EEOC Offers Harassment Prevention and Respectful Workplaces Training

Despite legislation and law enforcement, incidents of harassment still occur in the workplace. Often employers are at a loss in knowing how to prevent it. They can’t be everywhere at once to supervise first-hand what is taking place in their business.

The new training being offered by the EEOC is a proactive solution for preventing harassment. The training applies to real life situations and gives employees and employers valuable tools that begin by addressing uncivil behavior, which can escalate and lead to harassment.

Sexual Harassment

How Does This Training Differ from Other Anti-Harassment Education and Training Programs?

Traditional anti-harassment or anti-discrimination training programs focus on educating supervisors and workers about existing laws, legal definitions and liability standards that businesses must meet.

The EEOC’s new programs , called “Leading for Respect” and “Respect in the Workplace,” focus directly on conduct.

Participants in the program learn about treating others with respect and what respectful conduct involves. By fostering respectful behavior in the workplace, businesses can also become more efficient and profitable. The training also assists employers by reviewing their policies and procedures and evaluating them in terms of harassment prevention.

The point where a company starts preventing harassment is by changing its culture.  Two main aspects of the program geared to do this are workplace civility training and bystander intervention training.

 

Workplace Civility and Bystander Intervention Training

Workplace civility training promotes civility and tolerance for diversity in the workplace. When workers enter a general culture of civility, employers often see less of its counterpart, harassment.

Civility training has been used by employers and is not new to workplaces. However, bystander prevention training is a newer concept for preventing harassment.

Schools and colleges have used violence intervention training as a way to curb sexual assault. It empowers students to intervene and prevent assault by increasing bystander awareness, encouraging collective responsibility, empowering students through skill-building exercises and making resources available to support intervention. By-stander prevention training brings the same skills to the workplace to enable workers to intervene and stop harassment.

If you have questions or legal concerns about workplace harassment, find out how we can help.

Stephen Hans & Associates has decades of experience assisting company owners with employment related issues.

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Washington Post Settles Age and Discrimination Lawsuit

The Washington Post recently settled a lawsuit filed by former advertising executive David DeJesus. When bad publicity becomes a greater threat to business than losing money through a settlement, oftentimes businesses opt to settle.

discrim at job interview

Such was the case with the Washington Post. DeJesus claimed that his boss terminated him in 2011 due to racial discrimination. He had enjoyed an 18-year career with the company, and while the Washington Post claimed it based his termination on “willful neglect of duty and insubordination,” an appeals court of three judges decided last year that a jury could hear the case. The appellate court overturned a lower court that dismissed the lawsuit.

The appeals court went on the record as saying, “A jury could properly conclude that the Washington Post’s proffered reason [for the termination of DeJesus] is so unreasonable that it provokes suspicion of pretext.” (New York Post)

 

Further Details about the Age and Discrimination Lawsuit

According to the Observer, David DeJesus brought in more than $1 billion in revenue during his nearly 20 years of tenure with the company. His termination occurred abruptly with his boss cursing and shouting at him. In the federal claim that DeJesus filed in 2014, he also stated that his termination along with the terminations of 47 other older black employers at about the same time were so the company could hire younger, less expensive white employees.

Other affidavits file by former African American Washington Post employees provided details of racial harassment and in particular racial harassment by advertising Vice-President Ethan Selzer. He fired DeJesus without previous discipline or forewarning and told a black female employee to clean the department kitchen and made racist jokes about another black subordinate’s husband. Also, at one point an employee who came to work at the Washington Post wearing a KKK belt buckle was not even disciplined.

Quiet in the Media and with the Settlement

The Observer noted that a number of media outlets ignored the lawsuit and MSNBC did not respond to DeJesus’ request for coverage.

Do You Have Employment Issues that Could Become Legal Matters?

Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to address your concerns. We offer clients seasoned legal advice based on more than 20 years of employment law experience.

 

 

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NYC Department of Transportation Sued for Racial Discrimination

This summer the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) faced a lawsuit for racial discrimination. The Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney filed a lawsuit that alleged a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation.

Shot of a businessman standing in front of a window using a digital tablet

Details of the Racial Discrimination Violation

According to the article released by the Department of Justice, NYCDOT supervisors for nearly 10 years participated in racial discrimination by:

  • Tolerating use of racial epithets
  • Systematically excluding racial minorities from preferred assignments
  • Discriminating against minority employees for promotions

The discrimination was brought to the DOT management’s attention, but instead of taking proper corrective action, they retaliated against employees who made the allegations.

