Compliment Or Come-On? Confusion Over How To Define Sexual Harassment
The sexual harassment scandals over the past couple of months are causing some workers to rethink some of their office behaviors. Is it still OK to compliment a colleague on the way he or she looks?Continue reading
Valeant Unit Settles Sex Discrimination Claims For $7.2M
Law360, Los Angeles (July 12, 2016, 4:56 PM EDT) — Valeant-owned Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. will pay $7.2 million to settle a class action alleging gender discrimination and other claims brought by female sales representatives of the medical cosmetics company, according to a final settlement order signed by a D.C. federal judge Monday. Continue reading
$4 Million Victory Against Turner Industries
Jury returns verdict of over $4 million for two East Texas employees of Turner Industries subjected to racial steering, denial of advancement and racial harassment. These are two plaintiffs in a wave of hundreds to be tried.
Since early 2009, Valli Kane & Vagnini and DiNovo Price & Ellwanger have jointly represented their clients in a historic Title VII Civil Rights battle against Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Turner Industries Group. The firms became involved when they responded to requests for representation from a small number of African-American laborers working for Turner Industries in their pipe fabrication plant in Paris, Texas. Evidence supported allegations of a widespread hostile work environment for African-Americans; nooses were displayed in the workplace, along with repeated racial graffiti and the use of racial epithets by white co-workers and supervisors. Rather than respond to workers’ request for help, a high level decision was made by Turner Industries to deny these allegations and fight the workers who had complained to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
Following a year-long investigation by the EEOC, during which Turner Industries permitted this environment to continue, African-American workers received their first victory when the EEOC issued its determination that a class of African-American workers were subjected to unlawful racial harassment, discrimination, and retaliation at the hands of Turner Industries. Turner retreated and chose to once again turn their backs on their remaining African-American employees who were subjected to similar treatment for years. As a result, over 275 current and former African-American men and women came forward with evidence of racial harassment in other Turner locations such as their Port Allen, Louisiana and Pasadena, Texas, as well as Turner’s third-party work locations throughout the Gulf South. These work sites were owned and operated by large companies (and Turner customers) such as ExxonMobil, Sasol, Marathon, and Westlake, among others.
Given Turner’s refusal to address these widespread problems, these employees brought their claims to Federal Court. The claims of the Texas employees are filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and the claims of Louisiana employees are filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The first wave of 10 plaintiffs went to trial on October 15, 2012. After a four day trial, African-American workers at Turner were handed another monumental victory: the jury awarded over $4 million in damages to two of the Plaintiffs. The two cases were vastly different from one another. One Plaintiff worked for Turner Industries for several years up until he was fired in 2008. He was subjected to an extensive hostile work environment where he was exposed to numerous racial epithets by his co-workers and supervisors, including the “N” word. The second Plaintiff did not allege a hostile work environment. Instead, upon hiring, he was steered into a Painting and Blasting department where African-American employees were segregated from White workers. This was and still is a dangerous environment where employees were not provided proper safety gear and where they were paid significantly less than the White workers who were steered to the better paying positions. This Plaintiff made repeated attempts to obtain transfers and promotions out of this department based on his qualifications, but he was repeatedly denied.
While not all Plaintiffs were victorious in their fight, this is the first of many trials to come for Turner Industries with respect to these claims. This is a solid victory, especially considering that a jury from a historically-conservative area awarded far in excess of what these two Plaintiffs even requested in damages. The jury sent a very loud message to Turner Industries with its verdict. With over 260 cases remaining to be tried, the business of discriminating against hard working African-Americans may cost Turner Industries far more than they expected. The battle continues.
South Florida Fire Department Under EEOC Investigation
Snug in Florida’s deep south, Davie, Florida is a town known for its Western roots, featuring a western-themed amusement park, and more citizens with horses than you can shake a stick at. Davie’s population of about 92,000 is supported by five fire stations, nos. 38, 65, 68, 91 and 104. The hundred year old town, once an out of the way western paradise, is now hitting the news as the subject of allegations of Title VII discrimination at its fire department.
A Host of Discrimination Complaints
The discrimination claims appear not to be an isolated incident: 18 Title VII claims in total are allegedly under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC (the EEOC does not publicly discuss or confirm whether complaints are being investigated). Ten of the 18 charging parties are being represented by two attorneys. The most damning complaint comes from a female firefighter who claims she was unfairly subjected to full duty during the first trimester of her pregnancy. This charging party is alleging that eight (8) days after fighting a fire with her colleagues, she miscarried.
An Alleged Culture of Sexism and Bigotry
The charges center on complaints of sexism and bigotry. The most publicized involve the above case of miscarriage, as well as the story of Linda Stokoe. Stokoe was a fire inspector for the city, but was allegedly fired due to sex discrimination. The former inspector claims she was ordered to keep records of her bathroom visits, and that women were generally believed by her peers to be unfit for firefighting. Another charge alleges discrimination against a Jewish American, who claims derogatory terms and slurs were used against him.
How Does Title VII Apply?
