Tuesday October 16, 2018
 

EEOC releases sexual harassment stats one year after #MeToo

sexual harassment

It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

EEOC suits up 50%

Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
  • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
  • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
  • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
  • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

Waiting on new guidance

It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

  1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
  2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
  3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
  4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
  5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

 

 

 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

EEOC releases sexual harassment stats one year after #MeToo

sexual harassment

It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

EEOC suits up 50%

Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
  • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
  • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
  • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
  • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

Waiting on new guidance

It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

  1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
  2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
  3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
  4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
  5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

 

 

 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

EEOC releases sexual harassment stats one year after #MeToo

sexual harassment

It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

EEOC suits up 50%

Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
  • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
  • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
  • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
  • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

Waiting on new guidance

It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

  1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
  2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
  3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
  4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
  5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

 

 

 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Big-time talent acquisition on a small budget: 5 proven steps

No one needs to tell you that talent acquisition is hard work. And despite a hyper-pressurized job market, no one’s cutting you any slack, either. 

But even with mounting competition and limited resources, every HR pro can still land great talent.

Here are five essential talent acquisition tactics that don’t require a big budget, straight from the business and HR gurus at SHRM and FitSmallBusiness.

Check your reputation

Before you set out on your candidate search, it’s crucial to examine your company’s image from an outside perspective. Google your business name and see what people are saying.

If there’s not much out there, you’ll need to address that. Start by asking trusted employees to leave good reviews on sites like Glassdoor.

Another way you can manage your reputation is through social media. Make it easy for candidates to find you online through their social networks.

Make the workplace attractive

Once your internet presence is sparkling, you’ll want the physical workplace to match.

Even if things look great, there could be areas that need attention. Ask your employees for their thoughts on how you can improve the workplace. Little things like snacks in the breakroom or moving furniture around can make a big difference.

It’s also worth examining your benefits and compensation to make sure you’re on par with the industry standard. A visually pleasing workplace is important, but the best pay and benefits you can offer will attract great candidates by itself.

Streamline application process

It all begins with the job post. But before you write it, have a clear image of who you want in this role. Remember: A lot of skills can be learned, but traits like reliability and work ethic can’t be.

When writing the job posting, it’s important to strike a balance between being detailed and brief. You want candidates to understand what the job is, but you don’t want them to skip the post because it’s too wordy.

The same goes for the online application process. One out of five job seekers will abandon the application if it takes longer than 20 minutes to fill out. Make the process as quick and painless as possible.

Interview thoughtfully

After sorting through all the applications and getting rid of the obvious nos, the question of who to interview becomes tricky. You don’t want to waste your time, but some candidates can end up surprising you.

A great solution is to have brief phone interviews before inviting candidates in. You should keep it to about 15 minutes and just focus on basic information like work history. This will help eliminate some contenders.

It’s important to remember to treat candidates like you would a customer during this process. Keep in communication with them, and be kind and attentive. Regardless of whether they receive an offer, you want them leaving with a positive impression of the company.

Always think ahead

Remember to keep turnover top of mind and plan accordingly. Did you have promising candidates who didn’t quite make the cut? It’s always a good idea to hang on to their information in case of unexpected openings.

As you know, the search for great candidates never ends, so it’s important to keep that pipeline full. Another great place to look is your internal talent – the next open position could be filled by someone already working for you.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

9 ways NOT to conduct a performance review

The end of the year will be here before you know it, and with it — for many — comes the annual performance review. 

And while every good manager wants the review to be useful for the employee, many performance evaluations can get a little off track.

Strangest reviews

Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas took to LinkedIn and Facebook to ask people for their stories about performance reviews gone wrong.

Here are some of the wildest responses she received:

  • One employee was criticized for causing too much drama. The drama that was being referred to? Reporting and investigating employees’ discrimination and harassment claims.
  • Someone was written up for typing a period on a fax where a comma should’ve been.
  • A boss felt the need to criticize a worker’s thumbtack placement. He then drew her a diagram of how to correctly place one.
  • While driving into work an employee was involved in a car accident. They called from the ER to let their team know what was going on, and the next week they were written up for “allowing personal drama to interfere with responsibilities.”
  • An employee was told he was “too direct” in his communications. When he asked the manager to clarify, they couldn’t.
  • At her performance review, an employee was told her number of mistakes doubled in the past year. And it had … from one to two.
  • One manager spent the majority of the review talking about her husband.
  • An employee’s review was conducted by a manager who had only been there for four months. When the employee asked if he had consulted her previous managers, he said that after four months he knew her well enough to do the review on his own.
  • A manager complained an employee wasn’t catching on to a task she was never trained for.

