Bullying in the Workplace

bullyfree_fcc_Eddie~sThe issue of bullying is currently a hot topic in the United States, and it’s not just schoolchildren who are the targets, or offenders. More and more advocacy and law enforcement agencies around the country are receiving inquiries from folks wondering if bullying and/or harassment is a legal cause of action.

According to a recent article in The Employment Discrimination Report, in a recent New York federal court case, the pro se plaintiff, a college lecturer, attempted to bring an action “regarding the bullying and harassment by (his department’s) current Chair.” He told the Court “that he was not alleging that his Chair’s hostility was motivated by his race, sex, age, or national origin.” The federal court held that:

 

“Bullying and harassment have no place in the workplace, but unless they are motivated by the victim’s membership in a protected class, they do not provide the basis for an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2 (“Title VII”), and any complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) based on them does not constitute “protected activity” under Title VII.”

The Court went on to say:

“Victims of non-discriminatory bullying at the workplace, like those treated unfairly for reasons other than their membership in a protected class, must look outside Title VII to secure what may be their fair due. The Court does not condone bullying, but it cannot read Title VII to protect its victims unless the bullying reflects discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Read the entire article by Richard Cohen.

On July 28th, 2014, NH’s Governor vetoed an anti-bullying bill, HB 591   Read Governor Hassan’s Press Release regarding the veto.

So what is an employee to do when he/she believes she is being subjected to bullying behavior?  How can an employer protect itself against legal action while maintaining a safe, professional working environment?

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with referrals to competent and insured labor law attorneys who represent employees and/or employers.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Veterans and the ADA: A Guide for Employers

Each year, thousands of military personnel stationed around the world leave active duty and return to jobs they held before entering the service, or begin the search for new jobs. Recent veterans report high rates of service-connected disabilities (i.e., disabilities that were incurred in, or aggravated during, military service).[1] About twenty-five percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, as compared to about thirteen percent of all veterans.[2] Common injuries incurred by these veterans include missing limbs, burns, spinal cord injuries, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries, and other impairments.

There are several federal laws that provide important protections for veterans with disabilities who are looking for jobs or are already in the workplace. Two of those laws — Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) – protect veterans from employment discrimination. Title I of the ADA, which is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), prohibits private and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability.[3] USERRA has requirements for reemploying veterans with and without service-connected disabilities and is enforced by the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL).

This guide describes how the ADA applies to recruiting, hiring, and accommodating veterans with disabilities, and briefly explains how protections for veterans with disabilities differ under USERRA and the ADA. The guide also provides information on laws and regulations that employers may find helpful if they want to make recruiting and hiring veterans with disabilities a priority.

Read the entire guide from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Are you a veteran who feels your employer is not complying with the ADA?  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent  attorney experienced with handling ADA issues in employment law.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

New Guidance on Using Criminal Background Checks

In a press release dated April 25, 2012, the EEOC Commission issued enforcement guidance on employer use of arrest and conviction records.

PRESS RELEASE
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an updated Enforcement Guidance on employer use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII). The Commission today voted 4-1 to approve the guidance document.  The Commission also issued a Question-and-Answer (Q&A) document about the guidance. The Enforcement Guidance and Q&A document will be available on the EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov.

“When the Commission met publicly to discuss this subject in July, 2011, I said that I hoped the meeting would help to inform the Commission’s consideration of revisions to existing EEOC guidance.  We had excellent testimony from two public meetings and hundreds of written comments submitted by a diverse group of commenters to inform our deliberations concerning the new guidance,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.  Chair Berrien added, “The new guidance clarifies and updates the EEOC’s longstanding policy concerning the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employees, employers, and many other agency stakeholders.”

While Title VII does not prohibit an employer from requiring applicants or employees to provide information about arrests, convictions or incarceration, it is unlawful to discriminate in employment based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.  The guidance builds on longstanding guidance documents that the EEOC issued over twenty years ago.  The Commission originally issued three separate policy documents in February and July 1987 under Chair Clarence Thomas and in September 1990 under Chair Evan Kemp explaining when the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions may violate Title VII.  The Commission also held public meetings on the subject in 2008 and 2011.  The Enforcement Guidance issued today is predicated on, and supported by, federal court precedent concerning the application of Title VII to employers’ consideration of a job applicant or employee’s criminal history and incorporates judicial decisions issued since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.  The guidance also updates relevant data, consolidates previous EEOC policy statements on this issue into a single document and illustrates how Title VII applies to various scenarios that an employer might encounter when considering the arrest or conviction history of a current or prospective employee.  Among other topics, the guidance discusses:

  • How an employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions could violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII;
  • Federal court decisions analyzing Title VII as applied to criminal record exclusions;
  • The differences between the treatment of arrest records and conviction records;
  • The applicability of disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII;
  • Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that restrict and/or prohibit the employment of individuals with certain criminal records; and
  • Best practices for employers.

The materials for the public meetings held on the use of arrest and conviction records, including testimony and transcripts, are available at http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/index.cfm.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to qualified and experienced attorneys to assist you with your employment law issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a confidential online referral.