EEOC announces new strategic enforcement priorities

November 20, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Leslie E. Silverman

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) broke new ground in late 2012 with the release of its first Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) publicly identifying its top enforcement priorities. Since that time, the EEOC’s enforcement and litigation program has largely focused on the priority areas laid out in the SEP:  Book of Compliance

  1. Eliminating barriers for recruiting and hiring;
  2. Protecting vulnerable workers;
  3. Addressing select emerging and developing issues;
  4. Ensuring equal pay protections;
  5. Preserving access to the legal system; and
  6. Preventing systemic harassment.

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DOJ and EEOC release ‘Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement’ report

November 20, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Sean D. Lee

On October 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a joint report aimed at helping law enforcement agencies across the country recruit, hire, and retain diverse workforces.  Police presence at Trump rally

The comprehensive report, “Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement,” presents the findings of a joint research initiative by the DOJ and the EEOC launched in December 2015 to understand the barriers that undermine diversity in law enforcement and highlight “promising practices” to increase diversity. The report arrives amid an intensifying national conversation about race and policing, although it stresses that diversity also includes characteristics like sex, sexual orientation, religion, language ability, and life experience.

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Onionheads everywhere rejoice as NY federal court protects their ‘religion’ under Title VII

November 20, 2016 1 COMMENTS

by Brent E. Siler

The title of this article isn’t a typo or a joke. It’s a literal statement of holding in a recent federal case before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which found that an employer’s conflict-resolution program, which its creator dubbed “Onionhead” or “Harnessing Happiness,” was in fact a religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite the outrageous-sounding nature of the case, it serves as a reminder that the bar for what constitutes a religion under Title VII is low, and employers that try to force religious belief systems on their employees face real legal risks.  Prayer Group

Sincerity of beliefs is the key

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

October 16, 2016 0 COMMENTS

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

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

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

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

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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Don’t let Confederate flags lead to interoffice civil war

August 14, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Connor Beatty

While enjoying a scenic drive along the Maine coast recently, I was startled to come across a giant Confederate flag prominently displayed in a house’s front yard. Less than a week later, a client contacted our firm to ask for advice in responding to an employee’s claim that a vehicle with a Confederate flag bumper sticker in the parking lot made her uncomfortable. While the timing of the occurrences may have been a coincidence, the events are a reminder that the Southern symbol can appear at any workplace, including workplaces in one of the northernmost states in the country. For many, the Confederate flag is an offensive image, and addressing the symbol at work can be tricky. Employers in other states have been sued for ordering employees to remove Confederate flags, while other employers have been taken to court for failing to order workers to remove the flags.  Confederate flag flying

No right to display Confederate flags at work

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Preventing discrimination against Muslim and Middle Eastern workers

August 14, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Anna C. Lukeman

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has warned employers to be proactive and take measures against discrimination aimed at those who are or are perceived to be either Muslim or Middle Eastern.  Middle eastern people having a business meeting at office

In her statement to address this issue, EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said, “America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. As a nation, we must continue to seek the fair treatment of all, even as we grapple with the concerns raised by the recent terrorist attacks. When people come to work and are unfairly harassed or otherwise targeted based on their religion or national origin, it undermines our shared and longstanding values of tolerance and equality for all.”

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EEOC issues new guidance on leave of absence and ADA accommodations

July 17, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Paige Hoster Good

On May 9, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new guidance document addressing the intersection of employer-provided leave of absence and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This document doesn’t create any new EEOC agency policy or propose any new law. Rather, it consolidates current guidance on the ADA, employer leave policies, reasonable accommodations, the interactive process, undue hardship, and other relevant subtopics.  EEOC-jpg

It appears the motivation behind this document stems from the overall rise in disability-related charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC, which increased over six percent from fiscal year 2014 to 2015. Moreover, recent charges received by the EEOC indicate employers may not know they should consider modification of leave policies as a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s disability.

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