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Union, New Jersey, Legal Blog

Workplace retaliation top EEOC complaint in 2019

New Jersey readers might be interested to learn that workplace retaliation was the most common type of discrimination charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 2019 fiscal year, according to the latest annual report by the agency. Retaliation was also the most common charge filed by workers in 2018.

The EEOC report says that there were a total of 72,675 workplace discrimination charges filed in 2019, which is less than the 76,418 filed in 2018. Of those charges, the agency found that nearly 70% failed to show a reasonable cause. However, successful claims resulted in 157 enforcement lawsuits, which brought in $346.6 million in monetary settlements. Approximately $205 million of the settlement funds came from retaliation suits, and another $68.2 million came from sexual harassment claims.

Implicit bias training may be flawed

Large companies such as Google and Papa John's have used implicit bias training in an effort to make their organizations more inclusive. However, there is some question as to whether their employees in New Jersey and throughout the country actually benefit from it. Research has shown that attempt to teach people about their biases may actually work to further affirm their views. Ultimately, implicit bias training may only be effective if people want to learn about stereotypes and how to overcome them.

There is also some question as to whether it's possible to determine a person's implicit biases. One test revealed that people who had racist tendencies behaved in much the same way as those who didn't show them. Telling a person who hasn't acted in an overtly racist manner that he or she could still be a racist may not be the best idea.

NBER finds signs of age discrimination in many job postings

Widespread age discrimination sometimes makes finding a job difficult for older adults in New Jersey. A report released by the AARP strongly suggested that employers favor younger job applicants. An analysis of the language within job postings by the National Bureau of Economic Research supported this claim. The NBER identified the frequent use of words and conditions meant to attract younger job applicants and discourage older ones.

The authors of the NBER study of job postings described linguistic evidence derived from stereotypes of older workers. They exposed numerous examples of job openings that emphasized requirements for physical abilities and technology skills. Job postings stating that applicants had to lift certain amounts of weight or possess experience with specific software could show that those employers wanted to hire young people.

Uber settles sexual harassment charge with the EEOC

Employers in New Jersey and around the country can be held accountable by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission when they fail to address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The EEOC launched an investigation when several workers at the ride-sharing company Uber complained about sexual harassment and retaliation, and the agency reported on Dec. 18 that the complaints appear to be legitimate.

The EEOC says that it has reasonable cause to determine that Uber tolerated a culture of sexual harassment and retaliated against workers who complained. The California-based ride-sharing company has agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle the matter. An Uber representative said that the company was pleased to work with the EEOC and has replaced its CEO and changed its workplace culture since the events investigated by the agency took place. Initial reports do not reveal how many Uber workers are expected to be compensated.

Riot Games settles workplace discrimination claim

New Jersey residents may be familiar with the video game "League of Legends." Riot Games, the company that publishes the online battle game, has recently been ordered to pay out $10 million for a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit. A thousand female employees of Riot Games will be compensated in varying amounts depending on their length of employment.

The lawsuit was filed in 2018 after Kotaku investigated the so-called "bro culture" at Riot that many employees reported experiencing. Twenty-eight people came forward to say that women working at Riot were treated like outsiders and denied the same employment opportunities as their male coworkers. When Riot tried to use legal arbitration to resolve some of the complaints in Spring 2019, many employees walked out of work in response. Riot agreed to settle the lawsuit in August.

Do I have the right to be myself at work?

Many people consider their working life to be very separate from their personal life. To succeed in their career, some people believe that it is necessary to alter aspects of their personality or take on an entirely new persona just to fit in. While this may be a possible way of getting ahead in your career, it can lead to job dissatisfaction, and you may not be content with the way that you feel when you are "faking it."

In recent years, the topic of being yourself at work has been frequently discussed. It has been found that many people are afraid to be their true selves at work for fear of being discriminated against.

Workplace rights regarding harassment and retaliation

An employee who understands workplace rights in New Jersey may be better equipped to confront issues related to sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination. The ability to recognize illegal workplace discrimination and assert legal rights could lead to a solution or prevent a problem from festering.

Federal law defines harassment as severe and pervasive conduct that intimidates or abuses an employee. Someone sexually assaulted at work would have a clear case of a hostile and abusive workplace, but most cases involve ongoing mistreatment inspired by the person's sex. Conduct, such as offensive jokes, lewd pictures, requests for sex or gender-driven insults, could meet the legal standard of what reasonable people would view as sexual harassment.

Study finds that discrimination isn't uncommon

According to the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Study, 61% of respondents said that they either saw or experienced discrimination on the job. This is in spite of the fact that companies in New Jersey and throughout America are putting more money and effort into diversifying their workforce. The study included 1,100 workers, and it found that workplace discrimination was more common in the United States than in European countries such as France and Germany.

However, the study did find that Americans and Europeans alike believe that more should be done to make workplaces more diverse. Roughly half of those polled in the United States and Europe said that this was the case. Both racism and ageism were common forms of discrimination that workers in the United States saw or experienced at work. According to a representative from Glassdoor, employers need to make sure that employees are free to be themselves while on the job.

Employers cannot discriminate because of pregnancy

Despite there being laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against women because of pregnancy, that sort of discrimination remains a problem in New Jersey and across the country. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reportedly received 2,790 pregnancy discrimination complaints in 2018 alone, and a staff attorney for the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union said that figure likely underestimates the number of workers who are impacted by pregnancy discrimination.

The ACLU staff attorney also pointed out that the number of complaints for pregnancy discrimination increased by almost 50% from 1997 to 2011. According to an estimate by the National Partnership on Women and Families, as many as 250,000 pregnant women annually do not receive the accommodations they are entitled to under the law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, amending the already-existing Civil Rights Act. Under the PDA, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against a worker due to childbirth, pregnancy or a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy.

EEOC gives definitions of workplace harassment

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is unwelcome conduct based on sex, race, religion, color, age, national origin, genetic information or disability. Harassment based on sex includes discrimination related to pregnancy. As another example, harassment based on age is prohibited against people who are at least 40 years of age. The federal harassment laws that apply in New Jersey and across the country are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Behavior in the workplace may qualify as actionable harassment if the employee is required to go through offensive conduct under the threat of job loss or the offensive conduct results in a hostile work environment. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under anti-discrimination laws. Examples of offensive conduct include slurs, epithets, offensive jokes, name-calling, physical threats or assaults, intimidation, mockery and interference with work performance.

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