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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

Disabled? Your employer must reasonably accommodate you.

It could be something as simple as requesting a quiet workspace. Or it could be something as significant as asking to have a new desk that accommodates your wheelchair. If it is reasonable and does not constitute an "undue hardship" on the part of your employer, your disability request must be provided.

What is considered a disability?

The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) act was signed into law in July 1990. The act created a requirement that your employer make changes to your work environment that allow you to work. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the following is required for any employer with a disabled employed:

Court dismisses racial discrimination claim on dreadlock ban

While some people may argue that not hiring people with dreadlocks is racial discrimination, a court recently ruled that it isn't. This decision could have ramifications in workplaces across Florida. According to the court's decision, racial discrimination is interpreted as discrimination against biological traits, not hairstyles that are generally associated with a particular race.

The recent court case involved a woman who was hired to work at Catastrophe Management Solutions on the condition that she cut her dreadlocks off. When the woman refused to change her hairstyle, the employer rescinded the initial job offer. Alleging racial discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a claim against CMS on the woman's behalf. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in a 3-0 decision.

Keep incriminating emails in retaliation cases

Retaliation claims comprise more claims than race discrimination, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These claims make up nearly 45 percent of all claims filed by Florida employees and others throughout the country. Being able to recognize this type of treatment and knowing what to do in this situation can help applicants and employees who find themselves in this precarious position.

Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer illegally retaliates against an employee or applicant because that person carried out a protected activity. This activity may be complaining about an illegal practice, filing a discrimination claim, assisting in a discrimination claim investigation or being a whistleblower to name a few. Examples of adverse action include firing, demoting, harassing, reassigning, decreasing pay or failing to promote the individual. Retaliation may even include writing a bad review for an employee so as to later justify action against the employee. Retaliation can be anything that alters the terms and conditions of employment, such as being assigned to an undesirable work task, excluding the employee or applicant for opportunities and social settings, changing fringe benefits or not providing training.

Bartender? What to do when your boss thinks you should be shaking him

Shaken, not stirred. It's a recipe for the perfect (Bond) martini. Up, on the rocks, doubles, straight--you know your job and you do it well. Five deep waiting at the bar? No worries. You can swipe a card, pour a drink and tap a beer, while still carrying on a conversation.

You love your work--it's fast, its keeps you fit and if you ever need extra money, you can just pick up a shift. Except--except for your boss. His admiration has gone from professional to prurient and you've had enough. One more crass remark about your behind and you're going to walk. Well, you'd like to--but you can't: You've got one more year to finish your degree and you have a kid at home. Is there anything you can do but suck it up?

How workplace discrimination laws protect caregivers

Florida workers may be unaware that their employment rights extend to protection from discrimination if they are caregivers for a loved one. This is known as associational disability discrimination. Under the American with Disabilities Act, there are three kinds of this type of discrimination that are prohibited.

The first type is expense discrimination, which holds that a person cannot be discriminated against based on costs to the employer's health care plan. Disability by association prohibits an employer from discriminating against a worker in the belief that the worker might develop the same condition that their relative suffers from. The principle of distraction prevents discrimination based on a worker's lack of attention on the job because of concern about a disabled loved one.

Experiencing hostility at a Florida workplace

The law protects employees from being treated differently because of their color, race, gender, national origin, age, veteran status, religious affiliation or because of a disability. Therefore, no employer should tolerate anyone at the workplace who severely harasses another employee for these reasons. If you believe you are subjected to a hostile environment at your Florida workplace and your boss has done nothing to stop it, you may be able to hold your employer accountable.

No one should be forced to quit their job because of a hostile environment that makes them feel uncomfortable. A hostile work environment is one in which co-workers, managers, customers, vendors or contractors make persistent unkind remarks, off-color jokes because of his or her ethnicity, race, sex, religion or another reason. Sometimes, employees who are harassed may choose to endure the treatment because they are afraid they will lose their job. This treatment should not be tolerated.

Why people don't report sexual harassment

Many Florida residents who have been sexual harassment victim will not speak out for months or even years. There are several reasons why the victims of workplace sexual harassment often take lengthy periods of time before they report the harassment, including fears of losing their jobs, being in unequal power relationships with the perpetrators, concerns that others won't believe them and threats that have been made against them.

The cases involving Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News, who has been accused by multiple women who worked for the company of sexually harassing them, is illustrative. The allegations led to his resignation after serving for 20 years in the role of CEO. Many of the women endured harassment from Ailes for years, and they are only now coming forward with their stories.

Study looks at sexual harassment in advertising

Florida women may experience workplace sexual harassment regardless of their occupations. A study released on Aug. 11 showed that women who work in advertising might be particularly vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment. In a summary of its research findings, industry trade group 4A said that over 50 percent of the female advertising workers it surveyed said that they had been sexually harassed.

Researchers who conducted the study asked approximately 400 female advertising employees to answer questions about workplace sexual harassment. More than 75 percent of the women who were surveyed worked in middle and senior management. While half of the women said that they had experienced some sexual harassment on the job, one-third said that perceived bias had caused them to be passed over for a job assignment at some point. Forty percent of survey participants said that they were excluded from decision-making processes because of perceived bias.

How DOE rules impact Florida workers

The U.S. Department of Energy said it was improving protections for whistleblowers after a July report from the Government Accountability Office featured two employees who claimed they were retaliated against. For its report, the GAO studied 87 whistleblower cases and conducted interviews at multiple job sites. It found that the Energy Department rarely held contractors accountable for illegal retaliation even though it had the means to do so.

In the report, the government also disputed claims that the department couldn't enforce the prohibition of retaliation against whistleblowers in nuclear safety cases. The GAO pointed out that the department had taken enforcement actions in the past. In response, the DOE said that it would inform contractors and subcontractors that civil penalties could be enforced against those who engage in retaliation against employees.

Why whistleblower protections can backfire

To a certain generation, Bob Woodward stands out as a respectable whistleblower that brought the Watergate scandal into public view. More recently, Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the NSA to reveal what he considered to be abuses of power.

The fact is, however, that often whistleblowers are not considered heroes and are afraid to speak up because of possible reprisals in the workplace. If you see something wrong, illegal or unethical at work, can you report it without fear of retaliation?

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