Blog Posts: Preventing Discrimination and Harassment
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.
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.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and disability. Those who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), however, are not protected from discrimination in 29 states or under federal law. If signed into law, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), recently approved by the Senate, would change that by extending Title VII civil-rights protections to cover sexual orientation.
The Tanenbaum Center for Religious Understanding — a secular and nonsectarian nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting religious tolerance and combating prejudice — recently issued its report “What American Workers Really Think About Religion: Tanenbaum’s 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion”. Its findings indicate that in the face of rising religious diversity in the US, employers need to embrace religion as a workplace issue that must be proactively included in business discrimination and harassment policies.
Abercrombie & Fitch has drawn a lot of criticism — and litigation — in its pursuit of a youthful image. Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries offended many members of the American public earlier this year with the resurrection of a 2006 interview in which he stated the company would not sell plus-size clothing. In March, a federal judge in Colorado ruled that the raised storefronts of the company's Hollister stores violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A white employee does not have standing to sue celebrity chef Paula Deen under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act based on allegations that Deen injured her by discriminating against African-American employees of Deen's restaurant, a federal court in Georgia ruled last week.