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

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."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Github fires employee for using the n-word … Nazi


Software company GitHub is taking a lot of heat for firing a Jewish employee for referring to the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6 as "Nazis." The Verge has the details:
GitHub reportedly fired a Jewish employee after he posted a message in Slack that said "stay safe homies, Nazis are about" the day of the attack on the US Capitol….

The message sparked controversy inside the company, with one colleague criticizing him for using divisive language. GitHub's HR team chastised the employee for using the word "Nazi" in a company Slack channel. Two days later, GitHub allegedly fired him, citing vague patterns of behavior. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My one work rule to rule them all


George Carlin was a genius. He just had a way of breaking down language into its most simple parts. Whether it was The 7 Dirty Words or The 10 Commandments, Carlin was just brilliant with language. For example, he dismantled each of the 10 Commandments into just two:

First:

  • Thou shalt always be honest and faithful, especially to the provider of thy nookie.

And second:

  • Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless, of course, they pray to a different invisible man than the one you pray to.

I thought of this yesterday after stumbling upon a tweetstorm authored by Kate Bischoff reacting to this New York Times article suggesting that Jeffrey Toobin's long and esteemed career justifies that he should get his job back despite his Zoom full monty faux pas. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Just because an employer wins summary judgment doesn’t mean you should emulate its behavior


Jennifer Paskert worked as a sales associate for Auto$mart, a “buy here, pay here” used car dealership located in Spirit Lake, Iowa. During her six months of employment, she claimed her manager, Bret Burns, sexually harassed her. Her allegations included overhearing Burns tells other than he “never should have hired a woman” and wondering aloud if he could make Paskert cry. Burns also bragged at work about his sexual conquests. One on occasion he attempted to rub Paskert’s shoulders told her he was going to give her a hug. On another occasion, after Paskert had criticized how Burns treated women, Burns replied, “Oh, if you weren’t married and I wasn’t married, I could have you … You’d be mine … I’m a closer.”

Ultimately, Auto$mart fired Paskert for “insubordination.” She then filed suit for sexual harassment, among other claims.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Frivolous litigation has a price … sometimes a big price


In 2005, Monika Starke filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC alleging that her employer, CRST Van Expedited, Inc., subjected her to sexual harassment. The EEOC expanded that initial charge into a federal-court lawsuit over whether CRST engaged in sexual harassment against myriad of its female driver trainees.

What followed was 14 years of litigation, several trips to the court of appeals, one trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, and an attorney-fee award of over $3.3 million against the EEOC for frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless conduct in the filing and prosecution of the underlying claims.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

EEOC settlement provides expensive lesson on including social media in your anti-harassment policies and training


EEOC v. Nabors Corp. Services involves serious allegations of racial harassment, including the following.

Being addressed at work by co-workers with racial slurs such as “nigger”; being exposed at work to offensive, racially derogatory social media images and material circulated by co-workers and managers; being exposed to racist graffiti, including racial slurs and derogatory drawings concerning Black persons at company facilities in and around Pleasanton, Texas; being referred to as members of the “colored crew” by employees and managers; and in some instances, being subjected to intimidation and physical threats by employees because of race, Black.

The company recently resolved this case, agreeing to pay 10 employees a total of $1,225,000 to settle the EEOC’s claims of racial harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Celebrating “World Kindness Day” at work #WorldKindnessDay #ChooseKindness


Today is World Kindness Day. Introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, it highlights good deeds in the community by focusing on the positiveness of our common bond of kindness.

It is a day worth celebrating, and one that we sorely need and is sadly necessary.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

#MeToo does not always equal #FireHim


Just because an employee complains about harassment does not mean that if the allegations are founded the employer must fire the harasser.

Consider, for example, Abbood v. Texas Health & Human Servs. Comm. (5th Cir. 11/7/19).

Monday, October 21, 2019

My dog was victim-blamed … and I don’t like it


On Friday, Dante, our five-month-old puppy, was attacked while in the (what we thought was the) safety our our fenced-in yard.

New neighbors recently moved in next door with their not-so-nice German Shepherd. They’ve warned us that he doesn’t get along well with other dogs, and, for that reason, they either tether him in their backyard, or monitor him while outside. At the time of the attack he was flying solo, and it ended badly for Dante. No one actually saw what happened, but either Dante was puppy-exploring through the slats in our fence, or the other dog lunged through the slats, or a combination of both. Either way, the neighbor’s dog was definitely the aggressor, and Dante definitely limped away with the lone injury.

Before staples                          After staples