Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination and harassment claims often increase in a down economy. Learn the proper techniques for conducing proper workplace harassment investigations, providing sexual harassment training, and more to reduce claims of employment discrimination and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

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Q. Several employees have requested that we talk to another employee who, frankly, smells bad. I know she has medical problems. Can we ask her to do something about the odor or would that be discrimination based on disability?
A black game warden-in-training—one of only two black cadets in her class—has filed an EEOC discrimination complaint against the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. At the same time, the EEOC also granted a white game warden permission to file a federal lawsuit alleging that supervisors instructed him to “distance himself” from black colleagues.
Be careful before firing someone for violating email policies that prohibit forwarding company documents to a personal email account. If the forwarded documents support an EEOC or other discrimination complaint, and if the forwarding isn’t “disruptive,” firing the employee could trigger a retaliation claim.
To achieve compliance and prevent successful discrimination claims (which could involve class-action exposure), employers must be attuned to workplace issues around national origin, religion and race. For most employers, this means training management and HR personnel to carefully consider their policy-making and daily decisions that can affect such issues.
Here’s some good news. A court has quickly dismissed a pay disparity lawsuit that a university mathematics professor filed accusing her university of paying male faculty more than their female colleagues.
Yes, all employees are supposed to be treated equally when they break the same rule. But when courts compare discipline, they don’t do so across the entire organization. They focus on one supervisor at a time. Company-wide variations are normal and not absolute proof of discrimination.
The EEOC has won a major case in its ongoing efforts to help lactating women who want to return to work. The 5th Circuit has accepted the commission’s interpretation that firing a woman who needs a place to express milk at work is both sex discrimination under Title VII and violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) because lactation is related to pregnancy.
Except under very limited circumstances, volunteers aren’t considered employees under Title VII. That means they can’t sue for things like sexual harassment.
When a co-worker makes himself a nuisance (or worse), a robust anti-harassment policy, a clear reporting method and swift and sure action will cut liability in almost all cases. But what if the policy isn’t en­­forced or a supervisor learns about the harassment but ignores the problem and doesn’t take action? Then all bets are off.
Good news: You won’t be held personally liable—and neither will your company—for what you say in re­­sponse to an EEOC complaint. State­­ments made in an EEOC investigation are privileged.
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