Sexual Harassment Claims May Arise As The Result Of Workplace Affairs

July 30, 2014

Inter office affairs have several serious consequences and may result in claims of harassment or discrimination. For example, sexual harassment claims may arise where one party feels pressure to become involved in a relationship in order to maintain his or her job. A recent case evaluated the situation where a female prison employee was engaged in an affair with a male companion and she alleged that she was treated more harshly when the affair was discovered than the male.

If you have questions about sexual harassment or sex discrimination, or believe that you have been subjected to any form of workplace harassment, consulting with an Atlanta sexual harassment lawyer is critical to determine your next steps.

In the recent case, Orton-Bell v. Indiana, a woman alleged sexual discrimination after she was fired for having an affair with a co-worker. Here although the female employee was fired, the male retained his work privileges. In fact, as the result of being fired she was no longer eligible for employment with the Department of Corrections in any capacity. However the male was permitted to resign, retain his pension and continue working for the prison as a contractor.

The Department of Corrections asserted that even though the male was treated more leniently, this could be explained by the fact that he had worked there for 25 years, however, it also meant that he “should know better” than to carry on an affair.

Continue reading "Sexual Harassment Claims May Arise As The Result Of Workplace Affairs" »

President Obama Signs Executive Order Prohibiting LGBT Discrimination

July 23, 2014

President Obama has just signed an executive order making it illegal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors. The executive order contains two different parts. First, it provides that it is illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The order also explicitly bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government. While the executive order only applies to transgender employees of the federal governments, this affects 24,000 companies employing nearly one-fifth of the country’s work force.

In a statement, President Obama noted, “America's federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people. I'm going to do what I can with the authority I have to act.”

If you have suffered any form of employment discrimination, including gender discrimination, consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment attorney is crucial to determine your next steps. While the executive order only applies to federal workers, other avenues of redress may exist. Further, 18 states have state laws making it illegal to fire or harass someone at work for being LGBT.

Continue reading "President Obama Signs Executive Order Prohibiting LGBT Discrimination" »

New Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines Issued

July 16, 2014

The federal government has just issued new, expanded, guidelines concerning pregnant workers and workplace discrimination. The new rules provide that any workplace discrimination or harassment against pregnant workers constitutes illegal sex discrimination.

The guidelines were issued in response to what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission described as persistent “overt pregnancy discrimination as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices.”

To learn about the new guidelines or if you believe you have been subjected to any form of pregnancy discrimination it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable Atlanta pregnancy discrimination lawyer.

The new guidelines detail how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to pregnant works and makes it illegal to discriminate against based on past or prospective future pregnancies.

Continue reading "New Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines Issued" »

Supreme Court to Hear Pregnancy Discrimination Case

July 7, 2014

The Supreme Court has just decided to hear argument concerning an significant question affecting many women across the nation: under what circumstances should an employer be required to provide “reasonable accommodations” to a pregnant employee?

Generally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) set forth that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. A qualified individual with a disability is an individual with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity.

In the case going before the Supreme Court, Young v. UPS, a pregnant United Parcel Service worker, Peggy Young, requested an accommodation that she not be required to lift heavy packages. Rather than providing the accommodation, her boss told her to take unpaid leave. She has asserted that pregnant women should be treated the same as others with short-term disabilities, and that UPS should have found alternative work for her.

If you have questions about the ADA/ADAAA or require that your employer provide a reasonable accommodation, consulting with a knowledgeable Atlanta employment discrimination attorney is a good idea to provide you with skilled guidance concerning your next steps.

Continue reading "Supreme Court to Hear Pregnancy Discrimination Case " »

Firing Employee Day After Complaining Of Sexual Harassment May Be Grounds For Retaliation

June 30, 2014

Often, workers fear complaining about work place harassment because they think they may be fired or face retaliatory conduct. The good news is that federal and state anti-discrimination laws have been written to protect employees from just that type of conduct. In fact – retaliation claims may be easier to prove than the underlying discrimination claims. Retaliation includes not only conduct such as hiring and firing, but also any negative workplace actions such as moving you to less desirable work shifts or location, or denying you deserved promotions.

If you have any questions concerning retaliation, or believe that you have been retaliated against for complaining about workplace harassment, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Atlanta employment retaliation attorney right away.

A recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, Montell v. Diversified Clinical Services, looked at whether a female program director who was told to “resign or be fired” the day after she filed a sexual harassment claim could bring a claim for harassment.