Title VII, as amended, directly prohibits discrimination in the workplace on account of gender, race and religion, among other protected categories. The complaints described against the Davie, Florida Fire Department include racial and gender slurs, preferential treatment, and statements (direct, not implied statements) that women and some minorities are unfit to serve in the Fire Department. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was instituted, nearly every generation of EEOC leadership interpreting the Act has prohibited such treatment.
Is This Your Story?
If you feel that your race, gender, religion, national origin, disability or age have played an unnecessary role at your job, or even in your attempts to find work, then you may have a claim of discrimination. For further information and a free consultation, call the law offices of Valli, Kane & Vagnini today.
Gender Harassment on Late Night TV
From the average American’s point of view, workplace harassment suits may be relegated to office environments–cubicle mazes filled with discrimination by cold-blooded corporate predators. However, harassment runs across all dimensions of American employment, from corporate settings, to manufacturing, to construction, and so on. Lately, a hurricane of highly publicized lawsuits serve to expose an often ignored segment of American employment: television. At the center of it all you will find the often regarded “nicest man on television.”
Paul Tarascio is a New York-based stage manager for live television. In January, the television professional filed a lawsuit against Jimmy Fallon, as well as many employees that work on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and NBC, claiming gender discrimination. Tarascio claims that he was replaced because Fallon prefers female stage managers. When he went to his superiors–and then to union officials–he said he was fired.
Because of the notoriety of the celebrities at the center of these types of shows, this area of law has garnered national attention. The union-driven industry is high-powered, often ego and market driven, and moves at the speed of light. Hirings and firings are as routine on television as they are among NFL coaches. Because television is a gigantic—and extremely rich—industry, many employees may refrain from bringing an action against these networks and public figures because they fear the loss of opportunities in the industry and question whether they have the wherewithal to take on these financial giants.
A similar case involving a joke made by Jay Leno on his late night show has resulted in a lawsuit. While many of the specifics of both Leno’s and Fallon’s lawsuits are not known, the lawsuits brings to light the common misconception that celebrities are somehow exempt from State and Federal discrimination laws. Discrimination on the basis of gender is just as illegal on a multi-million dollar television set as it is at your local Pizza Hut or any other employer in the country. The law makes no exception for the elite, nor should it. Discrimination in any form is wrong and it is punishable by law.
If you feel you have been victimized at your place of work due to your gender or any other protected basis, then you have the right to seek counsel and assert your legal rights. An experienced discrimination attorney can help you understand the complexities of Federal and New York workplace law as it relates to you. Call the law offices of Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP now at (866) 441-2873 and get one of NY’s finest employment attorneys on your side.
Think Before You Send That Email: Don’t Expect Privacy in the Workplace
Most employees understand that they typically give up some privacy while at the workplace. However, most of those workers do not know to what degree their privacy rights are relinquished until they are called on the carpet for a workplace violation. They may find that their communications and actions have been under surveillance, including reading email, recording telephone conversations, reviewing voice mail, monitoring computer and internet activity and even video recording of employee actions.
As one of the most ubiquitous methods of business communication, email is frequently an issue as to privacy in the workplace. It is common for employees’ inboxes to fill up fast throughout the day, and it is common for employees to send several emails every day as part of their job duties. A few of these emails may be personal messages to and from your friends and family. You may also receive your share of unsolicited email (spam). You might forward information, a funny photo, or a good joke to a friend. Without your knowledge (because you barely looked at the email or you didn’t scroll down to look at the entire email), one of these emails contains sexual innuendo or improper language. Your friend not only gets the forwarded email, but so does your company’s IT department. The email is flagged for content and sent to your supervisor who will likely discipline or terminate you. Thinking your privacy has been violated, you find yourself on the defensive. However, much to your surprise, you find out, under federal and state law, there is little or no expectation to privacy in the workplace.
In most cases, actions taken against private employers for invasion of privacy have not been successful. Courts have held that:
- Employees have no legitimate expectation of privacy.
- Employers may have legitimate reasons for monitoring employee communications, such as:
- Employers may have to protect against computer viruses.
- Preventing workplace harassment and bullying.
- Reviewing and archiving communications in the case of lawsuits against the company.
Employees who, for a variety of reasons, take legal action against an employer are likely to find the employer’s surveillance of the employee’s communications and actions to be used against them by the employer. This would be the same information that the employer claims they are required to monitor and archive in case someone brings a lawsuit against the company.
Though privacy in the workplace should not be expected, it does not change the fact that every United States citizen has a right to privacy under the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Also, there are state laws being considered and enacted all the time. Some of these laws under consideration are in response to rapidly changing communication and surveillance technologies.
With the rapid changes in the law and modern technology, legal issues regarding privacy in the workplace have become more complex. Also, employers have been known to use your lack of expectation of privacy in the workplace to intimidate, humiliate and to shield or hide workplace harassment. If you feel your employer has crossed the line when it comes to privacy in the workplace, you will need legal expertise to determine if you have an action. You should seek out an experienced employment law firm and set up a consultation immediately.