Archive for the ‘Title VII’ Category

Under Federal law and most state laws, sexual harassment is not permitted in the workplace and should not be tolerated.

University of Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown’s longtime associate athletics director for football operations was dismissed from the university last March because a university investigation determined he made repeated unwanted sexual advances toward a female administrative assistant over a two-year period

Cleve Bryant, who oversaw numerous daily activities for the Longhorns, including game-day-operations, team travel and recruiting weekends, was fired after a university investigator determined “that Mr. Bryant did sexually harass” the staffer and that “the harassment was likely both verbal and physical.”

The sexual harassment complaint was filed by Rachel Arena, a then 24-year-old football department employee who had graduated from Texas in 2008.

The investigation show that Arena told investigators:

• That during a July 2010 meeting in Bryant’s office about whether she would receive a raise, Bryant pulled down the top of her dress and bra and fondled her breast.

• That Bryant repeatedly either told her in person or texted her that “I want to kiss you.”

• That Bryant retaliated after she told him to stop texting by creating a false allegation that she had acted inappropriately at a minor league baseball game she attended with some former Texas football players.

• That one day while in the break room, getting a bottle of water, Bryant came in, stood in front of the door as she started to leave and said, “Kiss me.” Arena said she turned away and Bryant kissed her on the neck before she could leave.

• That two other female office workers alleged that Bryant had inappropriately kissed them in the past.

• That another woman in the athletic department referred to Bryant as “old-freak-nasty” and that he once told Arena “he wanted to touch me, that he wanted to pleasure me, that he could, that he could make me happy, referring to sexually, things like that.”

Bryant, who is married, denied all of the allegations.

If you have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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So there has been quite a bit of publicity in the news about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, but many may be surprised to know that there are still few protections in the workplace against sexual orientation discrimination.

Sexual orientation discrimination includes being treated differently or harassed because of your real or perceived sexual orientation — whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual.

Federal Law
Although federal laws, such as Title VII and the ADA protect people from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability, there is no federal law that specifically outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the private sector. (Federal government workers are protected from such discrimination.) Attempts to pass federal legislation that would outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in private workplaces have been unsuccessful to date.
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You may recall that I have blogged recently about EEOC complaints that credit checks on job applicants is potentially a violation of Federal discrimination laws. Well now there has been a class action lawsuit filed against the University of Miami based upon the credit checks it performs on job applicants.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Loudy Appolon of Miami, Florida, accuses the University of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by rejecting or firing qualified individuals because of their credit background, even though credit history does not predict employment performance. In fact, there is no correlation between credit history and job performance or trustworthiness, and credit reports are often rife with inaccuracies.

Samuel R. Miller, a senior attorney at Outten & Golden LLP, said, “By all accounts, Ms. Appolon was well-qualified for the position – that’s why the University of Miami offered her the job. But instead of evaluating Ms. Appolon on an individual basis, as a person who – like many Americans today – may have struggled with and overcome some personal financial difficulties, and who showed promise to be an excellent employee, the Hospital stigmatized her based on her credit history. When companies act this way, they make it impossible for Americans to break the cycle of lending and bad credit, rebuild their lives, and contribute to their families and communities. And the employers hurt themselves by losing out on some of their best potential workers.”

Sarah Crawford, counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated, “The University of Miami’s policies and practices are illegal because they adopt and perpetuate the racial disparities in the credit system. We see this problem occurring in private and public employment across the country, despite the fact that employers, credit reporting agencies, and researchers have found no link between credit history and job performance. At a time when unemployment rates are skyrocketing, particularly for minority jobseekers, this unjustified and discriminatory practice only exacerbates the problem. Employers need to know that the practice is discriminatory and must end.” Ms. Crawford testified about the discriminatory effects of credit checks at an October 20, 2010 hearing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the Complaint, “Defendants’ hiring policy duplicates the racial discrimination present in the credit reporting system . . . This discriminatory denial of employment affects not only the individuals who are rejected or terminated, but also their families and entire communities, replicating minority under-employment and compounding credit inequities in the process.”

The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Appolon interviewed for a senior medical collector position with the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine in June 2009. She was offered the position, but the day before she was due to start her new job — after she had already resigned from her previous job — the University informed Ms. Appolon that she would not be hired because of her credit history. “I was shocked,” says Ms. Appolon. “I’ve worked in this industry for years, and my credit was never a problem.”

The case is “Loudy Appolon v. University of Miami, et al.” Class Action Complaint No. 1:10-cv-24166, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.

If you have been denied a job based upon a background check on your credit history, you may want to speak with an employment lawyer to discuss your available legal remedies. Behren Law Firm can assist you with these types of issues.

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One of the areas of frequent complaint with employers, especially in areas such as South Florida and California is whether an employer can force an employee to speak only english in the workplace. In some instances, this requirement is a violation of federal and/or state law constituting national origin discrimination.

Some of these rules implemented by employers are referred to as “English Only” rules. The question with these types of rules is whether the employer had a business justification for having such a rule. Even where an English-only rule has been adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons, the employer’s use of the rule should relate to specific circumstances in its workplace. An English-only rule is justified by “business necessity” if it is needed for an employer to operate safely or efficiently. The following are some situations in which business necessity would justify an English-only rule:

For communications with customers, coworkers, or supervisors who only speak English

In emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety

For cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency

To enable a supervisor who only speaks English to monitor the performance of an employee whose job duties require communication with coworkers or customers

So for example, if you work in a bank, it may be appropriate for your employer to speak only English in dealing with customers or on the front line, but it may not be appropriate to discipline an employee for speaking another language in the break room with another employee.

As with other employment laws, it would also be illegal for an employer to terminate or retaliate against an employee for complaining about English only requirements in the workplace.

If you believe that your employer is wrongfully using an English only rule, you should speak with the Human Resources Department or if necessary go the the EEOC or an employment lawyer to discuss these issues and possibly file a Charge of Discrimination.

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