Showing posts with label harassment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label harassment. Show all posts

Monday, September 26, 2022

Workplace romance vs. workplace harassment


The Boston Celtics have suspended their head coach, Ime Udoka, for the entire 2022-23 season.

His offense — it was initially reported that he had violated the team’s policies by engaging in a consensual intimate relationship with a female staff member. 

This punishment seemed … harsh. A year for a consensual relationship? If you don’t want your head coach dating staff, why not just direct him to end the affair with a stern warning not to let it happen again, instead of a year-long suspension? In fact, it seemed so harsh that I knew that there had to be more to this story. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Pro athletes should never get a pass on harassment


Kenny Lofton is one of the most beloved players in history of the Cleveland Guardians, née Indians. He spent the best years of 17-year career anchoring center field for the Cleveland teams that won six AL Central titles and earned two World Series berths. 

Post-baseball, Lofton founded Centerblock Asset Management LLC, an investment firm and NFT workplace. In addition to his corporate gig, it also appears that Lofton allegedly spends his time messaging women pictures of his Li'l Kenny on Instagram and firing employees to take issue with it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

“Gaslighting” in the workplace


“That’s not how I told you to complete that project. Why did you do it that way? It’s all wrong.”

“Why didn’t you show up to the meeting? Of course I invited you.”

“Harassment complaint? You never made any harassment complaint.”

These are all examples of gaslighting in the workplace.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

How do you respond when your employees are threatened?


Boston Children's Hospital has a scary situation on its hand. Its hospital staff has received aggressive phone calls, emails, and death threats. It's all in reaction to inaccurate information posted on conservative websites and shared across social media about its transgender surgery program.

The allegations are that its medical staff performs hysterectomies on girls under the age of 18. In reality, the hospital performs hysterectomies on patients age 18 and older, but not on children.

Boston Children's began treating transgender youth in 1998 and opened the first trans health program in the U.S. for adolescents in 2007.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Consistency matters when applying anti-harassment rules


Can an employer legally fire an employee who writes "whore board" on an overtime sign-up sheet? Let's explore.

Following unsuccessful negotiations for a new union contract, Constellium unilaterally implemented a new overtime policy that required employees to sign up for overtime on a sheet posted on a bulletin board outside the lunchroom.

Employees were not happy about the new policy. Those who opposed it began calling the overtime sign-up sheet a "whore board," as they believed that those who used it to sign up for overtime were selling out their union. "Whore board" quickly became common slang in the workplace (even among supervisors). There was no evidence that Constellium disciplined anyone for saying the vulgarity.

One employee, Jack Williams, went a step further. He wrote "whore board" on the sign-up sheet. Constellium then fired him for "willfully and deliberately engaging in insulting and harassing conduct."

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Accountability starts at the top, even for the NFL


NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson has suspended Deshaun Watson for six games for his violation of the league's personal conduct policy based on allegations by four masseuses that he solicited prostitution by paying for sex acts.

Some see six games as a slap on the wrist. I don't, at least in the environment that bound Judge Robinson and her ruling.

While I don't in any way condone Watson's misconduct, the NFL would place itself in serious legal jeopardy by imposing a suspension that encourages Watson or his union to litigate.

Don’t be mad at Watson for getting off light; be mad at the NFL for its long history of giving white male owners a free pass for their own sexual misconduct. The league created the legal environment that let Watson (a Black player) off.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Cursing in the workplace


According to one survey, 57% of American employees admit to swearing at work. (Count me in the "yes" column.)

Where is the line between swearing as harmless workplace banter and swearing as harmful unlawful harassment? The seminal case is Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, which involved the female plaintiff's offense to the salty language used by male co-workers in nearby cubicles.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

The 7th nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2022” is … the murder enabler


"It is with a deep sadness and a heavy heart I share one of our students, Riley Whitelaw, passed away over the weekend. Currently, we are unable to share additional information."

That was the introduction from a letter Air Academy HS Principal Dan Olson sent to students last week.

As you can imagine, the "additional information" is heartbreaking.

Riley Whitelaw, age 16, worked at a local Walgreens. According to KKTV 11 News, last year she told store managers that a coworker, Joshua Johnson (age 28), was making advances towards her that made her uncomfortable. On June 11 a manager discovered Ms. Whitelaw dead on the floor of the breakroom with neck injuries and covered in blood. Johnson is currently in custody on first-degree murder charges.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Breaches of confidentiality during internal investigations chill future reports of workplace misconduct


"Nothing you share will be attributed to you and your feedback will remain anonymous."

That's what an HR consultant advised employees of BrewDog prior to their participation in an anonymous workplace culture review of the international brewing company.

Kate Bernot reports at Good Beer Hunting, however, that at least one former employee who participated discovered that her personal information was provided to company leadership.
Charlotte Cook says her name and details of conversations about her time at BrewDog—which focused on workplace safety, problems with human resources, and the circumstances under which she left the company—were provided by [HR consultant] Wiser to BrewDog without her knowledge or consent.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Mask mandates might be gone, but maskual harassment isn’t


Workplaces, state and local governments, and the CDC have relegated mask mandates to the dustbin of Covid history. But just because people are no longer required to wear masks anywhere doesn't mean that some people aren't choosing to do so on their own. The end of mask mandates, however, has not ended the culture wars that have surrounded mask for the past two-plus years.

