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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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07 Oct 2016 Sexual Harassment Retaliation Claim Nets Million-Dollar Verdict

  A Chicago-area hospital was hit with a seven-figure jury verdict this week in a whistleblower claim filed by an emergency room doctor, who complained the hospital fired him after he repeatedly warned that one of his E.R. colleagues was sexually harassing subordinates.   The plaintiff – the doctor who is now practicing elsewhere – filed a retaliatory discharge complaint against the hospital, alleging it was common practice for doctors to warn new resident physicians about his colleague—whom he reportedly called a “sexual predator.” He…

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04 Aug 2016 Five Lessons from Fox News on Sexual Harassment

  The recent accusations of sexual harassment against Roger Ailes at Fox News, and the response of a high-profile candidate for public office about how women should respond to sexual harassment have crystallized into an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.   Since the mid-1980s, we’ve all read about sexual harassment and been trained on it. For the last 25 years, I’ve studied it, investigated it, seen it, taught about it, warned about it, developed policies to guard against it, and defended companies…

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22 Dec 2014 Prior Protected Activity Did Not Immunize Employee from Later Bad Acts

An employee who breaks company policies may be disciplined even though that employee previously engaged in protected activity. This proposition may sound uncontroversial, but some bad-acting employees do try and shield themselves from discipline by pointing to earlier instances of protected activity. They may argue that subsequent discipline, while ostensibly based on legitimate reasons, is in fact retaliatory. Some employees may strategically engage in so-called protected activity solely for the purpose of preempting discipline they see coming. In Musolf v. J.C. Penney Co., a case…

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15 Dec 2014 Some Reminders on Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Liability LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

We spend a lot of time coming up with timely and cutting edge topics for seminars, webinars, and blog posts for employers. However, for years no topic attracts more continuing interest than old fashioned sexual harassment, seemingly a timeless topic because some (mostly) guys can be counted on not to manage their behavior in the workplace.  This week S is for sexual harassment, and a recent case that is a good reminder of some key points about sexual harassment.   The case is Boone v….

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17 Nov 2014 Even If The Employee Didn’t See or Know About Harassing Behavior, Court Allows Evidence

In a sexual harassment suit, a U.S. District Court Judge will permit evidence of harassing behavior even though the plaintiff employee neither directly saw nor knew about such conduct. The court found that if the employee learned about the conduct while she still worked for the company, then such evidence may be relevant to whether the plaintiff experienced a hostile work environment.  Additionally, the court held that if such conduct was readily known, then the employer had “constructive notice” of the bad behavior, thereby triggering…

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12 May 2014 Ouch! Fourth Circuit reminds North Carolina company of its responsibility to protect employees—even from its customers

  As lawyers, we regularly train our clients (and their employees) about anti-harassment, anti-discrimination laws—emphasizing their responsibility to protect employees even from the bad behavior of vendors, contractors and customers. Last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals drove home the lesson of third-party harassment.  In other words, we really mean it.   The North Carolina-based case of Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp., et al., (4th Cir. 2014) involves a plaintiff employee who claimed years of sexual and racial harassment by an independent contractor of Dal-Tile. …

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09 Dec 2013 Severe AND Pervasive?

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned a Texas District Court after it appeared to apply the wrong legal standard in a sexual harassment lawsuit. In Royal v. CCC&R, Tonia Royal was fired after complaining to her supervisor that two maintenance workers regularly visited her office and, among other things, sniffed her in a suggestive manner. Following her termination, Royal initiated a lawsuit alleging she was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment. In order to demonstrate actionable sexual harassment, Royal was required to demonstrate that the conduct…

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30 May 2013 The Trouble With The So-Called “Equal Opportunity Harasser” – Another Cautionary Case

Under Title VII, if a supervisor is obnoxious and abusive to everyone in the workplace, subjecting women and men alike to a barrage of insults, vulgar innuendo, and sexual propositions, the employer is not liable for hostile work environment sexual harassment under Title VII. The rationale is that if a person is an “equal opportunity harasser” then the harassment is not “because of sex” and thus Title VII provides no remedy. Therefore, the equal-opportunity harasser defense may let employers off the hook for liability for sexual harassment, depending…

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17 Sep 2012 To Avoid Employer Liability for Harassment, Keep an Eye on “Supervisors”

The United State Supreme Court on Friday set oral arguments for Nov. 26, 2012, in Vance v. Ball State University, Docket No. 11-556, in which the Court is expected to address the issue of who is a “supervisor” for purposes of employer liability for sexual harassment under Title VII. The question highlights a split among federal circuit courts of appeal on the definition of supervisors, and we provided additional details on the facts of the case in our prior blog entry when the Court granted the petition…

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