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.
If your promotion processes are haphazard—devoid of objective criteria and without a clear system for choosing candidates—you could wind up facing a disparate-impact discrimination lawsuit. That’s one powerful reason to institute a clear promotion policy that includes posting job openings, creating application processes and relying primarily on objective selection criteria.
One unhappy employee may not have much of an effect on your organization, even if she sues. But watch out! Handle the lawsuit poorly and you could see litigation grow as co-workers join in.
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.