Most jobs can be quantified. That is, it’s possible to measure success on the job by tallying how much an employee produces in a given period—whether that’s widgets, reports, new clients or sales. By using such objective measures to decide who is terminated, employers have powerful evidence to counter discrimination claims.
You’ve documented the poor performance. You’ve been careful to keep things professional, even as you’ve concluded you’ll probably have to fire the employee. Then he files a discrimination complaint. Avoid the temptation to speed up the usual disciplinary process.
Employers that take the time to document workplace problems usually don’t lose discrimination lawsuits. The reason is simple: A carefully documented work history—showing exactly how the employee was breaking rules or underperforming—makes it difficult to prove discrimination.
If you discipline a supervisor for discrimination, make sure you can reassure employees who cooperated in the investigation that the supervisor won’t turn around and punish them.
Citing “repulsive harassment and discrimination,” attorney Julie Kamps has sued her former employer, the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, for $50 million. Kamps said she was told her clothing didn’t “fit into typical feminine stereotypes.”
For most New York employers, complying with Title VII means they’re also in compliance with the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). Courts typically lump the claims together. That’s not necessarily true if you operate in New York City.
Some disabled employees believe that their disabilities excuse them from following the workplace rules other employees have to abide by. That’s not true. Case in point: An IBM employee was fired for accessing sexual materials on his work PC. He sued, alleging that post-traumatic stress disorder made him more vulnerable to addiction, including a compulsion to access sexually oriented materials. The court refused to entertain that argument.
Federal and state laws that protect employees in general also protect young people in the workplace. But because of their youth and inexperience, teenage employees may be more vulnerable to harassment than other workers. The EEOC has launched the “Youth at Work” initiative in response to several high-profile teen sexual harassment cases.
Exotic dancers at the Penthouse Executive Club in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood are suing in Manhattan federal court, claiming their bosses have been raiding the tip box, pilfering money that rightfully belongs to the dancers. They allege the owners sometimes took so much money that some dancers’ pay fell below the minimum wage.
Black workers at M. Slavin & Sons Fish processing plant in Brooklyn allege bosses there continually sexually harass black workers by grabbing their buttocks, pressing against them and occasionally jabbing their backsides with fishhooks. The workers have filed a complaint with the EEOC.