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Is There a Bully in Your Workplace?

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 4/23/2014
workplace bully

Chances are there is a bully in your workplace, and that’s bad for business. The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines bullying as repeated mistreatment involving physically or verbally abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating, or that interferes with or prevents work from getting done. According to the WBI’s 2014 Workplace Bullying Survey:

  • 27% are or have been victims of workplace bullying
  • 21% have witnessed workplace bullying
  • 23% are aware of workplace bullying
  • 65 million workers are affected by workplace bullying

Though the frequency of workplace bullying may come as a surprise to some, the consequences should not. Workplace bullying typically increases employee turnover, decreases productivity, reduces job satisfaction, undermines morale, increases workers’ compensation costs and increases employment-related litigation costs.

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Religious Garb and Grooming Accommodations under Title VII

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 3/12/2014
woman putting on sari

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charges of religious discrimination brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are steadily increasing. These charges often involve religious dress and grooming practices, such as:

  • wearing religious clothing or articles, such as a Muslim hijab (headscarf), a Sikh turban or a Christian cross
  • observing a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments, such as a Muslim, Pentecostal Christian, or Orthodox Jewish woman's practice of not wearing pants or short skirts
  • adhering to shaving or hair length observances, such as a uncut hair and beard (Sikh), dreadlocks (Rastafarian) or peyes/side locks (Jewish)

    Title VII, which protects all aspects of religious observance, practice and belief, defines religion very broadly. It protects not only traditional, organized religions, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or may seem illogical or unreasonable to others.

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Grading the EEOC in 2013

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 1/29/2014
employee and employer

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is on a mission. According to its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012 through 2016, the EEOC is focused on:

  • combating employment discrimination with administrative (investigation, mediation, conciliation) and litigation enforcement mechanisms
  • preventing employment discrimination with education and outreach activities
  • delivering excellent and consistent services with effective systems.

The EEOC’s enforcement objectives and activities provide valuable insight into what employers should pay special attention to when dealing with equal employment opportunity matters. According to its Fiscal Year 2013 Performance and Accountability Report, the EEOC:

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Unlawful Retaliation under Title VII: No More Mixed Messages

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 8/21/2013
workplace discrimination

Title VII prohibits retaliation against employees who engage in protected activity, such as opposing or alleging unlawful workplace discrimination. Those suing for unlawful retaliation must prove that there is a link between the retaliation and their protected activity. But, how strong must the link be? The U.S. Supreme Court recently answered this question in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar.

In this case, Dr. Nassar alleged that his supervisor was biased against him on account of his religion and ethnic heritage. His supervisor once remarked that “Middle Easterners are lazy,” and, upon hearing that another physician of Middle Eastern descent was hired, the supervisor said that the hospital had “hired another one.” Dr. Nassar lodged several complaints about his treatment. Thereafter, a series of events led to Dr. Nassar leaving the hospital for another position. More...

Who is a Supervisor under Title VII? Why does it Matter?

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 7/17/2013
supervisor and employee

Who is considered a supervisor under Title VII? Since our last article discussing Vance v. Ball State University, the U.S. Supreme Court has given us the answer. According to the Court, a supervisor is a person

empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim; to effect a significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.

Vance involved allegations of racial harassment and discrimination in violation of Title VII. Though the parties disputed the precise nature and scope of the harasser’s duties, it was clear that the harasser did not have the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline the plaintiff. Given the harasser’s inability to take a tangible employment action against the plaintiff, the Court held that the harasser does not qualify as a supervisor under Title VII. More...

EEOC Focusing on Employers Using Criminal Background Checks

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 6/18/2013
background check

In a previous article we discussed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) position on the use of arrest and conviction records in the employment context. According to the EEOC, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) prohibits the use of arrest and conviction records in a manner that discriminates on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or sex. The EEOC recently reaffirmed its position by filing two lawsuits involving the use of criminal background records.

BMW Manufacturing Co.

The EEOC claims that BMW’s criminal conviction policy, which disproportionately screened out African Americans, is not job related and consistent with business necessity. The lawsuit alleges that BMW’s policy is a blanket exclusion that does not provide for an individualized assessment of the nature and gravity of the crimes, the ages of the convictions, or the nature of the workers’ respective positions. More...

Employers May See More Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 11/20/2012

An employer’s liability for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act depends on whether the harasser is a supervisor. If the alleged harasser is the victim’s co-employee, the employer may have various defenses to liability. However, if the harasser is a supervisor, Title VII’s strict liability standard may be triggered and the employer may be left defenseless.

So, who is considered a supervisor under Title VII?

