10-step plan for fair and balanced approach to preventing workplace harassment

May 17, 2017 - by: Robin Kallor 0 COMMENTS
Robin Kallor

In less than a year, Fox News has lost its founder and one of its most well-known anchors due to widespread sexual harassment allegations. Fox News recently reported that 20th Century Fox paid $10 million in sexual harassment settlements in the first quarter of 2017 alone. How can Fox News be proactive in avoiding harassment claims in the future? Prevention is the best tool to avoiding claims. Here are some essential steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment.  Stop Sexual Harassment red stop sign held by a female

1. Disseminate a workplace harassment policy that complies with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The policy should encompass all forms of unlawful harassment based upon all protected classes, not just sexual harassment; although sexual harassment should be separately discussed within the policy.

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Baseball purists

December 13, 2016 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

-H.L. Mencken

This post may not be the usual finger-wagging scold you may have come to expect from an employment lawyer. I’m confident, though, that this blog’s audience of fellow practitioners and human resource professionals will take a little solace in it. After all, it’s no fun to be a killjoy and we are thrust into that role more often than we’d like.  Young male baseball referee blowing a whistle

Why? Because potential liability under the employment laws too often compels us to manage to the lowest common denominator.

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Mila Kunis’ open letter on gender bias at work

November 29, 2016 - by: Katie O'Shea 0 COMMENTS
Katie O'Shea

Many people know actor Mila Kunis for her role in the TV series “That ’70s Show” and her film roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the drama Black Swan. Kunis has recently been in the headlines for her open letter on sexism in Hollywood and the workplace entitled, “You’ll Never Work in This Town Again…” originally posted here.Accusation. Sad woman looking down fingers pointing at her

In the letter, Kunis discusses some of her personal experiences, including being told by a producer that she would never work in Hollywood again after she refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film. Kunis explained that she felt objectified and that the threat that her career would suffer because of her refusal embodied the fear that many women face with gender bias in the workplace. She explained her view about how many women feel–that if they speak up against gender bias, their livelihoods will be threatened. Because of her career success and financial ability, Kunis explained she is fortunate to be in a position where she can stand up against gender bias and bring it to light when she experiences it, but recognized that many women may not be able to do so.

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Headline news: Policies, procedures essential tools in fight against sexual harassment

July 12, 2016 - by: Ed Carlstedt 0 COMMENTS
Ed Carlstedt

Last week, former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson slapped Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes with a wrongful termination and sexual harassment lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that Ailes made “sexually charged comments” to Carlson, including comments about her body and requests for what could be considered quid pro quo sex. According to the allegations, Ailes stated that Carlson and he “should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago . . . .”  Sexual harassment in the office

Carlson’s complaint also attributes numerous other sexually charged statements to Ailes, including comments about her legs and posterior and requests that she wear certain clothes to enhance her figure. Carlson claims that, following her rejection of Ailes’ advances, her contract with Fox News was terminated. Ailes claims that Carlson’s allegations are false and that her contract was terminated due to her television show’s poor ratings.

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Another Period: trial by idiot

Kristin Starnes Gray

The sophomore season of Another Period is now in full swing with last night’s episode having quite a bit of fun with the judiciary. If you haven’t already caught this gem of a comedy, it is an American period sitcom spoofing both reality shows and Downton Abbey. The show follows the outrageous lives of the Bellacourts, the first family of Newport, Rhode Island, and their household staff at the turn of the 20th century. With the first season covering issues such as drug addiction, mental illness, incest, sexual harassment, and abortion, we can expect the second season to continue to merrily cross the line into the taboo.   Uncertain judge

Last night’s episode was no exception, as the groundskeeper (Hamish, played by Brett Gelman) stands trial for the murder of a local gossip columnist with a nasty habit of exposing some of the Bellacourts’ dark family secrets in the Newport Looky-Loo newspaper. Despite the fact that Hamish is innocent (at least of this particular crime), his chances look grim with the fantastically unqualified Lord Frederick Bellacourt (played by Jason Ritter) presiding over the trial. His chances are not helped by the facts that Lillian Bellacourt (played by show co-creator Natasha Leggero) is more concerned with fame than the truth of her upcoming testimony, and Beatrice Bellacourt (played by show co-creator Riki Lindhome) is hoping for a death sentence for her own entertainment.

