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Boca Raton Employment Law Blog

Microsoft defends record on sexual harassment

Sexual harassment continues to be a major concern for many Florida workers, whether their jobs are in customer service, office management or tech development. Some have claimed that tech giant Microsoft, the maker of the Windows operating system, has treated female workers improperly and failed to provide a proper response to workplace harassment reports. One senior executive responded to these claims by saying the corporation consistently investigates all harassment reports and that about 20 staff members were fired in 2017 over related complaints.

In 2017, the company handled 83 complaints of sexual harassment at work, the executive said. Her further noted that Microsoft's workforce in the United States numbers over 65,000. Of the complaints filed, the executive said that nearly half were found to be supported at least in part. Of those, around half resulted in a firing for harassing behavior. The disclosures come after a lawsuit has alleged that Microsoft discriminated against women on the job, including denying promotions and pay raises.

Are you misclassified as an independent contractor?

Are you working as an independent contractor? If so, you may enjoy a certain amount of flexibility. However, the company you work for may be cheating you out of your rightful wages by misclassifying you. Many so-called independent contractors should actually be employees.

But how do you know if you should be an employee instead of an independent contractor? Why does it matter? Find out below. 

Sexual harassment rates decline in an uneven manner

Since 1997, the number of reported incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace has fallen more than 40 percent. In 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 16,000 sexual harassment complaints compared to 9,600 in 2017. This is attributed to better training as well as the increase in female managers. However, this trend does not necessarily apply to everyone in Florida and throughout the United States.

Smaller firms have seen a larger drop in sexual harassment cases compared to larger companies. Since 1995, companies with between 15 and 100 employees have seen a decline of 70 percent. Larger businesses have only seen a decline of 30 percent since 1995. Furthermore, women of color and older women have not seen a decline in the rates of harassment that they experience.

LGBTQ workplace rights win in 2 federal appeals court decisions

Supporters of rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender people in Florida got good news from two recent cases concerning workplace discrimination. Both rulings disallowed discrimination against transgender or gay people at their jobs on the basis of religious faith. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th and 8th Circuits applied the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act so that it protected people perceived by employers to not meet gender stereotypes.

In a case that was brought before the 6th Circuit, a transgender person challenged being fired by the funeral home that employed her after informing them about her plan to transition to her preferred gender identity. Although the owner of the funeral home had argued that the woman's transgender status interfered with his religious views, the court found that her employment placed no burden on the employer's religious practice.

Why workers often do not report harassment

Many employees in Florida who face harassment at work might not report that harassment. According to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, the reason that around 90 percent of workers who are harassed do not report it is for fear they will not be believed, nothing will be done, or they will face retaliation.

Employees have good reason for fearing all of these consequences, and retaliation in particular is a problem. According to a study in 2003, three-fourths of employees faced retaliation after reporting workplace harassment. Employees who report sexual harassment are frequently faced with minimizing or indifference. The 2016 study found that employees rarely reported gender harassment while less than one-third of people who faced sexual coercion at work reported it. Fewer than 10 percent of people reported unwanted physical touching.

Subtle forms of racial discrimination in the workplace

Racial discrimination in the workplace is not always obvious. Outright racial slurs and violence are often extreme forms. Most of the time, the behaviors are less noticeable or provable. Some employers and coworkers use tactics that they think will keep them out of trouble. Other times, they are unaware that their words and actions are not only wrong but also illegal.

Either way, racial discrimination and harassment are unacceptable, and they can make an employer the subject of legal action. These are just a few of the subtle ways in which you may experience racial mistreatment in the workplace.

Help for employees: 3 different types of wrongful termination

Employment law attorneys understand that wrongful termination is a confusing concept. Some employer actions that do not seem wrongful are, in fact, illegal, while other behaviors that seem horrible are actually not against the law. If something felt amiss about your dismissal from your job, then you should speak to an attorney about whether you have a wrongful termination case on your hands.

Many Florida workers have at-will employment. That means the employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason, and the employee can quit at any time without any reason or warning. However, some terminations are not so cut and dried.

OSC reminds federal agencies about new whistleblower laws

The protections afforded to federal workers in Florida and around the country who report fraud or other wrongdoing were strengthened when President Trump signed the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act and the Office of Special Counsel Reauthorization Act into law. The laws require disciplinary procedures to be revised and more thorough training to be provided about the consequences of whistleblower retaliation, and the OSC dispatched three memoranda to federal agencies on Feb. 1 to remind them about both their new and existing responsibilities.

The first OSC memorandum deals with the WhistleBlower Protection Act and emphasizes that supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers must now face disciplinary proceedings. Agencies are also told to ensure that their orientation and training programs make new employees aware of federal whistleblower protections. The second OSC memorandum advises agencies to make sure that their non-disclosure policies and documentation are in line with the new statutory requirements.

Despite decline, harassment and retaliation cases increase

The number of Florida residents filing claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was down in fiscal year 2017 as compared to previous years. Sunshine State filings tracked national numbers that have been trending downwards since 2010 despite a slight bump last year from 2015 numbers. Fiscal year 2017, which ended in September, saw just 84,254 EEOC filings nationwide. In 2010, there were 99,922 filings. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing and administering federal civil rights laws in the majority of employment settings.

While overall numbers declined, the relative percentage of gender-based claims saw an uptick, and 30.4% of all reported claims alleged sexual discrimination or harassment in the workplace. It remains to be seen whether the recent focus on sexual harassment will create a greater spike in fiscal year 2018, but it is reasonable to assume the possibility. Retaliation claims remain the most popular allegation with 48.8% of all filings containing a retaliatory component. Retaliation is a nonspecific claim that can exist independently or in conjunction with other civil rights claims. It is consistently the most common reason for cases in annual numbers.

Restaurants and retail: Where workplace discrimination thrives

Discrimination can take many forms, from racial to sexual to age-based. When people think of discrimination in the workplace, which industries come to mind? Of course, no occupations are exempt, but some are guiltier than others.

Highly publicized cases can make it seem like most discrimination and harassment incidents occur in filmmaking, technology and other sectors with a glamorized reputation. But the truth is that the worst culprits are restaurant and retail businesses, according to research from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) that was reported by Fortune.

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