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Union, New Jersey, Legal Blog

Sexual harassment claims among major companies

Google, Spotify, Uber, and Microsoft are among several tech firms that have been at the center of allegations of rampant discrimination and sexual harassment claims among the companies' employees. In a 2018 survey conducted by The Blind, more than 70 percent of employees reported that they do not trust their company's human resources department.

At Microsoft, women employees filed 238 internal complaints against the company between 2010 and 2016. These complaints alleged gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Female workers at Oracle filed suit against their employer for pay discrimination after the Department of Labor had already begun an investigation.

Sex discrimination a serious workplace problem

Workers in New Jersey continue to face problems with sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, a reality that has drawn increased public attention as a result of the #MeToo movement. One report analyzed 20 years of data gathered by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on instances of sex discrimination on the job. Overall, the number of complaints has remained fairly steady, with a general rise in discrimination and harassment complaints over the 20 years between 1997 and 2017.

Of course, EEOC complaints do not tell the whole story. Many workers hesitate to file an EEOC complaint or otherwise use formal mechanisms, especially if they are concerned about retaliation. Retaliation for sexual harassment or discrimination claims is illegal, but lower-wage workers may feel especially at risk and ill-equipped to use the protections in the law. Of the complaints filed in 2017, 67 percent were found to show no reasonable cause that discrimination occurred. However, many women may not have all of the information that they need to pursue a complaint successfully, even when the discrimination was very much real.

Ageism in the workplace

Given the medical advances that have been happening over the past few decades, it should come as no surprise that New Jersey residents are living longer and longer. This means senior citizens will form a larger and larger portion of American society. Therefore, it's necessary to think about how this age group will be financially supported in the years to come.

Even though staying in the workforce longer can help one remain financially independent, the fact still is that the median age at which senior citizens start collecting Social Security benefits is 62. A big reason for retirement, as research indicates, is age discrimination.

Former IBM employee claims age discrimination

New Jersey residents may know that terminating a worker solely due to age can be a violation of existing employment law. However, a 57-year-old woman who worked for IBM claimed that she was terminated to create openings for younger workers. According to her lawsuit, the woman claims that the company has routinely gotten rid of older workers while keeping younger ones employed. The plaintiff was terminated by the company in 2016.

The woman started with the company in 1984 and was employed as a sales representative when she was released by IBM. She claims that the company's CEO conducts a reorganization twice a year and that the goal is to create a workforce that is 75 percent millennial. According to data from ProPublica, IBM has shed 20,000 workers age 40 or older in the last five years.

New guidance for non-discriminatory practices released by OPM

The United States Office of Personnel Management updated its guideline for non-discriminatory practices in 2018. The policy change removes specific guidelines affecting transgender employees and addresses those issues within the general anti-discrimination policies. According to OPM, the purpose of the change was to provide guidance and answer questions regarding the diversity of workers within the federal government. They encourage management and employees to contact OPM with any further questions.

Confidentiality and privacy are crucial components to OPM's policies. The privacy of employees is vital to maintaining a workforce that includes transgender people as well as workers from other minority groups. That means each agency needs to make proactive steps to ensure their employee records are protected. This includes any medical records and any work history files. All record keeping should comply with the Privacy Act.

The Raiders and NFL face lawsuit over team relocation

New Jersey football fans may be interested to learn that the city of Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the NFL and Raiders over the team's impending move to Las Vegas. According to the lawsuit, the NFL violated federal antitrust laws by moving the team to Nevada and boycotting the city of Oakland. City representatives stated in a press release that they are attempting to recover damages from lost revenue, taxpayer investments in the Raiders and other expenses.

While the lawsuit does seek damages from the NFL, it's not demanding that the Raiders move back to Oakland. City officials have stated that the actions by the league were not only illegal but also showed bad faith considering the loyalty of local fans for many years. They also claim that the NFL is using its cartel status to punish cities like Oakland that are not willing to put up taxpayer money for new stadiums.

New Jersey workers have the freedom to any gender expression

Transgender rights are unquestionably one of the most cutting-edge areas of human rights in the United States and New Jersey. Thankfully, the Garden State has proven itself to be an inclusive and accepting place to work by intentionally extending protection to workers based not only on their gender assigned at birth, but on their own gender identity as well. New Jersey protects workers from discrimination regardless of their sexuality or their gender expression.

In other words, employers cannot discriminate against workers whose genetic gender differs from their internalized or expressed gender. In situations involving both hiring and ongoing employment, employees who identify as transgender, gender-fluid or non-binary have protections under the law.

Forest Service to address employee harassment

The newly-appointed director of the national forest service has promised to focus on reducing workplace sexual harassment and other issues at the agency. The director said that she would make changes to existing programs and put new systems in place to promote the safety and comfort of employees. New Jersey workers might gain from an understanding of the claims and facts alleged in the case.

The Associated Press has reported that the U.S. Forest Service has had problems with workplace sexual harassment in the past. Female employees brought a class action lawsuit against the agency in the 1970s, alleging discrimination regarding promotions and employment opportunities. An oversight panel called a hearing in December 2016 to address claims by employees of bullying, harassment and systemic discrimination. Following a report by the USDA Office of the Inspector General, the Forest Service said in March 2018 that it would take steps to better address employee complaints.

Hiring discrimination remains a challenge for African-Americans

The job market in New Jersey and other parts of the country is just as difficult for African-American candidates today as it was 25 years ago according to a study published recently by the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers from Harvard University, Northwestern University and Norway's Institute for Social Research came to this sobering conclusion after submitting 55,842 applications for 26,326 positions.

The researchers recruited Caucasians, Latinos and African-Americans to apply for vacant positions and also submitted resumes with ethnically identifiable names. They discovered that white candidates received 36 percent more callbacks than African-Americans and 24 percent more callbacks than Latinos. These figures are very similar to the results of similar workplace discrimination research conducted in 1989. The outcome remained unchanged after factors such as gender, education, labor market conditions and geography were taken into account.

The gig economy and anti-discrimination laws

Many workers act as independent contractors in New Jersey and across the country. This rise of the "gig economy" has led people to teach classes online, drive ridesharing cars and take up pet-sitting jobs. In fact, nearly one out of every seven jobs taken by Americans involves these types of contingent employment situations. However, these independent contractors may lack significant protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender or disability.

Despite the fact that millions of people work for temp agencies, as freelancers and through independent contracting, the laws against employment discrimination apply only to regular employees. According to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 percent of American workers said that they take some kinds of temporary assignments. This amounts to 21 million people across the country. At least half of those are classified as contractors and lose access to the protections that underlie anti-discrimination laws. However, some say that these figures could undercount the level of "gig-based" or contingent workers. One study claimed that 29 percent of Americans had some level of involvement with these positions.

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