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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

Lawsuit accuses Google executives of ignoring harassment

The #MeToo movement has drawn attention to ongoing issues with sexual harassment and assault in a range of industries in Florida and across the country. While the resulting employee protests and media coverage have led to some policy changes, many say that not enough has been done to put a stop to on-the-job harassment. In a lawsuit filed on Jan. 10, a shareholder with Alphabet, Google's parent company, accused the tech giant's executives of ignoring problems with harassment.

The lawyers who filed the complaint said that records from the company's board of directors meetings indicate that top executives covered up serious sexual harassment problems. In some cases, people involved in sexual misconduct received significant bonuses or other large sums, even after leaving the company. In one such case, the former head of the Android operating system was paid $90 million in severance despite allegedly credible sexual harassment allegations against him. The legal team involved in the case held a press conference to discuss the allegations. It is seeking changes in Google's corporate structure to loosen control over the board by powerful executives.

Employee activists raise awareness on social media

Google employees are hoping to raise awareness of workplace harassment in the tech industry using various social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram. They hope that people in Florida and throughout the country learn more about tactics such as requiring employees to resolve workplace issues through arbitration. By going through arbitration, workers don't have the ability to take a case to court. While this requirement has been dropped by some companies for sexual harassment claims, it still applies in other cases.

According to those organizing the event, eliminating forced arbitration completely may result in creating a level playing field for all workers. The tech industry has long had a reputation for not being as diverse as it could be. In addition to potentially dealing with that issue, getting rid of forced arbitration could help employees who bring harassment complaints against their employers.

Cracking down on the misclassification of employees

The Internal Revenue Service has joined forces with the U.S. Department of Labor to hold businesses accountable that are possibly misclassifying employees.

The IRS and DOL are targeting certain industries, and you may work in one of them. If your employer has misclassified you on purpose, he or she can be liable under the law.

Gaming employee speaks out against racial bias

Employees who have experienced racial discrimination on the job in Florida could take legal action. However, finding justice could be a difficult process. Recently, one employee of Blizzard spoke out regarding the ongoing discrimination he experienced after he was hired on for a full-time position with the popular gaming company in 2016. The employee, a Mexican-American male, claims he was routinely singled out by a white female coworker due to his racial background.

The employee recounts that after successfully completing a temporary assignment for Blizzard, he was hired to a permanent position where he worked closely with two other employees. One of his coworkers, a white female, often commented on his Mexican heritage and accused him of harboring sexist attitudes due to his heritage. The alleged racial discrimination the employee experienced escalated over time as his white female coworker shared with others in the company her belief that he was sexist. Other employees began accusing the employee of sexism and his relationships with them became strained. When the employee attempted to dispute his coworkers' claims, his harassers would lash out at him intensely.

New House of Representatives rules ban LGBTQ discrimination

Florida residents may be interested in news from the U.S. House of Representatives about LGBTQ rights. The House passed a set of rules during the first meeting of the 116th Congress on Jan. 3, including a rule that bans discrimination against LGBTQ job seekers and staff members.

The rules package will govern the House for the next two years. Three changes that distinguish the new rules package are the ban on LGBTQ discrimination, a ban on members severing on corporate boards and a requirement that members take yearly ethics training. The rules package was promoted by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. Cicilline is one of eight openly LGBTQ members of the House. In a statement he said that protecting the rights of LGBTQ employees is 'the right thing to do".

Ending harassment is a group effort

Workers in Florida may have either experienced or heard about sexual harassment at work. However, it is a problem that both employees and employers can work together to solve. Employees should document any instance of harassment that they see or experience. Doing so may make it easier to have a claim investigated after it has been reported to HR or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Employers should provide adequate harassment training to all workers and managers within the organization. Providing training can serve as a proactive measure to prevent harassment from occurring. Ideally, it will be done in a live setting where people can ask questions and have discussions. When employers and employees work together to solve the problem, it can lead to an attitude change within the organization. This attitude change may then spill over to other workplaces as well.

Harassment victims likely to face firing or retaliation

When Florida workers face sexual harassment on the job, many are afraid to take action to stop the unwanted advances. These fears of losing a job or other forms of retaliation could be well-founded. According to a university study, most workers who come forward with complaints about sexual harassment are fired or experience some form of unjust treatment on the job shortly thereafter. The Center for Employment Equity reported that 64 percent of harassment complainants lost their jobs within one year of making their claim.

The center reviewed over 46,000 sexual harassment cases between 2012 and 2016, including claims filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as with state Fair Employment Practices agencies. The #MeToo movement has drawn attention to the ongoing harassment that women face in many fields, but researchers worry that victims continue to face further retaliation. According to the center, around 5 million employees suffer some form of harassment at work, but the vast majority do not file a formal complaint. Only around 1,500 cases go to court each year, and only 23 percent of those who file EEOC claims are likely to receive financial compensation.

Anti-discrimination and pregnancy in the workplace

Class action lawsuits and claims of unfair treatment against pregnant employees are on the rise. In 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 3,100 complaints regarding pregnancy-related discrimination, the highest number to date. What is the reason behind the rise in complaints?

Anti-discrimination laws extend to protect women during pregnancy, and all parties should understand the law when it comes to handling pregnancy in the workplace.

How employment contracts may limit employee rights

Employees in Florida and throughout the country may be unable to tell their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. This is because many employment contracts require workers to take their cases to arbitration. Once an arbitration case is resolved, there is no chance to appeal the decision to a higher court or any other body. Employers may also have the right to keep information away from employees prior to an arbitration hearing.

However, some employment lawyers believe that the arbitration process is better than having a case go to court. One suggested that arbitration may be best because the arbitrator will allow both sides to present their case. This person said that if the matter went to court, there is a chance that a judge could dismiss it. Despite this opinion, lawmakers are considering ways to potentially eliminate such agreements as they relate to sexual harassment cases.

Unions in entertainment industry team up against harassment

Many people in Pennsylvania and across the country have been appalled by the sexual harassment revelations that have been widely publicized in the entertainment industry. Spurred by allegations of harassment and assault against major movie producer Harvey Weinstein in late 2017, the #MeToo movement has revealed numerous examples of serious harassment, often carried out by well-known figures in the entertainment industry as well as politics, tech and other fields. Now, trade unions in entertainment have launched a new alliance in order to strengthen the battle against sexual harassment in the workplace.

The agreement brings together major unions like Actors' Equity, SAG-AFTRA, the American Federation of Musicians, the Directors' Guild of America and the Writers' Guild of America, East. It was announced following a meeting on Dec. 13, 2018, where the participating unions made public their plans to share codes of conduct, best practices, training materials and contract language to minimize sexual harassment in the industry. The shared resources are meant to bolster each of the unions' efforts to reduce workplace harassment in their sectors of the industry.

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