Name Calling, Obscene Gestures May Constitute Sexual Harassment

April 30, 2015

A jury has awarded a woman more than $13 million in back pay and damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit. While sexual harassment is one of the most well known forms of employment discrimination, it is not clearly defined. It is not a single instance of name-calling, a request for a date, or a leering look. Rather, in order to prove sexual harassment, you must show that you have been subjected to unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile environment based on your sex that is sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of your employment.

In this instance, the woman entered evidence of pervasive name calling – one man called her “Big Girl”, belittling her 6-foot-tall stature, another made obscene gestures, and a third dismissed her complaints of harassment, saying that she was losing her mind. Rather than addressing the discriminatory conduct as required by law, the harassment continued.

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Employment Discrimination Against Interns Unlawful

April 27, 2015

With summer rapidly approaching, many companies plan to hire interns. Often, these interns agree to take on positions that are “unpaid.” However, laws exist setting forth specific rules concerning whether an intern must be paid.

For example, the Department of Labor has defined an intern (and not requiring pay) to include individuals who work to supplement educational training and is not guaranteed a job at the conclusion of the internship, is not displacing other regular employees, whose work may not be a benefit to the company, and may even be a hindrance, and is closely supervised by existing staff.

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Pregnancy discrimination case filed against Grocery Store

April 23, 2015

Legal news reports that a California woman has filed a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against a large retail chain. The claim arose out of her employers’ reaction to her informing them of her pregnancy. According to the lawsuit, when the woman was roughly 5 months pregnant she brought in a note from her physician stating that she should not life more than 10 pounds.

Within an hour of this conversation, the woman was told she would have to take unpaid leave. She was informed that even though she had a doctor’s note, the store did not accommodate pregnant people. She has since filed a pregnancy discrimination case asserting that it is unlawful to refuse to accommodate pregnant workers while making reasonable accommodations for workers who are injured on the job.

Currently, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Although this doesn't mean that pregnant women are entitled to special treatment, it does mean that pregnant women must be treated equally to non-pregnant individuals. For example, if your company gives extra leaves of absence to employees with medical conditions, they must extend this practice to pregnant women.

Further, recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument concerning “pregnancy discrimination” in Young v. United Parcel Service, and whether absent similar accommodations for injured workers, employers must take reasonable steps to accommodate pregnant women, such as with reduced lifting requirements and allowing more frequent bathroom breaks. The Supreme Court has not yet issued its opinion.

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Medical Procedure Not A Prerequisite For Equality

April 11, 2015

A recent employment law decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) eloquently set forth rationale finding evidence of discrimination in a transgender case that could apply to many other instances of discrimination.

In the recent gender discrimination matter, a transgender employee asserted that she was discriminated against by being forced to use a single-use restroom. When it was out of order and she used the women’s room, she was repeatedly confronted by a supervisor and was often referred to by her former male name and with male pronouns. Her employer denied her access arguing that because she had not yet undergone the final medical procedure, she was still a male. In rejecting this argument, the EEOC underscored that nothing in Title VII makes any medical procedure a prerequisite for equal opportunity (for transgender individuals, or anyone else).

In fact, no rationale exists for any employer to discrimination against workers on the basis of any protected category. All workers should be provided the opportunity to earn a living without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

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Facebook Lawsuit Paves Way For Victims of Discrimination

March 30, 2015

Ellen Pao, a former employee at a venture capital firm aligned with Facebook, brought a gender discrimination lawsuit against the firm and the social media company. She alleged that claimed she was punished and eventually fired in 2012 from her job as junior partner at her former firm, one of Silicon Valley’s most famous venture capital firms, for questioning the firm’s treatment of women.

And although the court did not find sufficient evidence of discrimination or retaliation, her courageous steps in coming forward will likely encourage other women facing gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace to be heard. A representative noted:

"Despite the jury’s decision today, Ellen Pao’s case is a win for any woman facing gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace, in Silicon Valley and beyond. The curtain has been pulled back, providing a rare glimpse into the lack of equal employment opportunities for women in Silicon Valley.

Very few gender discrimination cases actually make it to trial, and other women who have experienced discrimination will hopefully be influenced to come forward, thanks to Ms. Pao’s courageous step."

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Facebook Faces Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

March 28, 2015

Earlier this week, a former Facebook employee filed a gender and race discrimination lawsuit against the social networking site. The lawsuit alleges that the woman was hired to work as a program manager, and then promoted to be a technology partner. However, although she received raises throughout her employment, when she began complaining about harassment, she was fired.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion. This means that your company cannot take any form of adverse of negative action against you because you are a member of one of these protected categories. Further, if you complain about discrimination and suffer negative consequences – such as being fired, transferred to a worse location, given worse hours, or not being promoted – it may be possible to file a lawsuit for retaliation.

