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Union, New Jersey, Legal Blog

Congress introduces legislation to combat age discrimination

New Jersey residents may be interested in learning about bipartisan legislation being introduced into Congress to make it easier for an individual to prove age discrimination. The legislation being introduced is entitled The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. The goal of this legislation is to increase protection for older workers so that they are not excluded from the workforce simply because of their age.

This issue is taking on greater importance in recent years. According to AARP, employees over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce in the United States. There are a number of reasons for this.

Women in tech grapple with wage gap

In a new Hired study of tech companies, 60 percent of women were offered less money than male workers for the same positions. This is slightly lower than the 63 percent of women who were surveyed a year ago. Overall, the gender wage gap in the technology sector is 3 percent, but the gap is larger for some employees. For instance, black women made roughly 89 percent of what white males made. New Jersey workers may be interested in the other results from the study.

The wage gap was about 8 percent for women members of the LGBTQ community. Where a person worked also had an effect on the difference in pay between men and women. San Francisco had a 6 percent wage gap between men and women while Boston had a wage gap of 9 percent.

New Jersey workplace discrimination is illegal

A new report by the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity shows that workplace discrimination is alive and well. More than 60 percent of respondents said that they had been the victim of discrimination or harassment at their place of employment. Additionally, more than half of diverse respondents reported that they had experienced microaggressions and pushback when pitching ideas that were rejected, but those same ideas were often accepted at a later time when they were pitched by non-diverse employees.

The report was designed to examine how diverse television writers are being treated in Hollywood. Respondents included writers who identified themselves as female, non-binary, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities. While more than half of the respondents were hired because of their diversity, very little opportunity was provided for those same employees to advance their careers. Many women reported that they were the only woman on the writing staff. The same was true for non-binary writers, people of color and LGBTQ writers.

When does getting fired constitute wrongful termination?

Getting fired is an emotional, even humiliating experience. Many people pride themselves on their professional accomplishments and feel emotions ranging from devastation to anger when an employer no longer wants to retain their services.

It is totally normal for people facing the loss of their job to consider if they have any legal rights or options. Both a desire to punish the former employer and a hope of things going back to how they used to be can motivate people to seek options after getting fired from a job.

Major automakers issue recalls due to fire risk

Kia and Hyundai have announced that they are recalling 534,000 automobiles because of an engine issue that could lead to fires. The recall is effective in New Jersey and across the country and includes 379,000 Kia Souls manufactured between 2012 and 2016, along with Hyundai Tucsons from 2011 to 2013, Kia Sedonas from 2015 to 2018 and Kia Sportages from 2011 to 2012. Beginning in 2016, there began to arise reports from people who were driving normally under normal conditions when their vehicles suddenly caught fire.

Some of the drivers said they had to jump out of their vehicles before they exploded. At least one death has been attributed to a Kia that caught fire with the driver trapped inside. According to the Center for Auto Safety, 2.9 million vehicles from Kia and Hyundai will have to be recalled before the fire issue is fully addressed. The CAS has fielded more than 300 consumer complaints about non-collision fires in Kias and Hyundais since 2016.

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.

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