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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

Miki Agrawal accused of sexual harassment

Some Florida residents may have heard of Miki Agrawal, the founder and former CEO of Thinx. A complaint has been filed with the New York Commission on Human Rights by a former employee that details allegations of rampant sexual harassment and abuse by Agrawal of her employees.

The complaint was filed by the company's former head of public relations. New York Magazine published an expose in which it detailed the allegations. According to its report, the former employee described a hostile environment in which Agrawal would inappropriately touch her breasts and make comments about her body, including at industry events. While she states that she did not believe that Agrawal was hitting on her, she found it demeaning and jarring when she was inappropriately touched.

Are you an independent worker or an employee?

When you perform a job for a business, you can either be paid as an employee or as an independent contractor. As an employee, your employer has an obligation to pay for your taxes, provide certain benefits and offer workplace rights, such as minimum wage and rest breaks. When you are an independent contractor, you are considered self-employed and do not get those benefits accorded to an employee.

So which one are you?

What behaviors qualify as sexual harassment?

Whether you work for a large corporation, a small cupcake shop or a mid-sized real estate business, you have the right to do your job in an atmosphere that is safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is a common problem in many industries, and one that does not discriminate between men and women.

Even a seemingly minor touch or inappropriate comment can be considered sexual harassment. You should be aware of what to watch for if you feel uncomfortable on the job because of the actions of another person.

Tech industry not immune to sexual harassment claims

Following the sexual harassment and sexual discrimination claims made by two engineers working at Uber and Tesla, a spotlight is being put on how women are treated at Silicon Valley startups. In fact, more women have come forward with their own experiences of harassment and discrimination. Some of the companies that were called out for discriminating against female employees included Zynga, Mircosoft and Sun Microsystems.

Like many other industries, the tech industry is dominated by men. Because there is a major disparity in who is hired into leadership roles and who is setting the company culture agenda, sexual discrimination issues can often arise. Although the tech industry is still generally new when compared to other sectors, it appears to be following the same male dominance trend.

How a strong HR department can help startups

Florida residents may have heard about a blog post by an Uber employee who claimed that she experienced sexual harassment at her job. Some have commented that this may have been avoided if the company had a stronger HR department. Uber's CEO reportedly believes that the role of a human resources department is to recruit and hire employees. However, that department may also be used to facilitate employment development and management training.

For any company, employee and manager development is just as important as revenue growth. In a place such as Silicon Valley, a company may have a hard time getting its reputation as a quality employer back once it is tarnished. In an effort to show that it takes the issue seriously, Uber has hired Eric Holder to investigate claims of sexual discrimination. The company's CEO has also met with more than 100 female engineers.

Sexual harassment and bars

Sexual harassment is a major workplace issue for countless women. Many females who work in the bar and nightclub scene in the Boca Raton area know how quickly things can get out of hand.

There is a big misconception that women who work in these establishments invite this harmful and aggressive behavior on themselves. In most cases, innocent teasing and random comments quickly turn into unwanted advances and threatening actions. Women should not have to sacrifice their livelihoods to avoid becoming victims of sexual harassment; their employers should take actions to protect them.

Anyone who works in the hospitality industry should make themselves aware of how they can fight back against sexual harassment.

Transgender legal protections in the workplace

Transgender issues have been a hot topic in Florida and across the U.S. in recent years. Last fall, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a Virginia transgender student who wants to use the boys' bathroom in his high school. The case is the latest example of a federal court taking the lead on LGBT legal issues when other courts continue to struggle. The case and others like it are shaping the way employers must deal with transgender rights within the workplace.

Being transgender means that someone's "gender identity" differs from the one marked on their birth certificate. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that protects employees from discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion. While the statute is silent on the matter of gender identity, the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that "sex-stereotyping", or discriminating against an employee for gender nonconformity, was illegal under Title VII.

Since then, some federal appellate courts have held that discriminating against transgender employees for not conforming to stereotypes was also a violation of Title VII. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took the position that the statute covers transgender employees as written.

Workplace discrimination and disabled people

Florida workers should be aware that complaints related to disability seem to be on the rise in workplaces across the country. Data released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that workplace discrimination complaints increased in 2016.

Disabled people comprise just about 20 percent of the population and a very small part of the workforce. However, just over 30 percent of the discrimination charges filed in 2016 involved cases of disability discrimination.

Company accused of disability discrimination

Florida employees may be interested to learn about a lawsuit that was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that stated that a disabled employee was discriminated against by a Mississippi home care company. The EEOC claimed that the discrimination occurred after the employee underwent a liver transplant in July 2012.

The employee reportedly requested additional leave after her transplant so that she could recover. However, the company denied her request even though the employee stated that she had the amount of leave she requested available. She then stated that the company fired her when the leave time that had been approved was finished. After filing the discrimination charge, she then stated that the company refused to hire her for an open social worker position.

Waitress files sexual harassment lawsuit against manager

Florida restaurant workers may be interested to learn that a former general manager at an Olive Garden was sued for sexual harassment. In the lawsuit, which was filed on Jan. 25, a waitress claimed that servers were hired due to their perceived attractiveness by the general manager. He was also accused of trading promotions and raises for sex.

An initial complaint was made against the general manager for his behavior. Instead of disciplining him, however, the company let him take a leave of absence for anxiety. When he returned, he was accused of groping the complainant. The lawsuit alleges that the general manager's boss actually apologized to the complainant.

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