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Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Novartis

March 21, 2015

Legal news reports that a group of women have filed a $110 million class action discrimination lawsuit against Swiss drug maker Novartis. The gender discrimination lawsuit is based on claims the company has routinely denied women equal and promotion opportunities. Five years ago, the pharmaceutical company was ordered to pay more than $250 million in a similar gender discrimination action. At the time, this amount represented the largest employment discrimination award ever in the United States.

As a result of this lawsuit, the company vowed to adopt policies and reforms that would both prevent employment discrimination and retaliation against those who complained.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of a person’s sex. This means that an employer may not take adverse action against someone because of their gender, whether male, female or even transgender. Your sex cannot play a role in any of your employer’s work related decisions including - whether to hire, fire, or promote an individual worker.

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Have You Suffered Pregnancy Discrimination?

March 8, 2015

As the Supreme Court considers whether employers must accommodate pregnant women in certain situations, many women across the country still face discriminatory actions on account of their pregnancy.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Although this doesn't mean that pregnant women are entitled to special treatment, it does mean that pregnant women must be treated equally to non-pregnant individuals. For example, if your company gives extra leaves of absence to employees with medical conditions, they must extend this practice to pregnant women.

Federal and states still receive numerous complaints each year about pregnancy discrimination. In fact, The EEOC more than 3000 pregnancy discrimination complaints in 2014. A representative of the EEOC noted, “People do assume that times have changed and that people behave well …That's simply not the experience of a lot of people in the workplace."

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National Origin Discrimination On the Rise

February 25, 2015

The recent shooting of three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has brought national attention to the issues of racial and religious discrimination.

According to reports, the man accused of killing the students had a history of using “hateful” terms toward the students and exhibiting significant intolerance. It has not been determined yet whether these murders will be charged as hate crimes, but it has underscored the need for anti-discrimination policies to be in place.

Additionally, with the increased news coverage of Muslim radicals engaging in horrific acts of terror, campuses and places of employment have seen an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment, and an increase in potentially illegal national origin discrimination.

National origin discrimination means treating someone less favorably because he or she is from a particular place, because of his or her ethnicity or accent, or because it is believed that he or she has a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also means treating someone less favorably at work because of marriage or other association with someone of a particular nationality.

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Age Discrimination Continues To Plague Many Work Places

February 20, 2015

For years, age discrimination claims have been one of the fastest growing types of employment discrimination lawsuits. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination against individuals over the age of 40.

Older workers – with higher paychecks – may be the first to be eliminated when companies are trying to tighten their belts, a practice that may violate the ADEA. Like the other anti-discrimination laws, the ADEA prohibits any type of adverse action against you because of your age, including the failure to hire you or a discharge because of your age. This also includes age harassment, which typically involves hostility or abuse directed at you by other employees because of your age. The ADEA also prohibits retaliation against you for complaining about age discrimination or for participating in someone else's age discrimination case.

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Retaliation Leads Employment Discrimination Claims

February 13, 2015

Employment discrimination can take many different forms. Often, sex discrimination or race discrimination comes to mind when people think about what actions are considered discrimination. However, several different types of actions may be considered discriminatory. Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its numbers concerning the top complaints of workplace discrimination.

According to the data, surprisingly claims of retaliation top the list, followed by race, sex, disability and age discrimination.

Retaliation claims can exist where almost any type of discrimination is alleged and includes those situations where an employer takes a negative action against a worker for making a complaint. Title VII has specifically made it illegal to retaliate against individuals who complain about discrimination – even if the underlying discrimination isn’t proven. The policy behind this law is to encourage workers to report unlawful conduct and deter abuse. If you experience retaliation in the workplace, you are entitled to the same remedies an s you would have in other discrimination cases – including back pay and damages.

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Reverse Sex Discrimination Case Filed Against Restaurant Chain

January 31, 2015

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. This means that employers may not take gender into consideration when it makes employment decisions, including whether to hire, fire, or promote a particular worker. The Act was originally designed to help protect women from discriminatory actions, but it also applies to men – and more recently courts have been called on to consider the inclusion of transgender workers in its protections.

If you have questions about sex discrimination, or believe that you have suffered any form of employment discrimination, consulting with an experienced Atlanta sex discrimination attorney is important to determine your next steps.

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