The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the city of New Haven, Conn., violated the rights of white and Hispanic firefighters who took promotion exams when it refused to use the test results to promote the highest scorers. The court ruled that the city could not use “[f]ear of litigation alone” to justify rejecting the results simply because the test appeared to have a disparate impact on another minority—namely the black firefighters who took the test.
Men can sexually harass men, and women can sexually harass women. The U.S. Supreme Court has outlined three ways an employee can prove that an incident of same-sex harassment is sex discrimination:
According to a critical report surveying the construction industry, 20% of Austin-area construction workers last year reported on-the-job injuries that required a trip to the doctor, and 20% of those employees said employers refused to pay their medical bills.
Many employers have rules that prohibit off-duty conduct that may reflect negatively on the company. But even with such policies, it’s tricky to discipline employees for the things they do on their own time away from the workplace. In fact, you’re free to use discretion in deciding whether an employee should be warned, suspended or terminated.
Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken of Dallas recently announced that Texas employers should expect their unemployment insurance taxes to rise significantly next year. Pauken said the increase in layoffs is close to exhausting a state trust fund.
When the person who hires someone is the same one who conducts the firing, courts typically discount the idea that discrimination was involved. After all, why would someone who hired an applicant discriminate later because of that person’s age, race or sex? But be aware that the defense doesn’t always work if there is clear discrimination evidence.
Terminations aren’t always clean. Sometimes they’re damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations. That’s often so when you conclude that an employee harassed another and must be terminated. With nothing to lose, the fired employee may try to concoct a discrimination lawsuit.
Be careful if you transfer an employee who filed a discrimination complaint to another position. Even if the new job provides the same benefits and pay, it may look like retaliation if the position comes with fewer advancement opportunities.
Here’s another reason to act fast when an employee says a co-worker has sexually harassed her: Employers that act quickly seldom lose sexual harassment lawsuits if their action stops the harassment.
Rosanne Piatt, an instructor at St. Mary’s University School of Law, recently filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. She claims the university discriminated against her on the basis of her age and gender.