Handling challenges to diversity in era of divisiveness

January 15, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

It may seem there’s no escaping political divisiveness. All manner of news and social media sources carry angry, frequently hurtful, and often untrue communication. And the workplace is not immune from the damage of those messages.  Two angry businesspeople with boxing gloves having an argument

Presidential campaigns have been heated before, but the 2016 contest seemed especially rife with venom. Since the campaign was so divisiveparticularly on race and religion issues that were aggravated by comments about Mexicans, Muslims, and other minoritiessome of that discord has found its way to the workplace.

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Are decisions made for the reasons you think?

by Dinita L. James

Employment laws prohibit intentional discrimination based on race, sex, or other protected characteristics as well as practices that have a discriminatory impact if they’re not supported by business necessity. Implicit or unconscious bias isn’t technically unlawful in the workplace if it doesn’t cause an unjustified adverse impact.  Bias

Yet a presidential candidate in the most-watched debate ever recently responded to a question about whether she “believed that police are implicitly biased against black people” by stating, “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” The FBI director also recently acknowledged overwhelming research demonstrating the presence of widespread unconscious biases and the way in which those biases may manifest in policing.

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Walking the workplace proselytizing tightrope

by David L. Johnson

“Have a blessed day.” “I’m praying for you.” “Are you a believer?” “Would you be interested in attending church with me?” Comments and questions like those may be common in your workplace. On the one hand, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion. On the other hand, employers have a legitimate interest in preventing employees from expressing their religion in a manner that is disruptive to business operations and preventing proselytizing from creating a religiously hostile work environment. That can be a real tightrope walk because it’s often unclear where the line should be drawn.  Tightrope walker businessman

Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs. That may present challenges when an employee claims that a need to share her faith or seek to convert others is a fundamental tenet of her religion. Employers need not provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship. Of course, what amounts to a “reasonable” accommodation and what kind of hardship is considered “undue” is open to interpretation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted an “undue hardship” to be a hardship that presents “more than a minimal burden on [the] operation of the business.” An accommodation that would impede coworkers’ right to work in an environment free from religious harassment would be considered an undue hardship.

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ADA interactive process: When does your obligation to engage begin?

by Susan Hartmus Hiser

Q We have an employee whose work performance has been slipping lately. We have reason to believe that she is suffering from depression because she was diagnosed as bipolar and had a bout of depression a few years ago that led to a similar decline in her work performance. We allowed her to work a modified schedule for a brief period while she was being treated by her therapist. She hasn’t requested another accommodation recently. Can we discipline her, up to and including termination, based on her performance, or do we need to take steps to address her depression under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?   depressed businessman at office working on computer asking for help

A Both the ADA and many state laws place the initial burden on the employee to inform her employer of a need for an accommodation. However, in the situation you describe, given the employee’s history of depression and her attendant performance issues, a court could find that your company was on notice of her need for an accommodation, even though she didn’t request one. That’s particularly true since she required an accommodation to address her performance issues the last time she had a bout with depression. When an employer has knowledge of an employee’s disability, she need not use the word “accommodation” to trigger the ADA obligation of engaging in the interactive process.

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U.S. Supreme Court to consider transgender restroom lawsuit

by Ryan B. Frazier

During the 1990s, Saturday Night Live, a popular TV sketch comedy show, featured a recurring gender-ambiguous character, Pat. The gag in Pat’s comedy sketches often involved others’ failed attempts to determine the seemingly androgynous character’s gender. The skits played off the then-prevailing view that a person’s gender falls into one of two categories: male or female.  Gender transition concept

Society’s view of gender has evolved significantly since then. The rigid dichotomy of a two-gender world view is frequently challenged and, in some cases, rejected outright. As society’s views on gender morph, the law is attempting to keep pace.

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Warding off age discrimination claims in era of older workers

December 18, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nearly a quarter of the workforce will be made up of people age 55 and older by 2024. That contrasts to 1994, when just 11.9 percent of workers fell into that age group. If the projection for 2024 is correctand the aging of the baby boomer generation as well as other factors provide a solid basis for the forecastemployers need to take a look at how to handle a large number of workers under the protection of federal and state age discrimination laws.   Businessman showing a document to his colleague

The BLS figures, reported in a November 18 U.S. Department of Labor Blog post, show that the 55 and older crowd is expected to constitute the largest slice of the workforce pie in just eight years. Here’s the breakdown for 2024: read more…

What’s gender identity got to do with work?

by Amanda M. Jones

From Bruce Jenner’s announcement that he was transitioning to become a woman named “Caitlyn” to North Carolina’s passage of a so-called bathroom bill requiring schools and public agencies to restrict bathroom use to the facility corresponding to a person’s biological sex at birth, gender identity issues have become the subject of significant policy debate, lawsuits, and mainstream conversation. Gender identity is also increasingly becoming a more prevalent issue in our workplaces.  Gender Identity

Is transgender discrimination in employment illegal?

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Election dynamics in the workplace: Free speech? ‘You’re fired’

by Courtney Bru

None of us were immune from this year’s presidential election dynamics. Disrespect and name-calling have seemed more prevalent than policy discussions. The election was highly polarizing, potentially pitting employee against employee.  PolticalDebate

In the midst of it all, employees were often misinformed about their “free speech rights” in the workplace. A recent instance from Georgia should serve as an example.

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Target to spend millions on single-stall bathrooms

by Ryan Olson

Target recently announced that employees and customers at its stores may use the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Now, amid criticism of its transgender bathroom policy by some customers, the company has said that it will spend $20 million to make single-stall bathrooms available in every store. Target Logo on Shopping Cart

Controversial policy. In an effort to reiterate its inclusive environment and experience, Target announced in April 2016 that its employees and customers may “use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” Target’s new policy was met with mixed results, however. For example, a conservative Christian organization has collected more than 1.4 million signatures from people promising to boycott Target in response to its restroom policy. Nonetheless, other retailers have echoed Target’s bathroom policy.

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Pizza discrimination?! Customer sues Florida Domino’s for employees’ alleged bias

by G. Thomas Harper

A pregnant Moroccan Muslim woman has sued a Domino’s Pizza franchisee in Davenport over the quality of pizza and treatment she received from employees of the restaurant. The customer brought suit in state court in Polk County against the franchisee, Michael P. Jarvis, both as an individual and as the owner of Michael J.’s Pizzeria, Inc., d/b/a Domino’s Pizza, Store Number 3267. Here is what the customer claimed happened.  Pile of Pizza Hut boxes in a Rubbish Bin

Pizza blows up!

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