SEXUAL HARASSMENT

  • COLUMN: HOW NOT TO HIRE A HARASSER

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Column, Featured, Legal Column, Legal, Compliance & Policies, sexual harassment

    Editor’s note: You are reading the first article by ERE’s new legal columnist, Kate Bischoff. In case you missed the post and video introducing Kate, you may view it here. 

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  • PAY TRANSPARENCY AND WHAT ELSE IS ON EMPLOYEES’ AND CANDIDATES’ MINDS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Featured, HR trends, sexual harassment, Wages, Pay, & Salary

    The traditional employer-employee power dynamic is in a state of transition. With access to real-time information, stories, and anecdotes, employees today expect their companies to be more transparent.

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  • THE 5 COURAGES HR NEEDS TO BE GOOD FOLLOWERS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: DisruptHR, Featured, HR Insights, leadership, sexual harassment, Strategic HR

    HR needs to stop leading and start following.

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  • GAMING COMPANY’S ‘BRO CULTURE’ SPARKS GENDER DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: class action lawsuits, Discrimination & Harassment, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views, retaliation, Sexual Discrimination, sexual harassment, Uncategorized

    Two women are suing “League of Legends” video game developer Riot Games for discrimination, harassment, and violation of the California Equal Pay Act.

    In McCracken v. Riot Games, one current and one former employee of the company seek class action status for the suit, alleging that Riot denies women equal pay and limits their career advancement due specifically to their gender. The proposed class includes hundreds of current and former female Riot Games employees located across California.

    The ex-employee claims she was not compensated for taking on extra work after her supervisor left the company. And, she says, when the company went looking for a replacement for her former boss, they interviewed three men but never gave her a chance to interview.

    The current employee alleges illegal discrimination against women, saying her supervisor would only consider woman for junior positions, because he was uncomfortable with men having to do those jobs. When he took over as head of her new department after she’d transferred out of her original job, she says she was told she “had a target on her back,” and should look for another transfer or be fired.

    Toxic “bro” culture

    The women believe that the “bro culture” at Riot Games arises out of its focus on hiring hardcore gamers, many of whom are teenage boys. That focus, the plaintiffs say, translates into an unwritten policy and practice of discriminating against women. As a result 80% of Riot’s 2,500 employees are male.

    The legal battle was launched following an investigative report into Riot’s “toxic culture” by gaming news and review site Kontaku. Following the report, the company issued a public apology and pledged to improve its efforts to ensure an environment of “Inclusivity, diversity, respect, and equality.”

    The suit says the company continues to permit sexual harassment, misconduct and bias that create a negative work environment for women and continues to retaliate against women who report misconduct.

    The lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles seeks all “underpaid” wages due to the plaintiffs and punitive damages.

    Time for self-assessment

    The tech industry’s workforce has been dominated by men from the beginning and has recently been especially hard hit by claims of sexism. But every employer needs to take “Inclusivity, diversity, respect, and equality” very seriously and look hard at its own culture for signs of toxicity.

    Behavior that has been viewed as “boys being boys” can spill over into discrimination and harassment complaints even if the objectional acts or speech are not specifically aimed at workers of another gender. And, as this case shows, when “bro culture” spills over into hiring and promotion practices, the potential legal and financial consequences can be huge.

    Cite: McCracken et al. v. Riot Games et al., Dist. Crt. of CA, C.D.,  No. 18stcv03957, 11/5/17.

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  • PROACTIVE POLICY CHANGES HR SHOULD MAKE: 3 KEY RULINGS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Discrimination & Harassment, Employment Law, Latest News & Views, LGBT discrimination, medical marijuana, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, Special Report

    HR pros know it better than anyone: Courts are always issuing conflicting employment law opinions, which can make compliance an uphill battle. 

    But three recent court rulings addressing major HR issues have bigger implications than just another differing opinion thrown into the mix.

    Changes to consider now

    These court decisions could influence the employment law landscape in the near future, according to Louis Lessig, partner at Brown & Connery LLP.

    Lessig suggests employers consider policy changes now to stay safe and ward off potential legal trouble.

    Here’s a breakdown of the three rulings and how employers might proactively respond to them:

    1. In Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, the Third Circuit ruled a worker’s failure to report sexual harassment didn’t let the employer off the hook.
    Sheri Minarsky claimed her supervisor made sexual advances toward her for years. She never reported it because she feared losing her job. The company argued since she never reported the harassment, they couldn’t have known to stop it.

    But two other workers previously reported the supervisor for harassment, and the company had only given him verbal warnings.

