discrimination and harassment

[With special thanks to our summer associate Lennox Mark for his contribution to this post.]

From coast to coast, state and local governments are debating and enacting legislation to broaden workplace protections for employee dress and grooming practices. And not surprisingly, employee complaints regarding employer grooming policies — that such policies contribute to discrimination by unduly burdening certain racial characteristics, religious beliefs or health conditions — are on the rise.

In February 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a statement of legal enforcement guidance expanding the definition of prohibited race discrimination to include discrimination based on hairstyle. The Commission explained that workplace “grooming or appearance policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hairstyles or hairstyles associated with Black people generally violate [local law].” By expressly including hairstyle as a protected characteristic, the Commission effectively created a new legal claim for Black employees who suffer adverse employment actions because their natural hairstyles fail to comport with previously accepted workplace rules.


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Although federal and state laws have prohibited employment-related sexual harassment and sex discrimination for decades, the #MeToo movement inspired several states and local jurisdictions to pass laws targeting sexual harassment in the workplace more directly. The new laws address issues such as mandatory anti-harassment training, workplace policies, confidentiality in settlement agreements, and the arbitrability of

The legal landscape for employers – particularly those in New York – has evolved significantly over the last few months. On April 12, 2018, Governor Cuomo signed the FY 2019 Budget Bill, which includes significant measures targeting sexual harassment in the workplace, such as harassment prevention policy and training requirements. Not to be outdone, on May 9, 2018, Mayor de Blasio signed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, a collection of bills that require anti-harassment training and increase worker protections against sexual harassment.


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Is your HR team struggling with how to manage a diverse workforce in the #metoo era? Join us and representatives from the EEOC and NLRB for a complimentary seminar on April 12th to discuss the agencies views on these topics and more, including:

  • The Evolving Workplace and Where We Stand With the New Administration

Join us for a breakfast briefing on March 27 in Palo Alto for an update on the latest trends and regulations impacting multinational employers in Latin America. Hear from leading practitioners in five key LATAM jurisdictions – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela – as we address hot topics that employers are facing right now

Last week the EEOC released its charge statistics from fiscal year 2017, which ran from Oct 1, 2016 through Sept 30, 2017.

  • Retaliation was the most common claim in FY 2017, followed by race discrimination, disability discrimination, sex discrimination (all types, including sexual harassment), age discrimination, national origin discrimination, and religious discrimination.
  • Charges were down a bit in all categories, but monetary relief was up in LGBT cases and, in sexual harassment cases, was at the highest level since 2010. BUT — note that the EEOC’s fiscal year ended before the #MeToo movement began so we predict the 2018 statistics will paint a very different picture.
  • Further, note that the EEOC’s new online portal, launched in November 2017, which makes it incredibly easy for individuals to sign in and file charges.


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