Don’t let appearance policy trigger religious discrimination claims

October 16, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Achieving a diverse workforce is a highly touted goal among employers. It’s a goal that drives recruiting as well as efforts to build company culture. But the details – the various policies and rules employers may adopt without considering riskscan be easy to overlook. One area not to be forgotten: dress codes and other appearance policies that sometimes pose religious discrimination risks. Busy Arabian businesspeople in the factory

Most employers wouldn’t intentionally adopt policies targeting certain religious groups, but seemingly neutral policies can still pose a threat. For example, can an employer legally prohibit beards, tattoos, head coverings, the wearing of religious symbols, etc.? Usama Kahf, an attorney in the Irvine, California, office of the Fisher Phillips law firm, took on that question in a recent Business and Legal Resources webinar titled “Preventing Appearance-Based Discrimination: Legal Guidelines for Protecting Religious and Cultural Groups.”

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How do ‘bathroom bills’ affect employers in other states?

The digital natives are restless

Fair Chance Business Pledge offers new way to evaluate applicants with criminal records

by Kaitlin L.H. Robidoux

The White House is urging businesses to take the Fair Chance Business Pledge and commit to providing individuals with criminal records “a fair chance to participate in the American economy.” The idea behind the initiative is that individuals with a criminal history have trouble finding employment, and many communities are hurt because of the lack of gainfully employed residents and good role models. Because nearly one in three adults—almost 70 million Americans—has a criminal record, a large number of people and communities are affected when individuals with a criminal history cannot find employment.  Young man in handcuffs

More than 100 organizations have taken the pledge, including American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, the Hershey Company, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Koch Industries, PepsiCo, Prudential, and Starbucks, to name just a few. So if your company is interested in taking the pledge, what considerations should you think through?

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Identifying accommodations for employee who can’t use the stairs

by Michael J. Spooner

Q What is considered a reasonable accommodation for an employee who can’t take the stairs during emergencies or because of maintenance issues with the elevator?  Inspecting an Evacuation Plan

A While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t provide guidance regarding reasonable accommodations for an employee who is unable to use the stairs during an emergency, there are several pieces of information that can help you determine which accommodations are reasonable. Reasonable accommodations must be just that—reasonable. That means they take into account the specific building or workplace in which they will be implemented. Costs, building dimensions, and feasibility of implementation all must be taken into account when determining whether a particular accommodation is reasonable.

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Not your stereotypical sexual harasser: encountering sex-based misconduct at work

by Stefanie M. Renaud

With the announcement of Gretchen Carlson’s (and, subsequently, several other female employees’) complaints about Fox News head Roger Ailes and his ensuing resignation, sexual harassment has recently been in the news. Although Ailes’ conduct somehow slipped under Fox’s radar, most other employers know that employee complaints about sexual harassment are a serious matter that must be promptly investigated. And most, if not all, of you have a sexual harassment policy that includes strong language assuring employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment, you will act quickly to eliminate inappropriate conduct, and anyone found to have violated your sexual harassment policy will be subject to prompt discipline. However, having such a policy does little good if stereotypes about what sexual harassment “looks like” stop employees and supervisors from recognizing—or reporting—it.  Sexual harassment in the workplace

Modern perceptions of sexual harassment generally bring to mind a female victim and a male perpetrator. However, like Jennifer Aniston in “Horrible Bosses,” a sexual harasser can be female, too. And as the recent lawsuit against Elton John shows, sexual harassment can happen between people of the same gender, regardless of the harasser’s or the victim’s sexual orientation.

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New EEOC guidance should remind employers to guard against retaliation

September 18, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

No employer trying to build diversity in its workforce is likely to get very far if its culture tolerates discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against employees based on race, gender, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law. Not only does such a culture work against recruitment and retention of diverse talent, it also invites legal trouble. That’s why employers are taking a close look at new guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressing retaliation claims.  Dangerous handshake

The EEOC issued its new guidance on August 29, replacing previous guidance released in 1998. In addition to the guidance document, the EEOC also released a question-and-answer document and a fact sheet for small business. The material from the EEOC follows a surge of retaliation claims in recent years.

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Employees’ food allergies are nothing to sneeze at!

by Stefanie M. Renaud

Navigating the ins and outs of your obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws can be a challenge for even the most seasoned HR professional. One situation that may be familiar to you is having an employee with food allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 15 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies, and that number is steadily increasing. Allergies are not only miserable for the sufferer, but they can also hurt an employer’s bottom line: It’s estimated that employees miss about four million workdays per year as a result of allergies. Allergy food

Depending on their severity, food allergies may be covered by the ADA or similar state laws. To avoid employee complaints, lost productivity, excessive absences, and the risk of a lawsuit, it’s important to have a plan in place to address requests for accommodations based on food allergies.

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‘No good deed’ for Microsoft, others in the high-tech sector

by Leslie E. Silverman

There is a common refrain uttered by management lawyers, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Yes, it is cynical, but as employers in the high-tech sector are beginning to discover, it is often true. Currently, Microsoft is dealing with issues as a result of well-intended diversity and corporate social responsibility efforts.  Indianapolis - May 2016: Microsoft Midwest District Headquarters I

Social responsibility initiative backfires

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EEOC revises national origin discrimination guidance for changing workforce

by Arielle B. Sepulveda

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released proposed enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination for public comment. Once finalized, the guidance will serve as a reference for agency staff when they investigate and litigate national origin discrimination claims as well as a resource for employers and employees on the law and the EEOC’s interpretation of it.  EEOC-jpg

Basics of national origin discrimination

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