EEOC: Employers, be Proactive vs. Workplace Harassment

Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the landmark case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson that workplace harassment was an actionable form of discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several examples of common harassment and discrimination that take place in the workplace are sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, racial discrimination, and age discrimination (under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA). Recently, the EEOC issued a report encouraging employers to be more proactive in preventing workplace harassment.

In January 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission created a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (“Select Task Force”). This Select Task Force spent  18 months examining the myriad and complex issues associated with harassment in the workplace. In June 2016, the Select Task Force  published its findings. The report calls for employers to “reboot” workplace harassment prevention methods. The report also outlines statistics, risks and administrative recommendations.

The study encourages employers to assess their workplaces for the risks associated with harassment, survey employees. Further, the report urges employers to hold accountable managers and supervisors for preventing and reacting to grievances while also actively promoting diversity.

Interestingly, the report also states that employers should be wary of “zero tolerance” anti-harassment policies that are used as a one-size fits all model. Rather, any discipline that might result from such policy violations should be proportionate to the offense.

Additionally, the report finds that employers should also consider including a social media policy that ties into their anti-harassment policies.  The downside to this however is that the National Labor Relations Board has released guidelines on drafting and updating social media policies. Some cases have held that such a policy may violate an employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activity.

In conclusion, the findings state that the name of the game is truly harassment prevention. This may prove challenging as labor and employment laws are not logical and often do not follow common sense. To this end, seeking experienced legal counsel is critical.

Should you have questions, or wish to seek counsel, call Gilbert Law Group today at (631)630-0100.

Arbitrator Holds Employer MLB Did Not Have Right To Suspend Josh Hamilton For Violating Employer’s Substance Abuse Policy

             In a stunning decision laid down on April 3, 2015, an independent arbitrator ruled that baseball athlete Josh Hamilton, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels, would not be suspended for self-reporting a drug relapse on February 25. Major Leave Baseball as a substantive substance abuse policy in its Collective Bargaining Agreement and the slugger’s contract had specific language not permitting him to drink alcohol or ingest drugs. The decision shocked Hamilton’s employer, perhaps because he had already been in a sports treatment program due to a history of drug and alcohol issues. Instead of being suspended, Hamilton will be eligible to play and will be able to collect $23 million as part of his salary with the Angels. The matter was submitted to an independent arbitrator after a treatment board created by Major League Baseball’s joint drug program could not determine whether Hamilton’s actions were a violation of his treatment program. The arbitrator did not give any reasons for finding in favor of Hamilton.

            Major League Baseball, the party advocating for his suspension, expressed disappointment with the arbitrator’s decision and in a statement said it would “seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the program in the collective-bargaining process.” The current collective bargaining agreement is in place until after the 2016 baseball season.

            Employers who find themselves in a similar situation to that of the Los Angeles Angels should consult an attorney for counsel as to their collective-bargaining agreements contain controlling language when matters are left to independent arbitrators.

Sex Discrimination and Frozen Eggs In the Workplace

Discrimination because of sex related to pregnancy is unlawful under both Federal and State law. See, Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 701(k), 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e(k), McKinneys Executive Law § 296 et seq. This is a form of discrimination that can be considered both sex discrimination and/or disability discrimination.

Pregnancy in the workplace was in the news this past week as several large employers made headlines for their respective policies relating to egg freezing. Indeed, companies are offering to pay for women to freeze their ova so that they can work through their most productive and fertile years, without losing the ability to have children.

First, it was announced that Facebook and Apple will begin offering insurance coverage for female employees to freeze their eggs for later fertilization and implantation, a procedure that can cost as much as $20,000. Then Citigroup announced the same plan.

This is naturally controversial.  While some women will be grateful for the fully paid-for benefit, others, as noted in this New York Times blog post, could perceive this as putting pressure on women to stay childless as long as they want to advance their careers.

This issue has not been litigated as of yet mostly because these work policies are germinal and have just been implemented. While there is nothing facially unlawful about these policies, it could become evidence in a lawsuit brought by a woman who is turned down for a promotion, terminated, or harassed because of pregnancy, or because of actual or perceived “maternal” responsibilities.

Call Gilbert Law Group today for counsel related to pregnancy issues in the workplace, sex discrimination, or disability discrimination: (631)630-0100