Blog Posts: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
After a photo of a Burger King sign reading "Now Hiring Must Be Mexican" went viral, Burger King received many angry comments on its Facebook page. Burger King blamed the sign on a disgruntled employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) used the occasion to launch a discussion of the pervasiveness of national-origin discrimination in the US.
A new study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University suggests that some employers may use social media to research and discriminate against job applicants. The study results suggest possible discrimination on the basis of applicants' religion, but not on the basis of sexual orientation. The researchers applied to over 4,000 online job openings using dummy résumés and created social-media profiles for each fictional applicant. The postings required either a graduate degree or several years of experience.
Within the last decade, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has seen a surge in the filing of religious discrimination claims. In 2012, the EEOC received about 4,000 complaints, compared to just 2,500 in 2003. Despite the sharp rise in complaints, the number of lawsuits the agency has filed against employers has decreased by 50%. The decline stems from EEOC efforts to resolve complaints before the commencement of legal proceedings by educating employers and reaching mutually agreeable settlements.
A jury recently awarded 15 firefighters $3.7 million in back pay and damages for age discrimination in their lawsuit against the city of San Francisco. The current and retired firefighters — all over the age of 40 — claimed that "irregular and/or questionable" issues with a written promotion test in 2008 hindered the promotion of older firefighters and favored younger ones.
Two years after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest, Penn State University has agreed to pay a total of $59.7 million to 26 of Sandusky's victims. The university announced 23 signed agreements, three to be finalized within the next few weeks and several more that could be reached in the future. These settlement agreements end civil litigation for these 26 men, who have agreed not to sue anyone else, including Sandusky's charity, Second Mile. The amount of each settlement varies, depending on when the alleged abuse occurred.
Employers and employees often find themselves looking to the courts for an interpretation of what is considered a "reasonable accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, when a disabled employee requests a change in supervisors, the courts have made it clear such a request does not qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
A federal appellate court recently validated a male worker's claim of gender discrimination against his employer. The ruling highlights the importance of comprehensive employer policies that adequately address harassment based on gender stereotyping.
In Summa v. Hofstra University, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that an employer can incur liability for its own negligent actions that directly or indirectly contribute to the harassment of an employee by a non-worker. The underlying facts of the case involved the harassment of a female graduate student by Hofstra’s football team during her tenure as team manager.
Abercrombie & Fitch recently faced yet another allegation of religious discrimination in its employment practices when it refused to hire an applicant who wore a hijab — the Muslim religious head covering — because the hijab conflicted with the company's “Look Policy." Unlike the result in previous two lawsuits, this time the court ruled in favor of Abercrombie because the applicant had had not informed the company that her Muslim religion required her to wear a hijab.
Legislators are increasingly taking notice of the fact that bullying in the workplace is a growing problem in America. In the Society for Human Resources Management’s 2011 survey, 51% of surveyed employers reported incidents of bullying in the workplace. While civil rights laws protect employees who are abused based on their membership in a protected class — race, nationality or religion — there are currently no laws that protect against simple brutality. Efforts to rectify this on the state level continue. Earlier this year Massachusetts and Pennsylvania became the latest states to propose legislation prohibiting workplace bullying.