Elizabeth D. Tate Attorney at Law
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Phoenix Arizona Discrimination Law Blog

Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a common occurrence even though it is illegal. In some cases, sexual harassment can be so pervasive that it can have an impact on workplace productivity. Some employees who experience it might quit or may fear that they could lose their job if they report the behavior.

Harassment comes in two main forms. The first is quid pro quo, which involves an employee being required to submit to sexual activities in exchange for keeping a job or getting a promotion. The second form is a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment that makes the workplace offensive, intimidating or abusive is considered to make a hostile workplace environment. Sexual harassment can include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, harassment that is sexual in nature and offensive remarks about a person's sex or sex life.

Ninth Circuit ruling revives hostile work case

A Ninth Circuit court ruled that a jury should look into whether preferential treatment for an alleged rapist by an employer constitutes sexual harassment of the victim. This ruling may have significant implications for Arizona workers.

In August 2011, a female employee of the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) was reportedly raped outside of work. The alleged rapist was the subject of three previous complaints. However, he had not received any discipline as a result of those complaints. The man had been on administrative leave at the time of the incident while under investigation for another rape that had been reported a month prior.

Employment discrimination: Did this happen to you?

Employment discrimination can happen to anyone, regardless of your sexual orientation, race, gender or creed.

Whether you're black, white, latino or another race, it doesn't matter. You're still protected by federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Court says man's retaliation claim can proceed to trial

Arizona residents may be interested to learn about a man who filed an age discrimination and retaliation claim against his former employer. The former nursing home maintenance director claimed that his termination by a Pennsylvania nursing home violated his rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

After reviewing evidence that the plaintiff had a history of poor performance evaluations, the court dismissed the man's age discrimination claim. However, the man's FMLA retaliation claim was allowed to proceed to trial. The court found that the close timing between the man's leave request and his firing was suggestive of retaliation.

What happens if you face discrimination due to pregnancy at work?

More women than every before are working hard to balance starting a family and building their careers. That can mean working throughout a pregnancy, and then returning to conquer the corporate world after an appropriate amount of medical leave following the birth. There are federal laws in place intended to protect the rights of working mothers to do exactly that. Sadly, not every employer chooses to support working mothers.

Some employers choose not to advise pregnant mothers or even those about to adopt about their rights to leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Others may refuse to accommodate basic medical needs during pregnancy, such as reduced lifting capabilities. In extreme cases, women may find that their jobs are not held for them during maternity leave or that employers find an excuse to fire them before the child is even born.

Lawsuit alleges disability discrimination at Home Depot

The Americans With Disabilities Act generally requires employers to give reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. Home Depot, which has several locations in Arizona, is facing a lawsuit for failing to do so. The store in question is located in Peru, Illinois.

According to a lawsuit filed on Sept. 28 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the employee in question suffered from fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. A short break would have been a reasonable accommodation that would have allowed her to take care of a medical situation, but her employer refused her the break. She was allegedly then terminated for inconsequential reasons that were caused by her inability to take the needed break.

Men suffer from sexual harassment too

It's true that most sexual harassment cases involve female victims in the United States. In fact, 50 percent of women say that they have experienced workplace sexual harassment while at work. However, men can be the victims of sexual harassment too.

A recent survey showed that one out of three American men say that they have been sexually harassed at least one time during the last year. Also, 16 percent of the sexual harassment lawsuits filed via the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2011 involved male victims. As of 2013, this figure increased to 17.6 percent.

New OSHA form helps whistleblowers

Arizona workers may be interested to know that OSHA has a new online whistleblower complaint form. The goal of the form is to ensure that complaints are directed at the right agencies, which may increase the odds of a timely investigation.

Employers are obligated to provide workers with a safe and healthy work environment as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970. They are not allowed to retaliate against workers who partake in protected actions such as reporting an injury or raising safety concerns. Typically, a worker has 30 to 180 days to make a complaint. The new form asks a series of questions such as whether or not a worker has suffered an adverse action or when the most recent one occurred. After a question is answered, workers are guided to additional questions or given additional information as to where their complaints should go.

Federal appeals court affirms jury award for FMLA retaliation

Arizona employers should take care to avoid retaliating against employees who take valid family leaves or request reasonable accommodations for physical conditions. A decision from a federal appeals court signals judicial support for employee rights in regards to family leave and breastfeeding accommodations.

The case involved a female police officer who had initially won $374,000 in damages from a jury. The woman had quit her job and filed a lawsuit asserting that the police department had violated the Family Medical Leave Act and Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Until her pregnancy, she had worked as a patrol officer and then advanced to a position as a narcotics task force investigator. Her performance reviews had always been excellent.

Age discrimination facts: What you should know

Every able-bodied, able-minded human being who is capable of performing a job has the right to fulfilling work. Every employee in this regard has the right to work without being discriminated against. Nevertheless, numerous Arizona employees find themselves being victimized by discriminatory practices related to their gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin and other factors.

Another area of discrimination -- perhaps one that we don't talk about enough -- is ageism. Numerous employees lose out on important opportunities unfairly, or they are treated unfairly on the job, simply because of their ages.


Elizabeth D. Tate, Attorney at Law
382 E. Palm Lane
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Phone: 602-842-6971
Fax: 602-595-5959
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