 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

3 ways to help an employee going through a rough patch

With busy days and never ending to-do lists, it makes sense to be focused solely on your own productivity. 

But when other employees are struggling with their workloads, it can end up negatively impacting you and the workplace.

Lending a hand

When it comes to reaching out to someone going through a hard time, there are ways to show you care without overstepping.

Here’s what Inc.com contributor Art Markman says you should do:

1. Address what you’ve observed. The first step is letting the employee know you’ve noticed they’ve been a little off their game lately. Maybe they seem more frustrated or stressed than usual. Find a good time to pull them aside and have a chat over coffee.

The employee may not want to open up to you about their problems, but that’s OK. By brining this up, you let the employee know you’re there to talk if they want to.

2. Validate how they’ve been feeling. A lot of employees try to hide when they’re struggling because they don’t want people to question their ability. It’s possible they’re questioning their own capabilities as well.

Speak openly about times you’ve had issues staying focused or getting your work done. It’s important to let the person know they’re not alone in their struggle.

3. Make a plan. When the employee does open up, you can make the conversation productive. Help them come up with a plan.

If the person is overwhelmed by a big project, try to break it down into more manageable parts and help them come up with a list of things they can accomplish day by day. Making a solid plan will help the employee refocus.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

ACLU sues Facebook for discriminatory job ads

Facebook is in hot water once again — this time, for job ads targeting exclusively men for roles such as police officers, truck drivers and sports store clerks. The ACLU lodged a complaint against the social media giant — as well as 10 employers that used Facebook to post ads — on behalf of three female job hunters and the Communications Workers of America.

Civil rights violation?

The complaint was filed with the EEOC and accuses Facebook of enabling discriminatory job postings.

Specifically, companies used Facebook’s ad targeting features to exclude female candidates, and young and older men. Enhanced Roofing and Remodeling made its help wanted ad appear only to men 23 to 50 years old. The City of Greensboro, NC published an ad looking for police officers, but only men ages 25 to 35 could see it.

But the ACLU is more focused on Facebook than these employers — after all, the social media giant is the one that allowed ads to be marketed and delivered in this way.

“This type of targeting is as illegal now as it was in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed,” a spokesperson for the ACLU said. “It also essentially acts as a recruiter connecting employers with prospective employees. In this context, it should be legally accountable for both creating and delivering these discriminatory ad campaigns.”

This case is currently pending.

Employer takeaway

Facebook’s legal trouble emphasizes to employers how risky it is to target candidates based on any protected factors, such as gender or age.

Even if you don’t target candidates in this way, it’s smart to review the language of your job postings. What does it say about experience levels? Does it say anything about preferring recent college grads? Wrongly worded job posts could be considered discriminatory.

 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Staying compliant during natural disasters: Pay, leave questions answered

The arrival of Hurricane Florence — and the dreaded aftermath — has a lot of employers wondering about HR challenges that come along with natural disasters.

FLSA and FMLA compliance is a big concern at times like this, and employment lawyer Kara Maciel answered some common questions HR pros have when disaster strikes.

Wage and hour concerns

If our company closes due to the storm or damage afterwards, do we have to pay employees for that time?

According to the FLSA, nonexempt employees only have to be paid for time actually worked. So, while the worksite is closed due to a natural disaster, these employees don’t have to be paid.

Exempt employees are a different story. These workers have a fixed weekly salary, and must be paid this full salary if any work was performed during the week. So, if the company closes Wednesday due to the storm, exempt employees would still receive their normal paychecks, even though they only worked Monday and Tuesday.

Note: Employers can require workers to use available leave during this time.

If the worksite is open, but employees can’t come in due to the weather, is it legal to dock exempt employees’ salaries?

The DOL says when employees have transportation issues in severe weather, the absence can be counted as personal time. Employers can place these employees on temporary leave without pay until they return. However, if a salaried employee only misses a few hours of work, their pay cannot be docked.

Note: Before docking anyone’s pay, it’s best to seek legal counsel. There are also other options, such as allowing the employees to “make up” the time they missed.

FMLA issues

Can employees affected by the hurricane take FMLA leave?

