Overview: In addition to sexual harassment in the workplace, federal law as well as most state law prohibits harassment against an individual based on his or her membership in a protected class. Therefore, individuals are protected from harassment based on race, national origin, religion, etc. Harassment may take the form of using insulting epithets, slurs or negative stereotypes; making rude and offensive jokes; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; or written and graphic material such as cartoons that insult a particular individual or group based on that individual's or group's protected class.
To eliminate workplace harassment, employers should have a policy in place that strictly prohibits harassing behavior of any kind. All employees and supervisors should be provided with training on the policy. Further, employers should designate a multichannel reporting system to allow employees to bring workplace harassment complaints to the employer's attention. Further, employers should immediately respond to any complaints of harassment by investigating the matter and taking corrective action.
Trends: There a significant number of harassment lawsuits being brought based on race, age, religion etc. As the workplace becomes more diverse, this has led to an increase in harassment suits of all kind. The EEOC has recognized this and has recently brought suit against many employers based on various kinds of harassment.
In Vance v. Ball State University, 570 U.S. (2013), the Supreme Court issued a critical decision which makes it more difficult for employees to prove that an employer is vicariously liable for a supervisor’s discriminatory or harassing conduct. Specifically, the Court held that a supervisor must be someone with the direct power and authority to take tangible employment actions against an employee. This issue is of primary importance when determining whether an employer is vicariously liable for a supervisor's actions in cases of harassment. Under the current law, if the harasser is a supervisor, the employer is automatically vicariously liable for the supervisor's actions. If the harasser is not a supervisor, the plaintiff must prove that the employer was negligent and that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment in order to be liable. This is a much higher burden to meet.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
In-depth review of the spectrum of Washington employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to training and development.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released two new publications instructing employers with regard to employee religious garb and grooming in the workplace: a lengthy Question and Answer Guide as well as a Fact Sheet on religious discrimination and accommodation. The EEOC notes that this guidance comes after a marked increase in the number of religious discrimination lawsuits.
Effective March 29, 2014, an ordinance prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, gender and other categories takes effect in Tempe, AZ.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Arizona employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to EEO - harassment.
The EEOC recently entered into a consent decree with Roy Farms Inc. in which the employer agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a same-sex harassment lawsuit. This type of settlement should alert an employer that although sexual orientation is not a protected class under federal law, same-sex harassment and gender stereotyping violate federal civil rights laws.
The EEOC entered into a consent judgment with Boh Bros. Construction Co., in which the employer agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a same-sex harassment case that has bounced from the trial court to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and back.
The EEOC recently announced that it reached a settlement with financial services firm JPMorgan Chase in which JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $1,450,000 to resolve allegations of sex discrimination and sex-based harassment brought by female mortgage brokers at a Columbus, Ohio facility.
Because an increasing number of workers are entering into romantic relationships in the workplace, it is necessary for employers to monitor and manage such relationships in order to protect their own business interests, maintain a fair and professional workplace and minimize the risk of a lawsuit. Using XpertHR's various Tools and resources will aid employers in managing romantic relationships in the workplace.
A recent 6th Circuit decision provides employers with insight regarding what it means to be considered a joint employer under Title VII.
Multistate employers face the challenge of complying with not only federal laws, but also differing state and local laws. This section highlights some of the states' differences in terms of preemployment testing and background checks, noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreements, and discrimination, pay and leave rules.
HR guidance on preventing and responding to workplace harassment, including instituting a policy, providing training to employees and supervisors, and immediately investigating harassment complaints.