In this instance, the court considered a few factors in determining that she could bring her claim. First, she was told to resign a day after she complained about the harassing behavior. The Sixth Circuit has previously found that temporal proximity alone can be sufficient evidence of causation, especially when adverse employment action occurs “very close in time” to protected activity. Further, where temporal proximity alone is not enough to establish causation, combining temporal proximity with other evidence of retaliatory conduct can show a causal connection. Here, not only did the alleged retaliatory action occur close in time to the protected activity, but several other actions existed support her claim. For example, her supervisor telling others that the woman had resigned from her job before she had, undermining the woman’s ability to stay employed should she wish to do so.

Continue reading "Firing Employee Day After Complaining Of Sexual Harassment May Be Grounds For Retaliation" »

President Obama Prepares To Issue Executive Order Barring Sexual Orientation Discrimination

June 26, 2014

Earlier this week President Obama issued a statement that he plans to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Such an order would be a significant step in granting necessary protections to lesbian, gay and transgender employee.

Last year the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a federal law banning discrimination based on gender identity passed the Senate. However, it appears to be dead in the House. As a result, President Obama is taking steps to protect the LGBT community via executive order.

If you believe you or someone you love has been discriminated against because they are lesbian, gay or transgender, it is critical you speak to an experienced Georgia employment discrimination lawyer immediately to determine your next steps.

Continue reading "President Obama Prepares To Issue Executive Order Barring Sexual Orientation Discrimination" »

The ADAAA Expands Definition of Disability

June 15, 2014

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), was enacted five years ago with the goal of strengthening and broadening the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which made it illegal to discriminate against workers with disabilities. The ADA/ADAAA prohibits discrimination against “qualified individuals with a disability” in the terms and conditions of employment.” The ADA also prohibits disability harassment and retaliation against you for complaining about disability discrimination or for participating in someone else’s disability discrimination case.

Many believed that the ADA as originally enacted had too narrowly interpreted what it means to have a disability. As such, when the ADAAA became law in 2008, legislators intended to expand the definition of “disability” and shift the ADAAA’s focus onto whether employers of “qualified individuals” have fulfilled their obligations. These efforts have mostly been effective, what constitute a disability for the purposes of the ADA in legal terms has increased.

If you believe you may have suffered disability discrimination at work, it’s a good idea to consult an Atlanta disability discrimination lawyer right away.

Continue reading "The ADAAA Expands Definition of Disability" »

Company May Be Held Responsible For Co-Worker Harassment

June 7, 2014

Many workplace discrimination cases involve the situation where a supervisor harasses or discriminates against an employee. However, what happens where the harasser is a co-worker?

A recent employment discrimination case - Velazquez-Perez v. Developers Diversified Realty Corp. - evaluated whether a man was wrongfully terminated based on his rejection of the human resources manager’s sexual advances.

In Velazquez-Perez, a shopping center management company terminated a general manager based on “performance deficiencies” in his record. However, these deficiencies were placed in his record by his “jilted” co-worker, who was also the director of human resources. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that based on the facts alleged, a jury could find that the company was negligent.

Significantly, the court found that the Faragher/Ellerth negligence standard that applies to co-worker sexual harassment also applies to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment includes to those situations where an employee is required to agree to sexual favors in order to maintain their job. This marks one of the first case in which a federal appeals court has applied the Faragher/Ellerth negligence test in a quid pro quo harassment context.

Continue reading "Company May Be Held Responsible For Co-Worker Harassment" »

Failure To Promote Muslim Man May Be Grounds For Discrimination

May 29, 2014

In the last several years since 9/11, the United States has witnesses an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment – with the unfortunate by-product being a dramatic rise in the number of national origin discrimination lawsuits. The EEOC explains national origin discrimination as “treatment someone less favorably because he or she is from a particular race, because of his or her ethnicity or accent, or because it is believe that he or she has a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also means treating someone less favorably at work because of marriage of other association with someone of a particular nationality.”

If you have questions about national origin discrimination, or believe that you may have been a victim or unlawful discrimination based on your national origin, we urge you to consult with an experienced Atlanta national origin lawyer right away.

A recent case examined the actions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in denying a promotion to an employee who is a Muslim born in Algeria in favor of three white employees. In Ahmed v. Johnson, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that evidence depicting a poor working environment with few promotions for racial minorities could person a reasonable jury to find that the DHS’s explanation for passing over the Muslim man was “pretext” for unlawful bias.

