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New York Employment Law Blog

Sexual harassment in the law profession

Sexual harassment occurs in every type of profession and workplace in New York and elsewhere. As such, it should not be surprising that sexual harassment also occurs in the legal profession. However, a survey found that sexual harassment in the legal profession is particularly prevalent for both lawyers and other workers.

The study analyzed responses from nearly 7,000 participants from 135 countries. More than one-third of the women who participated stated that they had experienced sexual harassment in the profession. Approximately 7.4% of men stated that they had experienced sexual harassment. When the different types of jobs within the legal profession were taken into consideration, it was found that 52.5% of women and 18.2% of men who worked government jobs reported harassment. Alternately, the rates of sexual harassment were also high for women at 46.6% in the judiciary. However, zero men in the judiciary reported sexual harassment.

EEOC complaint accuses Amazon of religious discrimination

Worker advocacy groups in New York and around the country have often accused Amazon of treating its warehouse and distribution workers harshly and forcing them to meet strict productivity requirements, but the Seattle-based retailer has rarely faced allegations of racial, sexual or religious discrimination. That changed on May 8 when a complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that claims Amazon treats black Muslim workers from Somalia and East Africa unfairly.

The complaint was filed by the nonprofit civil rights organization Muslim Advocates on behalf of three unnamed women who work at an Amazon distribution center in Minnesota. The women claim that black Muslim employees are assigned more onerous duties and are regularly passed over for promotions in favor of their white colleagues. The women also say in their complaint that Amazon frowns upon Muslim workers practicing their faith while on the job. When the workers protested about these practices on Dec. 14, they say Amazon retaliated by issuing them with written warnings and assigning them even more unpleasant tasks.

The EEOC can help with genetic information cases

Workers in New York and throughout the country can file discrimination claims based on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will investigate claims based on Title II of that act. However, not many people understand that they can contact the EEOC about a genetic information discrimination concern. In 2018, it received only 220 such complaints, which was .3 percent of all claims that it received that year.

There are many ways in which employers discriminate against individuals based on their genetic information. For example, employers may try to use workplace wellness programs to collect data about a person's family history. They may also ask questions during fitness for duty proceedings that aren't relevant in determining if an employee is able to do a job.

The practice of mandatory arbitration

Many employers in New York and around the country require their workers to sign contracts that include what are known as mandatory arbitration clauses. These provisions deny employees who are involved in disputes over issues such as discrimination or harassment the opportunity to argue their cases in court. Instead, they compel them to resolve their grievances before an independent third party and behind closed doors.

Forced arbitration clauses became a topic of hot debate in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement it gave rise to. Lawmakers in New York responded by enacting legislation that prohibits employers there from requiring workers to settle sexual harassment disputes behind closed doors.

Workplace harassment: Why people don't report it instantly

Harassment in the workplace is not new, and it's clear from news reports that it hasn't stopped. People constantly come forward to report new scandals and shed light on inappropriate behavior. These cases make it very clear that people face some serious risks in almost any industry.

You may notice, though, that a lot of these cases involve things that happened years ago. In some instances, decades have gone by. Why is this? Why not come forward instantly?

Supreme Court to hear cases on LGBT discrimination

For LGBT workers in New York, the news that the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up several cases on workplace discrimination could be an opportunity or a threat. While many states and municipalities provide protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the interpretation of federal civil rights law is an ongoing battle. The protections that LGBT workers rely upon in many areas hang in the balance.

The nation's highest court announced that it would hear several cases related to workplace discrimination against LGBT people, including cases from gay or lesbian workers who say they were fired due to their sexual orientation and a case filed by a transgender funeral home worker who was dismissed after she announced her plans to transition to live as a woman. The legal issue in the cases is the interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination. The language of the law does not mention gender identity or sexual orientation, but various federal appeals court have interpreted the clause in an inclusive manner.

Bill proposed to look at ways to end workplace harassment

Workers across many different industries in New York may have experienced sexual harassment or know of others who have. The Senate has proposed legislation called the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act in an effort to put a stop to workplace harassment. There is also legislation in the House similar to what the BE HEARD Act aims to accomplish. If approved, a variety of actions would be taken to help the legislation meet its primary goal.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be directed to look at the economic damages related to sexual harassment at work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would be tasked with determining how often harassment takes place at work. It would also be required to create a working group that will look at ways to prevent harassment from occurring on the job.

Female employees face more discipline

Women working in New York are often concerned about the very real problems of wage and hiring discrimination. A recent study indicates that female employees may have one more issue to worry about -- they are more likely to be disciplined for real or perceived violations at the office.

All workplaces have rules, and these rules exist for good reason. It is important for employees to understand what is expected of them and for employers to be clear about the kind of behavior that won't be tolerated in the office or organization. However, enforcement of these rules can often be arbitrary because it is human supervisors who are generally responsible for identifying violations and then either reporting it to management or addressing the issue directly with the employee.

Salary disparity in the tech field continues.

Many women in New York have first-hand experience in a gender-based pay gap. Previous data shows the gap in some job sectors or industries can be larger than in others. The tech field has often shown to be larger than other industries. A recent study from a large employment agency shows that the pay disparity has improved slightly in some respects other areas continue to fall behind.

The study consisted of a survey of more than 2,500 female employees in the tech field. Participants were from all over the US. When compared to white males in the industry the pay of women was still at least 3 percent lower. In the larger tech cities such as New York, Boston and Los Angeles, the gap is wider. All of these cities showed female salary figures of at least 8 percent less than male counterparts.

Surveys find the gender pay gap persists

The gender pay gap has declined since 1980, but women still lag behind men in income. New Yorkers may be interested to learn about a 2018 Pew Research Center study that found that women earned 85 percent of what men earned. A different study in 2017 by the Census Bureau put that figure at 80 percent. In 1980, women earned around 36 cents less than men per hour.

A number of reasons for the pay gap and its persistence have been proposed. Gender discrimination could be one reason. In 2017, Pew Research found that more than 40 percent of women claimed to have experienced gender discrimination at work. Women are more likely than males to take time off work for caregiving duties. This may include taking care of children as well as caring for other family members. More than 40 percent of women said they reduced their work hours for caregiving, and just under 40 percent said they had taken a lot of time off work to do so.

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