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The Boss, your boss, and LGBT rights

April 12, 2016 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

North Carolina got itself a bit of attention recently when it enacted House Bill 2, which mandates that public restrooms be limited for use based on the individual’s “biological sex.” The effect of this bill was to take away from transgender citizens their ability to choose, based on their individual gender identities, which restroom they will use. There was some fairly prompt backlash. Bruce Springsteen cancelled a Greensboro concert in protest. The NBA is considering relocating its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.  Fist hand with rainbow flag patterned isolate on white

Relevant to the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been pursuing LGBT cases since long before the Boss or the Association ever heard of HB2. The EEOC’s position is that it “interprets and enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964′s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws.” While Title VII does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the EEOC says that it will pursue adverse employment decisions that are the result of “gender stereotyping.” Consider these actions brought by EEOC: read more…

Coworkers Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani are dating! What could possibly go wrong?

November 09, 2015 - by: Marilyn Moran 2 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Last week, the Internet was abuzz with the news that Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, who work together as judges on The Voice, have begun dating. Workplace relationships, though fraught with hazard for HR professionals, are incredibly common, with 80 percent of employees reporting that they have been involved in, or have heard of, coworkers dating at their place of business. Of course, employee hookups can be distracting to their coworkers and cause a lot of talk around the proverbial watercooler.  More important to HR, the end of workplace relationships can result in sexual harassment claims if one party to the relationship decides to break things off while the jilted employee continues to express romantic feelings or lashes out in anger toward the ex.  Get Your Flirt On (or Not)

To avoid this drama, some employers enact anti-fraternization policies to prevent employees from dating one another altogether, while others adopt dating policies to ensure that cubicle-crossed lovers leave the PDA at home and remain professional and productive at work. The large majority of employers, however, recognize and accept that their employees may want to date one another, and simply rely on their sexual harassment policies to govern the parameters of employee relationships.

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Tricks and treats and trial briefs

October 26, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Remember NBC’s The Office? I think some lawyers used to blog about it. Anyhow, one of my favorite episodes was “Costume Contest” where the Scranton employees threw a Halloween party at the branch office. The costumes in the episode were mostly tame, ranging from Justin Bieber (Ryan) to Lady Gaga (Gabe). Late in the episode Angela dressed up as “sexy nurse.” The employment lawyer in me was not amused.  Devils Not in Disguise

Halloween is a few days away, and many employers will be holding costume-themed events. Unless HR steps in with some firm rules about costumes and conduct, some of those parties will invariably end up as reported Title VII cases. Consider just a few examples: read more…

Mad Men ends: What have we learned?

May 19, 2015 - by: Josh Sudbury 1 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

The seven-season-long nonstop drink-and-smoke-a-thon that was Mad Men has come to a close. Were you entertained? Were you satisfied? Better yet, did you learn anything?800px-Mad_Men_(logo).svg I will spare you my personal thoughts on the merits of the ending as there are countless commentaries available on the Web. (Really, it’s amazing how many there are.) Suffice it to say that the “ending” appeared to bring more new beginnings than closure: Roger Sterling’s (third) marriage to Marie Calvet; Joan’s new production company; Pete Campbell’s new job at Lear Jet; Ken Cosgrove at Dow Chemical; Peggy and Stan finally admitting they loved each other (though no one makes falling in love more awkward than Peggy Olson); and, last but not least, Don/Dick Draper/Whitman with his back to the California coast dreaming of the most iconic Coca-Cola ad of the 20th Century.

From the perspective of an employment lawyer, one of the most notable developments that occurred in the last few episodes, however, was not one of the evolution (or devolution) of the individual characters, but the constant upheaval at the advertising behemoth, McCann Erickson. The second half of the final season begins with the revelation that McCann’s acquisition of Sterling Cooper was not a partnership but, rather, Jim Hobart’s mastermind plan to fold the old competitor into McCann’s ever-increasing portfolio–even at the expense of several expensive conflicts-of-interest. But, the Titanic of the ad world can’t hold on to it all. And, companies of all sizes and industries can take a few lessons.

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Fire Harry Crane

April 16, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Mad Men can be tough to watch for an employment lawyer. I was thinking of this while watching the show’s most recent episode, “New Business.” In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Harry Crane propositions Megan under the pretense that he can help get her acting career back on track. Harry is a buffoon and a jackass, and I wondered if he was exposing the firm to potential liability. iStock_000051863008_XXXLarge

There is precedent for the theory that an employee who harasses a third party can expose his employer to vicarious liability. Twenty-five years ago, a New York trial court  famously found that a model was sexually harassed by Penthouse Enterprises, which, among other things, required her to engage in sexual activities for the benefit of the company’s business. In that case the model was quasi-employed by Penthouse, but the court pointed out that the conduct constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as sexual harassment.

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