In layperson terms, pretext is an excuse offered by a company or business for taking an unlawful discriminatory action.

Here, the court noted "Given the historical evidence about a complete absence of black and Arab Deportation Officers in the Boston office … and an environment in which Hispanics … also felt discouraged about applying for promotion, this is not a case in which ‘allowing the failure-to-promote claim to go forward would be an invitation to the jury to engage in unbridled speculation.”

Continue reading "Failure To Promote Muslim Man May Be Grounds For Discrimination" »

Who Is An Employer Under The ADEA?

May 22, 2014

A seemingly straightforward question has serious implications in many employment contexts – and can determine your right to recover damages if you have suffered illegal discrimination. That question – “who is your employer?” - was just evaluated in a significant Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) matter.

In Holloway v. Water Works & Sewer Bd. Of Vernon, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama reviewed the claim of a 66-year-old former general manager of a municipal board – the Water Works and Sewer Board of the Town of Vernon. The man asserted that a few weeks after his 66th birthday when he stated that he plan to continue working for a few more years, he was fired and replaced by someone substantially younger.

He then filed a claim for age discrimination pursuant to 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.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your age, speaking to an experienced Atlanta age discrimination attorney is important to begin and investigation and determine your next steps.

Continue reading "Who Is An Employer Under The ADEA?" »

Use of Drug Tests Found to Have “Disparate Impact”

May 14, 2014

In certain circumstances a company or business may have a policy that seems to be neutral, but upon closer look may in fact be discriminatory. This may be because the policy or practice has a “disparate impact” that negatively affects a particular race. In a recent case, Jones v. City of Boston, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit evaluated the Boston Police Department’s utilization of hair tests to detect illegal drug use and determined that such tests unlawfully discriminated against black officers.

If you have questions about a policy that you think may be discriminatory, or if you believe you have been subject to any work place discrimination, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Atlanta race discrimination attorney right away.

In this instance, the Boston Police Department subjected cadets and officers to annual drug tests using samples of their hair. The tests were used to determine the presence of chemicals, which indicated exposure to cocaine, marijuana, opiates, PCP and amphetamines. Employees who tested positive were fired unless they agreed to go through drug rehabilitation and accept an unpaid suspension while in treatment. The lawsuit was brought by 9 former officers and cadets who tested positive for cocaine.

The officers and cadets presented evidence that between 1999 and 2006 black officers and cadets tested positive for cocaine approximately 1.3% of the time while whites tested positive under 0.3%. Even though the number of people affected was low, the difference was statistically significant. Further, the officers and cadets provided evidence that hair tests are “relatively unreliable” and that black individuals tend to have higher levels of melanin in their hair, causing cocaine and other chemicals to bind to their hair at a higher rate.

Continue reading "Use of Drug Tests Found to Have “Disparate Impact”" »

Failure To Stop Customer Harassment Of Workers May Consitute Employer Negligence

May 8, 2014

Can your employer be held liable for failing to adequately respond to offensive conduct by customers towards workers? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled yes. In Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp., the court ruled that a black female former employee had triable sexual and racial harassment claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The claims were based on the failure of her employer to adequately respond to persistent offensive remarks and conduct by a customer.

Sexual and race harassment claims are forms of employment discrimination and may arise where unwelcome or offensive conduct and/or comments create a hostile environment that “alter the terms and conditions of your employment.” If you believe you have been subjected to workplace harassment it’s critical to consult with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible who can advise you concerning your rights, and your next steps.

In this instance Lori Freeman, a receptionist at Dal-Tile Corp., was subjected to repeated racial and sexual epithets, along with other offensive conduct, by a sales representative for one of Dal-Tile’s customers. The sales rep had daily contact with Freeman. Freeman complained to her supervisor about the conduct, but it took more than three years for the company to eventually take action banning the man from the premises and barring him from contacting Freeman.

The court reasoned that the employer’s actions took too long – specifically Judge Dennis W. Shedd wrote, “Although the harassment eventually stopped after the communication ban was put into place, the harassment had continued unabated for three years prior to that … While a communication ban may have been an adequate response had it been put into place sooner, Dal-Tile's failure was in not responding promptly to the harassment.”

Continue reading "Failure To Stop Customer Harassment Of Workers May Consitute Employer Negligence" »