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ADA Court Ruling Shocks Employers - Reassignment may be a Reasonable Accommodation

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 10/17/2012

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued United Airlines since disabled employees who could no longer do their jobs had to compete for vacant positions instead of being automatically reassigned. According to the EEOC, this practice violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

When the EEOC made a similar argument to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000, the Court held that the ADA does not require an employer to reassign a disabled employee to a job for which there is a better applicant—provided it is the employer's consistent and honest policy to hire the best applicant for the particular job in question.

Undeterred, the EEOC again asked the Court to answer the same question. This time around, the EEOC got a different answer. More...

Employers Take Note: EEOC Reports Record Number of Complaints, Revenue Generated, and Cases Resolved in 2011

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 12/12/2011

According to its annual Performance and Accountability Report, 2011 proved to be a record year… for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC’s fiscal year, which ended on September 30th, culminated with a record 99,947 charges of discrimination. This is the highest number of charges in the EEOC’s 46-year history. The $364.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of workplace discrimination, including $170 million from the private sector, also marks a record year for the EEOC.More...

Preventing Violence in the Workplace: Taking an Active Role in the Process before OSHA Does

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 8/10/2011

The death of one employee and the wounding of another, both allegedly caused by a client of an addiction treatment facility, caught the attention of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA cited the treatment facility with a serious violation for failing to adhere to the Occupational Safety & Health Act's (Act) general duty clause, which provides that all employers have a general duty to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Violence in the workplace certainly falls within this category. More...

Supreme Court Adopts "Cat's Paw" Theory of Liability in Staub v. Proctor Hospital

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 7/6/2011
From The Monkey and the Cat, Jean de la Fontaine

No more are the princes, by flattery paid
For furnishing help in a different trade,
And burning their fingers to bring
More power to some mightier king.

Some time ago, we posed the following question to our readers: Can an employer be held liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) for racial discrimination even though the actual decision-maker did not know that the employee was being fired because he was African American?More...

Does an Employee have to File a Written Complaint to be Protected by the FLSA’s Anti-Retaliation Provision?

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 6/9/2011

Like many employment-related laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the federal law governing minimum wages, maximum hours, and overtime pay, includes an anti-retaliation provision. In Katsen v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., Case No. No. 09-834, the United States Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision protects only those employees submitting written complaints of FLSA violations in their workplace.More...

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act: Answers to Your GINA Questions

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 3/7/2011
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which became effective November 21, 2009, prohibits the use of genetic information in employment, restricts covered entities from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information. Under GINA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is required to issue implementation regulations within one year of the effective date. On November 9, 2010, the EEOC issued its final regulations, which became effective on January 10, 2011.More...

'Tis the Season-for Celebration or Litigation?

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 10/18/2010

The halls have been decked, and employees have donned their gay apparel; everyone appears to be in good cheer at the office holiday party, held on a Saturday night at an off-site location. More...

Diversity Training and Investigation May Save Employer from Hostile Work Environment Claim

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 10/14/2010

Diversity in the workplace is a good thing. When men and women of different races, religions, ethnicities, and ages work together in an environment of tolerance and respect, the possibilities are limitless. More...

Florida's Constitution Amendment To Women in the Workplace: Visible Gains, Invisible Barriers

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 10/1/2010

Since WWII expanded women's roles into the military and business arenas, women have been making steady and significant strides toward full equality in the workplace. More...

Avoid Sexual Harassment Through Training

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 10/1/2010

Over the last 10 years, incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace have dramatically increased. Statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicate that the number of sexual harassment complaints received has risen by 30%. More...

Diversity Training and Investigation May Save Employer from Hostile Work Environment Claim

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 1/14/2010

Diversity in the workplace is a good thing. When men and women of different races, religions, ethnicities, and ages work together in an environment of tolerance and respect, the possibilities are limitless. More...

Bankruptcy Discrimination

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 7/25/2008

It has come to my attention that my best cashier recently filed for bankruptcy. I no longer feel comfortable letting him operate the checkout line without supervision, however, I am finding it difficult to watch him all the time. Can I fire this employee based on his bankruptcy filing? More...

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Categories: 2008

Interracial Marriage Discrimination

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 5/22/2008

One of my employees, a white man, has been harassed and threatened with termination by his supervisor because he is married to an African-American woman. More...

The Human Equation's newsletters and publications are intended as an information source for the clients and friends of the firm. Their content should not be construed as legal advice, and readers should not act upon the information in these publications without professional guidance. Please note that newsletters and publications that are archived by The Human Equation are not updated after initial publication and may not contain the most current information available.

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