New Yorkers are sometimes the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination at their workplaces. A class action claim involving more than 69,000 workers in a private arbitration against Sterling Jewelry Co. demonstrates how pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination can be in some workplace cultures.
New York employees may be interested to learn that Sterling Jewelers Inc., a company that operates a number of mall jewelry stores, was accused of fostering a work environment full of sexual discrimination and harassment. Approximately 69,000 current and former female employees of the company are reportedly involved in the class-action arbitration case.
New York residents may have heard about a charge of pervasive harassment levied against Tesla. The employee who filed the charge now works in the company's purchasing department after spending time as a manufacturing engineer in the general assembly department. She claims that she was told that to advance in the company, she would have to meet standards that male employees were not held to.
New York residents who rely on Uber to get around town may be interested in learning that on Feb. 20, the company's CEO instructed the chief human resources officer to look into claims of sexual harassment put forth by a former Uber engineer. The former engineer claimed in a blog that her manager used the company chat to proposition her.
New York readers may be interested to learn that Uber's CEO has ordered an "urgent investigation" after a former employee publicly accused the company of sexual harassment. The order came just hours after the employee published a blog post on Feb. 19 detailing the alleged discrimination.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a real problem for many New York employees. When a person is harassed at work by a colleague, they often have several options for reporting the incident and can be protected from reprisal by the employee or employer. This situation becomes more complicated when the harasser is an outside contractor or client that the employee must work with in order to complete a job.
The information age has opened up new opportunities for businesses in New York and around the country, but it has also created a number of potentially thorny legal problems for employers. Many companies rely on e-mail and social media for business communications and to engage with their customers, but failing to adequately protect workers from inappropriate online content can leave employers vulnerable to harassment complaints and lawsuits.
New York residents should know that sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While most companies will tell employees to speak up about sexual harassment if it happens, such policies are often more about helping a business avoid a costly or damaging lawsuit as opposed to looking out for the interests of the employee. Retaliation for filing a sexual harassment claim is also illegal; however, it may occur in more subtle ways after an employee comes forward.
On Nov. 4, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled a workplace anti-gay discrimination case can move forward because it violated Title VII's protections based on sex discrimination. However, in an interesting footnote, the presiding judge also agreed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's assertion that sex discrimination is comparable to racial discrimination. The decision could provide a new prism through which to consider discrimination cases in New York and nationwide.
The sexual harassment of female employees is rampant in fast food restaurants in New York and around the country, according to a report released on Oct. 5 by Hart Research Associates. The firm surveyed 1,217 male and female fast food restaurant workers, and four in 10 of the women polled said that they had been the victims of unwanted sexual advances on at least one.