Fleet Services, a unit within NYCDOT employs an estimated 200 employees in various trades including machinists, auto mechanics, electricians, blacksmiths and engineers. All personnel in this unit reported to an executive who regularly and flagrantly referred to African American employees as “monkeys,” “niggers” and “gorillas.” Another example of the executive director’s conduct included responding to an African American’s request for a cell phone by saying, “that nigger gets nothing.”

The Executive Director verbally threatened and also threatened physical violence against an employee who accused him of discriminating against racial minorities.

The lawsuit demanded that the executive director be demoted, suspended and removed from his position as NYCDOT EEO counselor. The counselor decided to retire. However, his second in command who had also been involved in and tolerated the discrimination was promoted into the Executive Director position.

Settlement

In a settlement agreement, the city agreed to pay more than $1.3 million to individual employees.

The settlement provisions included:

Offering monetary compensation to 14 individuals entitled to relief, which consisted of back pay and compensatory damages awards within a range of $60,000 to $168,000. The complainant who brought the claim to the EEOC’s attention would receive $150,000 and attorney’s fees.

Do You Face Allegations of Discrimination?

Employers dealing with discrimination issues should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates cam advise the best legal action for you to take as an employer.

 

 

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Starbucks Baristas Complain About Company’s Parental-Leave Policies

Starbucks made its company stand out from many others when it put in place a six-weeks paid parental leave policy for eligible birth mothers. Starbucks made this a nationwide policy. Indeed they did stand out as being “a different kind of company” that “put our people first.” (Grub street.com)

However, female Starbucks executives get 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave and male executives get 12 paid weeks. Starbucks considers this difference in paid parental leaves a fringe benefit to attract executive talent to the company’s ranks.

A group of baristas met with Starbucks executives to discuss making the leave policy universal, but executives told them to view it as a very competitive benefits package instead. There was no discussion about making the policy universal.

What Is U.S. Federal Law on Parental Leaves?

A parental leave applies to both parents and is a leave from work taken after a child is born, adopted, or placed as a foster child. Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is federal law, parents may take this leave any time during the first year of having the child with them.

psrenting or psrensl leave

The FMLA does not require employers to pay employees for the time off, but it does require larger employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to workers who need to take the time in caring for a new child.

Did you know that the United States, Suriname, Papua New Guinea and several Pacific Ocean island countries are the only countries the world that do not have laws requiring employers to pay for parental leaves?

Given the status of parental leave in the U.S., Starbucks has been quite generous in making its parental leaves “paid” time off.

Do You Have Legal Questions About Pregnancy Leaves or Parental Leaves?

If you have questions, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to help. We can provide you with seasoned legal advice based on more than 20 years of employment law experience.

 

 

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What Are Wage Theft Lawsuits in the Restaurant Industry?

A number of wage theft lawsuits and settlements have been occurring during the past five years. However, they haven’t received as much media attention as restaurant workers’ fight for higher minimum wages.

As a restaurant owner, you should be aware of what wage theft is and the ways it can occur. Ensure your restaurant managers aren’t engaging in wage theft activities.

Examples of Wage Theft and Related Lawsuits

Large chain restaurants have been subject to lawsuits for reducing hours, not paying proper wages for side work and for misappropriating tips.

Requiring workers to work off the clock is not legal but some chain restaurants have been settling claims that allege they’ve been doing this. The Huffington Post reported about several well-known restaurant chains that settled or paid huge sums in wage theft lawsuits.

 

Dogs with choice of food diet

Ruby Tuesday settled a case for $3 million in 2014. The restaurant avoided paying bartenders and servers overtime by having them do checklists before or after clocking in for work. They also shaved hour totals down to 40 hours/week when workers went over 40 hours.

Outback Steakhouses settled a $3 million lawsuit to workers claiming that the restaurant required workers to complete pre-shift work before clocking in.

A Papa John’s New York franchise had to pay more than $2 million in overtime rates under the order of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for rounding down hours worked to the whole number to avoid paying overtime, and for paying workers the “tipped minimum wage” when they mainly did un-tipped work and for not reimbursing employees for the purchase and maintenance costs of bicycles used in deliveries.