    The court ruled Minarsky’s fears preventing her from reporting the behavior were valid. Since the company already knew about the supervisor’s history and hadn’t done much, it wasn’t unreasonable for Minarsky to be hesitant to complain about the behavior, the court said.

    Lessig says this is a crucial ruling, because it shows ignorace of harassment isn’t a solid defense for employers anymore. To avoid surprise harassment lawsuits, Lessig suggests companies implement civility and bystander intervention training.

    2. In Stephens v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, the Sixth Circuit said discriminating against a worker because they’re transgender is sex discrimination.

    When Aimee Stephens told her employer she was transitioning to a woman, Stephens was fired.

    Since discrimination against LGBTQ employees isn’t strictly prohibited by the Civil Rights Act, other circuit courts have ruled cases like this aren’t sex discrimination.

    But, the Sixth Circuit said it’s “impossible to fire a transgender person without it being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.”

    To stay safe, Lessig suggests remaining vigilant for any harassment or discrimination against LGBTQ workers, and to draft policies offering them protections.

    3. In Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Company, a Connecticut district court said federal law doesn’t always allow employers to reject applicants using medical marijuana.

    Katelin Noffsinger was offered a job with Niantic, conditional on passing a drug test. She disclosed she took legal medical marijuana to treat her PTSD.

    But upon failing the drug test, the job offer was rescinded.

    The company cited federal law and its zero-tolerance drug policy, but the court said that wasn’t enough to outright reject Noffsinger, who was using legal medical marijuana outside of the workplace.

    Lessig says medical marijuana is a very complicated legal issue. But, he advises employers not to have zero-tolerance drug policies and to always take state laws into consideration.

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  • EEOC RELEASES SEXUAL HARASSMENT STATS ONE YEAR AFTER #METOO

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Discrimination & Harassment, eeoc, harassment, harassment policy, Latest News & Views, sexual harassment, Special Report

    sexual harassment

    It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

    To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

    EEOC suits up 50%

    Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

    • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
    • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
    • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
    • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
    • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

    Waiting on new guidance

    It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

    But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

    1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
    2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
    3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
    4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
    5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

     

     

     

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  • NEW CALIFORNIA EMPLOYMENT LAWS EXPAND HARASSMENT RULES, REQUIRE WOMEN ON BOARDS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Featured, legal issues, Legal, Compliance & Policies, sexual harassment

    Seyfarth Synopsis: California Legislators sent Governor Jerry Brown 1,217 bills to consider in his final bill-signing period as Governor—more than any California governor has seen since 2004. The final tally: 1016 signed, 201 vetoed. Below is our full, final roundup of new laws that employers must comply with and the bills that fell to the Governor’s veto pen. Even though the Governor’s veto saved California employers from some truly awful legislation (such as AB 3080’s attempted ban on employment arbitration agreements), 2019 may well bring a new Legislature just as hostile to business, and a new Governor not known for the practical caution that sometimes has characterized Governor Brown. We expect that the vetoed bills will re-emerge, and may receive a more favorable gubernatorial consideration.

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  • A LOOK AHEAD AT THE LEGAL AND MARKET FORCES AFFECTING EMPLOYMENT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Featured, legal issues, Legal, Compliance & Policies, National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) & Board (NLRB), Sexual Discrimination, sexual harassment, wellness

    Almost two years into the new presidential administration, and with highly consequential and hotly debated mid-term elections around the corner, Littler’s Workforce Policy Institute’s Labor Day Report examines the state of the American workforce. The WPI offers this report to provide an overview of the U.S. labor economy, highlight employment trends, discuss key employment developments from the past year, and provide a preview of things to come.

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  • A LOOK AT THE #METOO MOVEMENT’S IMPACT IN THE US, BRAZIL AND THE UK

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Featured, legal issues, Legal, Compliance & Policies, sexual harassment

    Since the #MeToo movement began in October 2017, hardly a week goes by without the hashtag making headlines. From Miss America pageants to proposed legislation, the movement has given victims of sexual violence and harassment a new voice and has become integrated into the American mainstream. And like Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991, it is changing the American workplace.

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  • RECONVENING ITS TASK FORCE AND FILING 7 SUITS, EEOC SIGNALS SEX HARASSMENT STILL A TOP PRIORITY.

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Featured, Legal, Compliance & Policies, sexual harassment

    The EEOC sent a powerful signal last week that sexual harassment was still squarely on its radar filing 7 lawsuits against employers across the nation while reconvening its  Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.

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