Expressions of Faith in the Workplace

Q:I have a couple of employees who just started using religious expressions (e.g., “God bless” and “Your friend in God”) in their e-mails. Another employee is offended by the e-mails and wants me to make them stop. Any words of wisdom?

A: In addition to prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposes an affirmative duty to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of your employees unless doing so constitutes harassment or poses an undue hardship on your business. Of course, you have the right to prohibit religious proselytizing in the workplace. However, simply signing e-mails with “God bless” or “Your friend in God,” while objectionable to some, doesn’t meet the definition of proselytizing or forcing a religious belief on others. Furthermore, undue hardship requires more than just proof that some workers complained of religious expressions in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds that undue hardship requires evidence that an individual’s religious expression was so severe and pervasive that it infringed on the rights of coworkers or caused a disruption of work.

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Categories: Q&A

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

Stereotypes Are Alive and Well

We are beyond the day when an employer could evaluate employees by assuming or insisting that they matched the stereotypes associated with their group.

— U.S. Supreme Court
Price Waterhouse


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Categories: Legal News

Language of Prosperity: Multilingual Employees

By Claudia N. Lombardo

It’s hard to believe there was a day when nonnative English-speaking parents disapproved of their children learning any language other than English. Today, many parents embrace foreign languages as a stepping stone to their children’s economic success. That’s because businesses often prosper from employing bilingual and multilingual staff.

The Vast Melting Pot

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Categories: Feature

Outed Vets Get Benefits for California Domestic Partners

By Jennifer Barrera

The Commission on the Status of Women is a state agency founded in 1965 to study issues affecting women and to advise the California Legislature and state agencies on inequities in laws, practices, and conditions that affect women. The commission asked the California attorney general to respond to two inquiries regarding the eligibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered veterans to obtain state-funded veteran benefits. The commission estimates there are over 137,000 such veterans residing in California. On December 31, 2009, the attorney general issued an opinion letter that addressed the commission’s concerns.

California Vets Entitled to Benefits Regardless of Sexual Orientation

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Categories: Diversity Trends

Outback to Pay $19 Million for Sex Bias

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that Outback Steakhouse has agreed to pay $19 million and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a major class-action lawsuit alleging sex discrimination against thousands of women at hundreds of its corporately owned restaurants nationwide.

According to the EEOC, Outback discriminated against female employees with respect to the terms and conditions of employment and denied women equal opportunities for advancement. In the lawsuit, the agency alleged that female employees hit a glass ceiling at Outback and couldn’t get promoted to higher-level profit-sharing management positions. It also alleged that the women were denied favorable job assignments, particularly in kitchen management — a requirement for consideration for top management jobs in the restaurants.

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Categories: Legal News

Women’s History Month: March 2010

February 14, 2010 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

National Women’s History Month’s roots go back to March 8, 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month. Here are some facts from the U.S. Census Bureau about women in the workplace:

  • In 2008, the median annual earnings of women 15 or older who worked year-round, full time was $35,745, down from $36,451 in 2007 (after adjusting for inflation). Women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.

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Categories: Just the Facts

Recession Hard on Black, Hispanic Job Hunters

According to a report released in November by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), African American and Hispanic workers were hit particularly hard during the first year of the current recession. The report notes that while “the overall labor market conditions deteriorated markedly in 2008 following the onset of the recession in December 2007 . . . labor market problems for blacks or African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos were especially acute.”

In 2008, the BLS reported that the unemployment rate was 10.1 percent for blacks and 7.6 percent for Hispanics. These figures were considerably higher than the unemployment rates for whites and Asians, at 5.2 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively. During the first 10 months of 2009, the unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older was 8.4 percent — compared with 4.4 percent for white male college graduates.

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Categories: Feature

Diversity a Goal for New OPM Deputy Director

Boston-native Christine M. Griffin has taken over the number two spot at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). One of her top tasks will be to help OPM Director John Berry increase the diversity of the federal government, which he has called one of his top long-term goals.

Before being appointed to the position by President Barack Obama on May 12, 2009 (she was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 30 and took office on January 4, 2010), Griffin was a Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There, she helped develop and approve enforcement policies, including those authorized by law, regulation, or order.

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Categories: Agency Insight

Employer Shining Beacon During Economic Slump

For the third year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) teamed up with Winning Workplaces to create its list of Top Small Workplaces for 2009. As the article notes, when faced with tough economic times, many employers try to cut just about everything that may be considered nonessential, including employee benefits, wellness plans, and other innovative programs. In doing so, they often shut employees completely out of the decision-making process. While the idea behind their actions is simply to stay afloat and make sure that employees at least have a job, the unintended consequence can be a negative workplace with low employee morale.

However, as the WSJ recognizes, there are still several companies committed to their employees’ well-being and development. Having happy, well-trained employees pays off now and continues paying off in the future. That’s because companies with a high rate of employee satisfaction and low turnover save money in the long run and put the company in a good position to rev back up when the economy turns around.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

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