled the #MeToo movement. Sexual harassment took center stage in the American media’s spotlight. The #MeToo Movement is a movement against sexual harassment and assault. Tarana Burke was the social activist who coined the “Me Too” expression in 2006, and the phrase reappeared in 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano used it on Twitter. The #MeToo movement has been a driving factor in the heightened focus on sexual harassment cases. According to the Washington Post, similar to the celebrity driven #MeToo movement, cases filed with the EEOC saw an increase in sexual harassment cases filed by employees from small businesses — mom-and-pop and everyday companies. The #MeToo movement has increased society’s awareness of the problem and also made it more acceptable for victimized employees to...

A New NLRB Roadmap for Employee Handbooks

What Are the Current NLRB Handbook Guidelines for Employers? Through a number of legal cases, including the 2004 Lutheran Heritage decision and later decisions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) deemed certain employee handbook rules as unlawful. They adjudicated that they were in violation of employees Section 7 rights (right to self-organize and right to collective bargaining). As a result, for a number of years workplace rules established by employers came under scrutiny and more harsh restrictions. However, the NLRB MEMORANDUM GC 18-04, released on June 15, 2018, restored commonplace rules that previously were under attack. New Categories for Rules The NLRB now places employment rules into three categories: category 1 lawful rules, category 2 rules warranting individualized scrutiny, and category 3 unlawful rules. Category 1 Rules The NLRB considers rules to be lawful (when reasonably interpreted) that do not prohibit or interfere with employees’ rights under the NLRA. They also consider whether the business justifications associated with the rule outweigh the potential adverse impact on protected rights. Some category 1 examples that are lawful rules include: Conduct that is inappropriate such as rude or condescending behavior Negative or disparaging remarks about the professional capabilities of an employee Offensive language Posting photographs or videos that could be viewed as disparaging employees Insubordination to a manager Lack of cooperation with fellow employees or guests Prevention of company misrepresentation Using a company logo or trademark without approval Category 2 Rules Rules that warrant individualized scrutiny are rules that are not obviously lawful or unlawful. The Board would evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether the rule caused employees to refrain from Section...

Have You Been Accused of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Growing Concerns About Sexual Harassment in Employment Environments New York NBC News recently reported that more than $5 million has gone into settling lawsuits brought against 70 New York employees accused of sexual harassment or gender discrimination. In addition, half of the accused employees have been allowed to keep their jobs. A Sexual Harassment Case Where Stephen Hans Represented the Defendant Attorney Stephen Hans appeared in an NY NBC video to give a statement regarding the case brought against his client by rehab counselor Jennifer Lastra. Both were counselors at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. While she had various accusations of sexual harassment (she filed complaints with managers and the NYPD), there was no proof to substantiate her claim. Stephen Hans’ client, Paul Burke completely denied the charges and was willing to go to court to defend his side of the case. However, the case settled out of court, and the claimant received $25,000. In many government cases involving accusations of sexual harassment, internal investigations have found the accusations were without merit. To avoid expensive, protracted litigation where taxpayers would foot the bill, parties reached settlements instead of going to court. As Stephen pointed out, a settlement does not mean that the accused individual was guilty of wrongdoing. In many instances, a settlement is simply a wise decision to save court costs for both parties in a case. Sexual Harassment  — What Is the Other Side of the Coin? Over the past year with the #metoo movement, sexual harassment has taken center stage as an employment concern for employers and employees across the nation. While our legal system enables society...

New York City’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Act

ESTA and ESSTA The revised Earned Sick Time Act (ESTA) is now called the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA), and it became effective on May 5, 2018. Employers should provide all newly hired employees with a Notice of Employee Rights and also provide it to all current employees that were hired prior to June 4, 2018. How Does ESSTA Differ from ETSA? ESSTA differs from ESTA in mainly two ways. Expanded Definition of Family Member It provides a more comprehensive definition of a family member, which includes any individual who is blood related to the employee and also individuals whose close connection with the employee is equivalent to a family relationship. According to the NYC Consumer Affairs, the law recognizes the following individuals as family members: Child (biological child, adopted child, foster child, legal ward or child of an employee standing in loco parentis) Grandchild Spouse (current or former regardless of whether they reside together) Domestic partner (current or former regardless of whether they reside together) Parent Grandparent Close associations that are equivalent to a family member Added Requirement of Safe Time In addition to sick leave applying to illness, the new revised law includes “safe time” as an allowed reason for a leave. “Safe time” is time an employee spends away from work due to the employee or an employee’s family member who has been the victim of: A sexual offense Stalking Human trafficking A domestic violence offense Safe time provides the opportunity for seeking assistance or taking other safety measures to deal with the threats in their or their family member’s lives. Examples would include...

Sexual Harassment Protest: Google Walkout

Thousands of Employees Worldwide Protest Google’s Handling of Sexual Harassment The Google Walkout on November 1, 2018 in protest of sexual harassment was a worldwide event. The largest gathering of protesters, numbering in the thousands, occurred in Silicon Valley, California where Google Headquarters is located. In addition, The New York Times reported that workers protested internationally in Singapore, Hyderabad, Berlin, Zurich, London, Chicago and Seattle, to name a few locations. New York also had a large number of protesters. An estimated 3,000 people gathered to protest in a city park. Since the #Metoo movement began a year ago, sexual harassment has topped the list in anti-discrimination movements. A number of states have passed stricter laws to prohibit sexual harassment, and New York has passed the most stringent sexual harassment training laws in the nation. What Was the Main Protest Focus in the Google Walkout? The New York Times published an article on Oct 25, 2018 about the resignation of the creator of Android software, Andy Rubin in 2014. At that time, he left Google with a $90 million exit package and no public disclosure of sexual misconduct. Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Larry Page, co-founder of Google and the chief executive of the parent company, Alphabet issued apologies. According to a Wall Street Journal article on the walkout, Pichai stated that Google no longer makes payouts to employees who are dismissed due to sexual harassment. He also stated, “Moments like this show we didn’t always get it right. We are listening to employees, which is why today is important.” Another point of contention among the protesters was Google’s...