Articles Tagged with #TitleVII

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file000704919536In 2013, Lihuan Wang, then a student at Syracuse University and an unpaid intern for Phoenix Sattelite Television, sued Phoenix because her supervisor took her to lunch and to a hotel room where he kissed her by force and grabbed her buttocks.  She resisted and, later, Phoenix wouldn’t hire her.  U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel dismissed Ms. Wang’s lawsuit because she was not Phoenix’s “employee” and, thus, the New York City Human Rights Law didn’t apply to her.

Ms. Wang isn’t the first unpaid intern to have to deal with harassment at her internship.  According to Newsweek, one intern was taken out to a bar by her supervisor to discuss career options, but instead he made advances toward her and put his hand on her thigh.  Another was subjected to racial slurs while at work.  Interns – talented young people who are selected for their enthusiasm, their work ethic, and their willingness to work for literally no pay – often feel like they are powerless to stop this kind of harassment.  The most important way interns are usually “compensated” for their time is through a positive reference and/or contacts in the industry where they’re looking for find a job.  Interns feel like complaining could damage or jeopardize those references and contacts, especially when the interns are given no redress by the court system.  But, in New York City at least, this is about to change.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill into law on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 that provides NYC interns with protections from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  As the mayor said before signing the bill, “this legislation will clarify that interns, paid or unpaid, are guaranteed the full protections guaranteed to employees under the human rights law.”  Interns in New York will no longer be akin to fair game for harassment and exploitation as far as discrimination and harassment are concerned.

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IMG_0939A United States District Court Judge in the District of Columbia issued a recent opinion that could radically change the discrimination protections afforded to members of the LGBT community, but perhaps not in the way that you would expect.

In a complaint filed in the federal district court in D.C., Peter TerVeer alleged that he was targeted and harassed by his supervisor, a particularly religious man, after Mr. TerVeer’s supervisor discovered he is gay.  The supervisor allegedly harassed Mr. TerVeer in numerous ways, including:

  • Engaging in “religious lectures” in virtually every work-related conversation – to the point that it became clear Mr. TerVeer sought to impose his conservative religious beliefs on Mr. TerVeer.
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Football EquipmentThis is the beginning of a series on the implications of today’s National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decision that Northwestern’s football players, “are employees of the school and therefore entitled to hold an election to decide whether to unionize,” according to The Chicago Tribune.

We’re going to start by focusing on the definition of employee.

The first question is what the NLRB means by “employee.” Well, the National Labor Relations Act defines employee with a long paragraph that starts out pretty broadly with, “The term ’employee’ shall include any employee… unless this subchapter explicitly states otherwise…”  29 U.S.C. 152(3).  The definition goes on to carve out exceptions for agricultural workers, individuals covered by the Railway Labor Act, and some other exceptions.

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The Workplace Policy Institute has a comprehensive analysis of possible legislative and regulatory changes to employment law in the coming year. While the full article is certainly worth a read, here is a short summary of some of the most important points.

  • Congress is unlikely to pass any major legislation ahead of the midterms (surprise), as laws such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continue to be stalled in the House. However, some small immigration reforms, such as new visa rules, could be among changes that could make it through Congress. Enhanced protection for whistleblowers may also be on the agenda.
  • Executive branch agencies will likely pursue an aggressive regulatory agenda, partly under the auspices of President Obama’s income inequality push.
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The EEOC has filed 12 religious discrimination lawsuits in fiscal year 2013, more than in the previous year, and indicative of the increasing attention being paid to it in recent months.  In general, this may be one of the areas of more frequent activity in employment law in the coming years.

Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants based on religion.  Concurrent with that prohibition is a responsibility to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.  The EEOC has recommended that employers avoid challenging the validity of an employee’s religious beliefs, and instead argue that accommodating the belief constitutes an undue hardship.  The article notes that between 1992 and 2007 religious discrimination claims increased by 100 percent, and that the EEOC has taken notice and increased its steps to educated employers about prohibited practices.  In 2012 the EEOC received its second-highest amount of religious discrimination complaints ever.

Some of the religious discrimination cases filed by the EEOC can provide employers with lessons in what conduct is prohibited.  Many of the cases concern refusals by employers to accommodate specific requirements of a particular religion, such as growing a beard, not working specific days or hours, or wearing particular clothing.  Others involved the failure of an employer to allow an employee to use equipment that did not violate her religious beliefs, or company-wide mandatory attendance at a religious presentation.  Most of these seem easily remedied- as none involved essential job functions or could not be accommodated with some minimal degree of creativity.

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For our lead in this week, the Employment Discrimination

Report has another look at how sexual harassment in the workplace can be a

problem even when it is not committed by supervisors or co-workers.  Basically, an employer is under an obligation

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On October 3, the U.S. District Court for the Southern

District of New York found that because a female intern was not an employee,

she could not bring a claim for harassment under the New York City Human Rights

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In one of last week’s biggest cases, the New York Court of

Appeals unanimously voted that under the NYC Human Rights Law indefinite leave

for a disabled employee is not a per se unreasonable accommodation and that the

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With a slow post-Fourth of July news week and the recent end

of the Supreme Court term, I first wanted to touch on an international article

that shows the U.S. does not have a monopoly on failing to protect employee’s