Workers may use FMLA leave if they suffer a serious health condition as a result of the natural disaster. An employee can also use this time to care for an affected family member.

One example of an FMLA-qualifying condition resulting from the hurricane is medical equipment not operating due to power outages.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Sixth Circuit: High standard to prove employees are similarly situated

A recent ruling by the Sixth Circuit shows when it comes to discrimination lawsuits, the standard is pretty high for proving the employees who received differential treatment are actually similarly situated. 

When a company fired Ramona DeBra for indiscretions younger workers weren’t punished for, she filed an age discrimination lawsuit. But she had trouble showing the court her situation was comparable to her younger co-workers’.

Backstory

DeBra worked as a bank teller at Chase. But after making a series of errors — overpaying customers, leaving funds unsecured on counters and forgetting to return bank cards to customers — she was terminated.

While these appear to be fireable offenses, DeBra claimed her colleagues made the same errors and weren’t fired. Since they were all younger than her, DeBra alleged her age was the real reason she was terminated.

Different supervisors

The court said DeBra’s claim came down to proving she and her co-workers were similarly situated. And while they all had the same job and committed the same errors, DeBra had a different supervisor. The other employees’ supervisor was known to be more lenient than DeBra’s.

It was true that several other tellers had made the same mistakes (or worse) than DeBra, but there was no employee who shared DeBra’s supervisor, was younger and committed the same errors. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit reaffirmed a lower court’s decision and granted summary judgment to the company.

Takeaway

This ruling is good news for employers. Discrimination claims rest on employees’ ability to show they were treated less favorably than similarly situated colleagues. This case shows that even just one difference between employees’ situations can be enough to prove they aren’t similarly situated.

Cite: DeBra v. JPMorgan Chase & Company, U.S. Crt. of App. 6th Circ., No. 17-1411, 9/5/18.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Update from feds: DOL releases opinion letters regarding FMLA, FLSA

Overtime rule, DOL, FLSA

It was a busy week for the DOL — not only did the agency release a new set of FMLA forms for employers, but it wrote four opinion letters addressing several FMLA and FLSA concerns. 

As far as the forms go, the only thing that changed is the expiration date. The updated FMLA forms are exactly the same as the previous set.

The opinion letters will be of more interest to employers, as they address tricky scenarios managers may run into when dealing with the FMLA or FLSA.

Here’s a rundown of the situations the DOL addressed in the letters:

1. Organ donation is covered under the FMLA

In FMLA 2018-2-A, an employer asked whether an employee could use FMLA leave for undergoing organ donation surgery. The DOL says yes. Even if the employee was in good health before the surgery, organ donation still qualifies as a “serious health condition,” and therefore is covered under the FMLA.

A serious health condition is defined as an illness or physical condition that requires inpatient care at a hospital. Since the typical hospital stay after organ donation surgery is four to seven days, this certainly qualifies as a serious health condition.

2. FMLA leave “freezes” no-fault attendance policies.

In FMLA 2018-1-A, an employer detailed its attendance policy. Employees would accrue points for absences, and if those absences added up to a certain number in a year, they’d be terminated. But employees could also shave some points off with consistent good attendance. The employer’s question? If an employee takes FMLA leave, does that mean they cannot accrue or lose any absence points?

The DOL said yes, employers are permitted to “freeze” the absence points of employees on FMLA leave. It’d be an FMLA violation to give employees absence points while on leave, but it’d also be an unfair benefit to remove points while employees were not working.

Note: This freezing policy must apply equally to all types of leave, such as vacation and worker’s comp.

3. Voluntary health and wellness events can be unpaid.

In FLSA 2018-20, an employer asked if employees needed to be paid for attending voluntary biometric screenings during the work day. The DOL says no. Since the event is voluntary, and is primarily for the benefit of the employee, it isn’t compensable. When an employee is attending a wellness event, they are relieved of their job duties.

4. Clarification on retail or service establishment exemption

In FLSA 2018-21, an employer wanted to know if the “retail or service establishment” exemption applied to sales reps at their business. The company sold a unique technology platform to a variety of clients, and not in large quantities. The DOL decided this type of business qualified for the exemption.

The retail or service establishment exemption says employees don’t receive overtime pay if they meet the following requirements:

  • they work at a retail or service establishment
  • their regular rate of pay exceeds one and a half times the minimum wage, and
  • more than half their earnings consist of commissions.

 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post