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.
The Supreme Court will decide whether UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) when it refused to provide a temporary light duty assignment to Peggy Young when she was pregnant 7 years ago before giving birth to her daughter, Triniti. The assignment would have allowed Young to work but avoid lifting heavy packages, as her physician had ordered. The issue is whether UPS violated the law by its policy of providing temporary light duty only to employees who had on-the-job injuries, were disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or lost their federal driver certification.
It is well-settled that drawing a distinction between pregnant and nonpregnant employees in the workplace is generally unlawful, unless there is a legitimate business reason to justify the distinction. In 1978, Congress passed the PDA in response to the Supreme Court ruling that workplace rules that excluded pregnant workers from disability benefits and insurance coverage were not sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In this case UPS argues that unless Young can show that it intentionally discriminated against her, she has no case. Young contends that UPS “told me basically to go home and come back when I was no longer pregnant.” Young is now 42 and it has taken 7 years to get before the Court.
The Obama administration and 120 Democrats in Congress have submitted a brief supporting Young’s position. Moreover, the EEOC has updated guidance to employers to clarify that they should accommodate workers like Young. Likewise, UPS has since changed its policy so that pregnant employees are eligible for the light duty assignment.
Nonetheless, the Court’s decision is expected to have far-reaching impact in workforces across the nation as 75% of women entering the workforce today will become pregnant at least once while employed, and many will be forced to work throughout their pregnancies, or face possible termination during their pregnancies or upon their return. Stay tuned for the decision.
For workplace issues, such as pregnancy, sex discrimination, light duty or leave policies, contact the Gilbert Law Group at 631.630.0100.
N.Y. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has denied discriminating against and eventually firing a former female senior executive based on her pregnancy and marital status, specifically, for having a baby out of wedlock. In a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, Wilpon is quoted as saying during a discussion of e-cigarette ads, “I am as morally opposed to putting an e-cigarette sign in my ballpark as I am to Leigh [Castergine] having this baby without being married.” Wilpon is also alleged to have made fun of Castergine by pretending to look for an engagement ring on her finger at meetings, and trashed her to colleagues by saying that “people would respect her more if she was married.” The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy and marital status. A Major League Baseball source said the league was aware of the suit and considered it a team matter.
The suit alleged Wilpon told Castergine, who earned a six figure salary, to tell her boyfriend “that when she gets a ring she will make more money and get a bigger bonus.” Castergine gave birth in March 2014 and returned to work in June 2014, but was allegedly urged by other executives to quit.
In August 2014, she claimed that the Mets raised issues about her job performance but offered a severance package if she would agree to not sue or say negative things about the team and Wilpon. Castergine also claims that she was fired August 26, 2014, three minutes after her lawyer sent an email to the team claiming that she was subjected to work-related discrimination. In court papers, however, the Mets asserted that she was fired before they received the email and that it “was based on legitimate business reasons” unrelated to Castergine’s “gender, marital status, pregnancy, or leave.” They pointed to “business issues and conflicts” between Castergine and her supervisor and other executives which began prior to learning that she was pregnant. They also asserted that Wilpon was a longstanding supporter of her.
It remains to be seen if the case goes to trial whether a jury will believe Castergine’s discrimination claims or the Mets’ and Wilpon’s defense that there were independent business reasons unrelated to the plaintiff’s gender, pregnancy and marital status, or leave, all of which comprise categories of discrimination protected by federal and state law.
For workplace issues concerning pregnancy, marital status, leaves, work performance, and gender discrimination or harassment contact the Gilbert Law Group at 631.630.0100.
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