Phoenix Arizona Discrimination Law Blog

Facts about sexual harassment in the legal field

It is not uncommon for workers in Arizona to be the subject of sexual harassment. A survey that had over 7,000 participants found that sexual harassment is a common problem in the legal field. The survey asked lawyers and others from 135 countries about their experiences with sexual harassment and bullying. It found that 36.6% of female participants had experienced such harassment while roughly half said that they had experienced bullying.

Among male participants, 7.6% of participants said that they had experienced bullying, while roughly 33% said that they had been bullied. Legal departments within companies themselves as well as government workers were most likely to say that they had been sexually harassed. However, women who worked in government legal jobs were more likely to report harassment. Those who worked in law firms reported that lowest levels of harassment with 32.7 percent of female law firm employees reporting being harassed.

Poll: White Americans think they deal with discrimination

Traditionally, minority groups in the United States are the ones that face discrimination, both within the workplace and in other settings. This is why there are now so many legal protections for African American workers, female workers, and people who are part of minority age groups, ethnic groups and religious groups -- to name a few.

Despite that, white Americans think that it goes both ways, and most of them think that they actually get targeted for discrimination because they are white. When a poll asked white Americans if they thought it happened to them, a full 55% -- a slim majority -- said that it did.

Why you want a lawyer for your EEOC mediation

Those unfamiliar with the dispute resolution practices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are often surprised to discover that going to court is only one potential way to solve a discrimination issue with an employer. The EEOC provides employees with the ability to file a charge regarding discrimination, at which point the complainant and their employer both have rights and options.

Mediation with your employer can be an option for those hoping to quickly resolve issues. Mediation sessions can be a more private and faster means of resolving issues with your employer, regardless of whether they stem from a hostile work environment or a systemic form of discrimination against one or more protected groups of people. Working with a neutral mediator can provide for a more balanced outcome than a trial.

Genetic information discrimination is illegal at work

While many workers in Arizona know that racial, gender or age discrimination are prohibited in the workplace, few people may know or understand the prohibition on genetic information discrimination. One of the newest aspects of workplace civil rights law, the prohibition on using genetic information when making employment decisions, became effective in 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigates complaints related to the inappropriate application of genetic information at work alongside more traditional discrimination complaints. However, they make up only a tiny fraction of the overall complaints received by the agency, amounting to only 0.3%, according to 2018 statistics.

The 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act barred employers and other companies from workplace discrimination based on employees' family medical history or other genetic information, such as the results of DNA tests or genetic tests on a pregnant woman's fetus. The law was intended to protect workers from firing, demotion, layoffs or other employment consequences based on a belief, for example, that they may be more expensive to insure due to their family medical history. The law also bars insurers from discriminating against people due to their genetic information.

Older workers facing discrimination with less protection

The number of older workers is on the rise, but so are claims of age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers who are 40 and older from age discrimination, but the fastest-growing group of workers is at least 65 years old. Older people in Arizona may be more likely to keep working past traditional retirement age than previous generations, but they also face hurdles in the workplace.

Employers continue to prioritize hiring millennials and to measure success by how much recruiting they can do in this age group. They may conceal their intentions by using phrases such as "fun" to describe the workplace, specifying a maximum number of years of experience desired or by saying older workers are overqualified. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, older women and minorities are more likely to file claims than in the past.

Discrimination: 3 examples of discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination is difficult to deal with, especially when you're on the receiving end. You may not know what to say or feel that you're unable to say anything for fear of retaliation.

While this may be your reality now, the truth is that it doesn't have to stay that way. Employers are not able to discriminate in any way against their employees or face serious repercussions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, protects several classes of people against discrimination. Some types of discrimination that are outlawed include:

  • Age discrimination
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Discrimination based on race
  • Religious discrimination
  • Discrimination based on skin color
  • Gender discrimination

How to properly document the harassment you endure at work

Harassment and discrimination can cost companies tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. To protect their bottom lines, most businesses have written policies on discrimination and harassment. Sadly, not every company abides by its stated policies, leaving workers' vulnerable and in the position where they have to stand up for themselves.

If your company isn't doing enough to stop or prevent ongoing harassment and won't take your complaints seriously, you need to take action to protect yourself. Filing a formal complaint or a lawsuit will require evidence that the issue you experienced was not just a one-time slip of the tongue. Adequate documentation can help you establish a pattern of harassment and inappropriate behavior that makes your workplace less inviting and equitable.

The workplace rumor mill and sexual harassment

For anyone assuming HR duties at a business in Arizona, it's important to take reliable complaints about inappropriate workplace behavior seriously. But there's something of a gray area when it comes to tips received from anonymous sources. One situation like this involved an anonymous email expressing concerns about the rapid advancement of a woman rumored to be having off-the-clock relations with the son of the company's CEO, who is also expected to head the company at some point.

Ignoring anonymous rumors can be a risky move. With the situation described above, the woman involved may claim workplace harassment if she believes unsubstantiated rumors are creating a hostile work environment for her. Even with an anonymous source, it may be possible to use an IP address to find out who is making accusations. Oftentimes, rumors involving women in the workplace do not include recommendations for actions against male employees involved, which could further complicate matters for employers should legal action be taken.

Men show declining concern about workplace harassment

Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement drawing attention to the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment in Arizona and across the U.S., men continue to show limited concern about the phenomenon. In fact, U.S. men are reportedly less concerned about harassment in the workplace than they were before the rise of the movement. They also are increasingly likely to believe that others are "too sensitive" about sexual harassment concerns.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of women and 53 percent of men say that workplace sexual harassment is a major problem. While 46 percent of men say that people do not pay enough attention to workplace harassment, 61 percent of women say the same. Among the female respondents, 48 percent said they had experienced harassment personally. This marked a 6 percent increase since 2017. A strong majority of Americans continue to see sexual harassment as a serious problem, but 13 percent more men did in 2017 than in the later poll. Unlike the changes shown in men's views, women's perspectives on harassment did not show a statistically significant difference.

Questions an interviewer cannot ask you

Unfortunately, discrimination is still a problem in many areas, including Phoenix. While discrimination may not become obvious in a place of employment until a few weeks or months after starting the job, in some cases, the interview itself can produce significant red flags. As the job candidate, it falls to you to be aware of these signals, such as illegal questions.

In general, a potential employer should not ask you questions about your age, race, gender, national origin or your marital status, among others. If an employer does ask you inappropriate questions, the best thing you can do is to politely decline to answer. Here are a few questions that an employer is not allowed to ask to determine your suitability for employment.

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Elizabeth D. Tate, Attorney at Law
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Phoenix, AZ 85004

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