Red Robin Restaurants in Pennsylvania paid $1.3 million for requiring tipped workers to share tips with kitchen expeditors when the restaurant was taking tip credits and not paying servers a full minimum wage. Kitchen expeditors had no contact with customers and did not qualify to be paid as tipped workers.

What Are Wage Theft Lawsuits in the Restaurant Industry?

Johnny Rockets had to pay 55 servers more than $570,000 under order of the Department of Labor (DOL) because they required servers to share tips with cooks and dishwashers.

Fourteen TGI Fridays servers received $485,000 to settle claims for having to spend more than 20 percent of their work time doing side work instead of directly relating to customers, which violates the 80/20 rule for tipped employees. Part of this settlement amount was also due to being forced to work off the clock.

Are You Concerned About Wage Theft?

If so, get legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment law defense firm and can advise the best course of action for you to take as an employer

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How Can You Find Out What Federal Employment Laws Apply to Your Business?

Running your own business can feel overwhelming when you get a glimpse of all the laws that affect your operation.

It is smart for business owners to consult with an employment attorney to ensure handbooks, contracts, non-disclosure agreements and other legal documents are in order. Even so, there is a certain amount of self-education that is necessary. At Hans & Associates we like to keep our clients apprised of tools that can assist them with gaining legal understanding and remaining in compliance with employment laws.

 

Federal Employment Laws at Elaws

For federal laws, the Department of Labor (DOL) has a tool called Elaws , which includes the FirstStep Employment Law Advisor and other advisors that are useful. You can obtain a basic understanding of federal employment laws that relate you your particular industry.

FirstStep Employment Advisor

For example, the FirstStep Employment Advisor takes you through the basics, such as: do you know which posters federal law requires your company to display? You can answer “no” and then choose the link that applies to your industry. Restaurants, hotels, caterers, etc. is one category; agriculture is another, and so on.

Piggybank and calculator. Isolated on white background

FirstStep is just one of a number advisor categories that provide regulatory information about employment law. Here are other areas you can access:

  • Pay and Benefits
  • Safety and Health
  • Posters and Record keeping
  • Youth Employment
  • Veteran’s Issues
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

With Pay and Benefits, you can use the advisor to help you calculate overtime pay. Or you can get help deciding whether a particular employee is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements. You may have questions about whether a work related activity counts as “hours worked” and whether you owe the employee pay for it.

Consult with Experienced Employment Defense Lawyers

If you have questions about employment law compliance issues or legal concerns, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to help. We can provide you with seasoned legal representation based on more than 20 years of employment law experience.

 

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How Many Racist Statements Does It Take to Create a Hostile Work Environment?

If is severe enough, one racist statement can create a hostile work environment, according to the United State Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court hears appeals for New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

As reported in The Legal Intelligencer , in the case Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc., the plaintiff alleged harassment, termination and retaliation because of the worker’s race, national origin and sexual orientation.

Details of the Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc. Appeal

The court concluded that the single use of the N-word as a severe racial slur was sufficient evidence to overcome the defense’s request for summary judgment in the hostile work environment claim. Previously, the district court had found in favor of the company, Protection Resources, which is located in Manhattan.

Daniel Otis worked as a fire safety director at the company and was eventually terminated in retaliation for his complaints of discriminatory treatment.

Among various derogatory comments the supervisor made about Daniel were slurs about his looking like a gorilla, complaints about his English accent and telling him to go back to England. He also rubbed his genitals against him and asked him whether he was gay. At one point the supervisor became angry and called him the N-word. A week after filing his complaint, Daniel was under investigation and then the company fired him for receiving personal mail at the workplace.

The district court found that use of a racial slur during one yelling incident was not enough to constitute a hostile work environment claim.

However, the appeals court ruled that the lower court erred in adjudicating that a one-time use of a severe racial slur did not support a hostile work environment claim. It was the court’s opinion that the use of the unambiguously racial epithet, “n—–,“ by a supervisor in the presence of his subordinates was a single act that can quickly alter employment conditions and create an abusive working environment.

Are You a Small or Medium-Sized Business Owner Facing Hostile Work Environment Allegations?

If so, get legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates is a New York law firm with decades of experience representing business owners in employment disputes.

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