According to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 56% of Americans still favor mask mandates on planes, trains, and public transportation, 49% for workers who interact with the public in restaurants and other places, and also 49% for crowded public events. (My own poll on LinkedIn revealed a smaller 36% still in favor of mask mandates on planes and public transportation.)

That leaves a large swath of America strongly entrenched against masks. And some are still expressing their opposition in less than constructive means.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Harassment complaints don’t require a “perfect" response, just a “reasonable” one


Ronald Burns, a maintenance technician at Berry Global, was the victim of three instances of racial harassment over the span of 17 days.
  • Burns found a piece of cardboard in his locker that read, "dance monkey." He complained to HR.
In response, HR spent several days reviewing security camera footage in an attempt to discovery the perpetrator, which it could not do. The plant manager also met with the entire shift and advised that such harassment would not be tolerated. 

  • Four days later Burns found a noose hanging from the lock on his locker. He again reported the harassment, this time to his supervisor and to the company's ethics hotline.
In response, the plant manager gave Burns the weekend off with pay. Pre- and post-shift walkthroughs of the locker room were also started to seek any offensive items. HR interviewed 19 employees but could not lock down a suspect. Finally, the company adjusted the cameras to offer better coverage.

  • 13 days later, Burns found yet another piece of cardboard in his locker, but this time it read, "die n*****." He again reported it to harassment.

After reviewing more camera footage, the company narrowed its investigation to one suspect, present in the locker room prior to all three incidents. All employees were also re-interviewed, and the suspect was suspended without pay even though he could not be confirmed as the culprit. Finally, Burns was offered a transfer to a different shift, which he declined. 


Five month later, Burns found a noose attached to his toolbox. This time, instead of complaining to management he quit and filed a racial harassment lawsuit. 

At issue in Burns's lawsuit was Berry's response to his complaints — whether it had "manifest[ed] indifference or unreasonableness in light of the facts the employer knew or should have known," or whether it "tolerated or condoned the situation or that the employer knew or should have known of the alleged conduct and failed to take prompt remedial action." 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Are you an ally, or are you just afraid of being canceled?


I tell my students, "When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game."

I think of this quote often when I think about what it means to be an ally at work. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The nuts and bolts of your company code of conduct


Yesterday I explained why your company needs a code of conduct separate from or adjunct to your already-existing anti-harassment policy. 

Today, I'm back to explain what it should contain, to whom it should apply, how violations are addressed, and how it should be disseminated.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Does your craft brewery or other company have a code of conduct?


Meet Brienne Allan, a brewer at Notch Brewing in Salem, Mass. In May 2021 she asked a simple question in an Instagram Story— "What sexist comments have you experienced?"

What followed were hundreds upon hundreds of stories of sex-based discrimination, harassment, and other abuse.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

A step in the right direction to ending workplace sexual harassment


When is the last time you recall Congress agreeing on anything? Well, it happened last week, when the Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 (full text here.)

Simply, once signed by President Biden (which should happen imminently), any agreement that requires an employee to submit a sexual harassment claim to private arbitration, or waive their right to participate in a class or collective action, would be invalid and unenforceable. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Employment law lessons from “Ted Lasso” – dating the boss


If you've not yet watched episode 8 (Man City) of the current second season of Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso and you don't want to be spoiled, now would be a good time to click the back button on your browser or close your email. Good? Okay. No grumbling; you've been warned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

“Ted Lasso" and the difference between illegal harassment and legal (but still wrong) bullying


If you're watching Ted Lasso, you're familiar with the story of Nathan Shelley, kit man turned coach turned Wonder Kid. Season 2 tells a fascinating story about Nate that is still unfolding. His arc has transformed him from a bullied kit man to an abusive coach, and from a loveable underdog to an insufferable a-hole. Episode 7 ended with Nate cruelly unleashing a tirade of anger on his replacement as the team's kitman, Will.

There is little doubt that Nate's mistreatment of Will and others is both uncomfortable to watch and a portrait of horrendous management. But is it illegal?

The answer is no.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Why would a company wait a year to implement an anti-harassment program?


McDonald's has lots of secrets. What's in its sauce? What part of the chicken do the McNuggets come from? How come every time I crave a cone the soft-serve machine is out of order? Why do their soft drinks taste better than anyone else's?

Something that's not a secret, however, is that McDonald's has a serious sexual harassment problem.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Supporting our AAPI employees in their time of crisis


The stats are jarring, disturbing, and scary. During the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been nearly 3,800 reported anti-Asian hate incidents, including shunning, slurs, and physical attacks. That number represents a stunning 46 percent increase over the prior year, and still just a small percentage of the actual number that has occurred. These incidents culminated last week in Robert Aaron Long shooting and killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlor.

Your AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) employees are hurting. Here are some thoughts on how we, as their employers, can best support them. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

How many N-words create a hostile work environment?


Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to answer these questions:

  1. Whether an employee's exposure to the N-word in the workplace is severe enough to send his Title VII hostile-work-environment claim to a trier of fact.
  2. Whether and in what circumstances racial epithets in the workplace are "extremely serious" incidents sufficient to create a hostile work environment under Title VII, rather than nonactionable "mere utterances."