Does Banishing Scents Make Sense at Work?

It seems that the number of people with allergies or sensitivities to various scents and smells has grown substantially. Some of those allergies can be severe, causing severe respiratory difficulties and other serious health issues. Questions continue to arise about the often competing rights of allergic employees and coworkers who wish to be able to eat what they want and use whatever hygiene and personal products they choose. Read on for the most recent information on this conflict for employers.

Are ‘Scent’ Allergies Protected Under the Law?

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Categories: Flashpoint

Unexpected Demographics of the 2007-10 Downturn

A Wall Street Journal analysis of recent data sets reveals unexpected characteristics of current employment losses. The last 10 years have seen an increasing parity in employment among men and women, but because the majority of women came into the job market later, it was expected that layoffs — following a last-in/first-out pattern — would hit women harder. Quite unexpectedly, however, more than 70 percent of the jobs lost since December 2007 were held by men.

One factor seems to be that the downturn hit manufacturing and construction hardest and men disproportionately are employed in these sectors. (In 2007, men represented 93 percent of construction and 72 percent of manufacturing employment.) The near collapse of U.S. auto manufacturing reduced the ranks of employees of the Detroit Three and their domestic supply chain. And construction had become overstaffed during the building boom because of easy mortgages. Many construction and auto supply companies were exhausted and undercapitalized, and they simply went out of business, lacking the will or resources to attempt to preserve their core workforces through reduced hours and alternative employment.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Heterosexual PR Contractor May Have Suffered Antigay Discrimination

By Terence H. McGuire

Recently, a federal district court in New York ruled that a worker retained to perform public relations and other promotional services for a clothing manufacturer could proceed to trial on claims under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) that he was fired because he was perceived to be homosexual. Interestingly, the worker contends that (1) he isn’t homosexual, (2) he lived and worked in California for most of the time he was engaged by the company, including when his services were terminated, and (3) he operates his own public relations corporation. The manufacturer claims that he was an independent contractor rather than an employee.

This case underscores the importance of being cognizant that the NYCHRL and NYSHRL prohibit discrimination based on both real and perceived sexual orientation and that the New York laws may permit even “out-of-state” employees to file lawsuits. Finally, if you intend to create independent contractor business relationships rather than employment relationships, you must consider the factors the courts use to determine which type of relationship exists.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Male-Male Sexual Harassment Claims on the Rise

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment charges by men have doubled since 1992, accounting for 16 percent of the 12,696 sexual harassment charges filed in the 2009 fiscal year. And while female-male sexual  harassment certainly makes up some portion of those claims, it’s evident that male-male harassment claims are also on the rise. These claims are resulting in costly settlements to resolve alleged behaviors that some employers may not even believe are  illegal.

Cheesecake Factory Has Big Portions, Big Settlement

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Categories: Flashpoint

Mr. Mom: A Personal Encounter with Stereotypes

June 14, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

Just in time for Father’s Day, employment law attorney Barbara Goodwin reflects on what are considered the “traditional” family roles and reminds employers not to make the mistake of stereotyping men and women and their caregiving responsibilities.

I’m a working mother. I had my first child about 10 days after graduating from law school and have been parenting while working ever since. My husband, on the other hand, is a full-time stay-at-home parent. We’re lucky that we’ve been able to manage to have one of us stay home with the kids, and given the timing, it just worked out best for that person to be him.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Trickle-Down Diversity Isn’t Enough

January 19, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

Talk about juxapostions: The birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the inauguration of Barack Obama. From being hosed in Selma, Alabama, to taking the oath of the Presidency.

We all applaud this progess. From a macro view, it gladens my heart. But I am an employment lawyer, and the micro view saddens me.

Why should this be? A President Obama reminds me that we too often look to who fills the top slot to guage if progress is being made. VP of Human Resources is black? Check. Operations Manager is Hispanic? Check. All is in order, right? Not really.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Job-bias charges rose nine percent in 2007

May 18, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

Each year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) publishes information about the number and type of discrimination charges employees have filed along with the amount of money it has recovered on their behalf. In fiscal year (FY) 2007, 82,792 private-sector discrimination charges were filed with the agency, and it recovered $345 million in monetary relief for job-bias victims.

Race, retaliation, and sex charges were the most frequently filed. Additionally, nearly all major charge categories showed double-digit percentage increases from the prior year – “a rare occurrence,” according to the EEOC. For the first time, retaliation surpassed sex-based charges to become the second highest charge category. Race-based charges have lead the types of charges filed every year since the EEOC opened in 1965.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Razzoo’s to pay $1 million for sex bias against men in settlement with EEOC

May 18, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Razzoo’s, a Dallas/Fort Worth-based restaurant chain, will pay $1 million and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit. Razzoo’s operates 11 Cajun food restaurants throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis and also has locations in Houston and Concord, North Carolina.

The EEOC said that Razzoo’s refused to hire or promote men to the position of bartender in its restaurants. Razzoo’s management set up and communicated to managers by e-mail a plan for an 80-20 ratio of women to men behind the bar. Before this pretrial settlement, male applicants and servers were expected to testify at trial that managers told them the company wanted mostly “girls” behind the bar. Men who worked as servers at the restaurants were generally denied promotion to bartender because of their gender. The few men who were promoted to bartender weren’t allowed to work lucrative “girls-only” bartending events.

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Categories: Flashpoint / Legal News

More than 300 counties now “majority-minority”

April 21, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in every 10 of the nation’s 3,141 counties has a population that is more than 50 percent minority. The two largest counties passing the threshold are Denver County, Colorado, and East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, with total populations of 566,974 and 429,073, respectively. Three other counties were in Texas (Winkler, Waller, and Wharton), with one each in Montana (Blaine), New Mexico (Colfax), and Virginia (Manassas Park, an independent city and considered a county equivalent).

Los Angeles County, California, had the largest minority population in the country in 2006. At 7 million, or 71 percent of its total, Los Angeles County is home to one in every 14 of the nation’s minority residents. The county’s minority population is higher than the total population of 38 states, with the largest population of Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians, and Alaska Natives in the country. It also has the second largest population of blacks and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Fact-based communication changes “good ol’ boy” behavior

March 17, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 1 COMMENTS

Not too long ago, the board of directors of a well-known Fortune 200 corporation was out of ideas for how to deal with a difficult CEO.

The problem: At a time when this company was trying to increase the diversity of its senior ranks — and serve an increasingly diverse customer base — people complained that this CEO, we’ll call him “Ed,” was an “ol’ boy” who was chummy with his white male friends and dismissive of women and people of color who reported directly to him.

As a last resort, the board called Leslie Wilk Braksick, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist and consultant and author of the bestseller Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits: Developing Leadership Behavior that Drives Profitability in Your Organization.

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Categories: Flashpoint

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