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Employment Discrimination Blog

Friday, April 15, 2016

Washington D.C. Bar Owner Liable For Employment Discrimination


Can you only hire people with certain physical characteristics to work in your establishment?

When opening a new establishment, it might be your vision that all of the staff conforms to a certain look. This perception, however can cause you a lot of trouble as a business owner.  Laws prohibiting employment discrimination prevent you from making hiring and firing decisions based on the physical characteristics of a potential or current employee. That includes the person’s race. A D.
Read more . . .


Friday, March 11, 2016

Rampant Discrimination in the Entertainment Industry

Do cinema and TV companies continue to discriminate against African-Americans, women, and the LGBT population?

It is strange to find that, in the so-called "liberal" entertainment industry, discrimination against people because of color, gender, and sexual identity is still rampant. Though it can't be denied that we've come a long way from the days of "black faced" white performers and the frequent portrayals of women and LGBT individuals as caricatures, a new study has exposed enormous discrepancies in employment practices in major media companies.

It's Not Only Oscar Who Discriminates

The concern about gender, race, and ethnicity discrimination in the entertainment industry has been recently brought to the fore by the absence of African-American nominees for the Academy Awards -- for the second straight year. The recent study is even more inflammatory, demonstrating as it does that much of the discrimination takes place behind the scenes. Not only are the actors in movies and television shows misrepresenting the diversity of the population of the U.S., but the entertainment industry as a whole is discriminating against women, minorities and LGBT people in hiring and promotion.

The new study, released Monday by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism provides a broad evaluation of the film and television industries. This evaluation includes an "inclusivity index" of 10 major media companies, including Disney and Netflix, rates every movie studio and most TV studios as failures.

The Actual Statistics

The study, entitled the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, examined the 109 films released by major studios (including art film divisions) in 2014, 305 scripted, first-run TV and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services that aired from September 2014 to August 2015.

The study analyzed 11,000 speaking characters for gender racial and ethnic representation and LGBT status. Perhaps even more telling, the study also examined 10,000 writers, directors and TV show creators and the gender of more than 1500 executives. On every level, the industry failed to reflect the diversity of the culture it portrays. From CEOs to bit-parts, the industry is, the study concluded, "still largely whitewashed."

This study scored each film studio according to its percentage of female, minority and LGBT characters, and of female writers and directors. Not one of the six major studies rated better than 20 percent! Time Warner was rated worst, coming in at zero percent. The report concludes that the film industry "still functions as a straight, white, boy's club." Some of these same companies did score higher in terms of television and digital offerings, with Disney and Amazon scoring 65 percent.

While the actor ratios representing diversity were poor, the exclusivity behind the scenes was even more apparent. Film directors were 87 percent white and TV directors were 90.4 percent white. Women may, in some ways, "have come a long way," but just 15.2 percent of directors, 28.9 percent of writers and 22.6 percent of series creators were female. The film gender gap is greatest: Only 3.4 percent of the films studied were directed by women, and only two directors out of the 109 were black women.

Clearly, the old white boys club is still alive and kicking. Hopefully, the publication of this study and the commotion surrounding the Oscars will help to move the entertainment industry in the right direction. Employment discrimination is not acceptable anywhere, least of all in an industry that has prided itself on being diverse and outspoken about civil rights.

If you experience employment discrimination in terms of hiring, compensation, promotion, or termination, or are suffering harassment at the workplace, you should contact a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in the field.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Activist Push for Workplace Rights for LGBT

 Georgia is one of 29 states without laws that specifically protect LGBT citizens against discrimination in the workplace.  A gay couple could be married on a Saturday and fired on Monday because the couple’s employers are uncomfortable with their employee’s sexual orientation. In much of the state, this is perfectly legal behavior.

In the city of Atlanta, however, things are different. The Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy organization that grades the inclusiveness of municipal governments, gave Atlanta a perfect score of 100 in 2013 and 2014, citing its nondiscrimination laws that include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and its creation of LGBT community liaisons.

Activists intend to push for workplace rights for LGBT state employees during the 2016 legislative session, even though similar legislation has failed to pass in previous sessions. There is reason to suspect that this session might be different, however. There is a change in public opinion and the measure now has 77 cosponsors, 17 of whom are Republicans. Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, which supports the bill, says “if a bill does not have Republican support, it’s not going to pass.” The proposed bill would only affect State employees. Private employers would still be permitted to make employment decisions based on their employees sexual orientation.

Other members of the State legislature are reintroducing measures meant to protect business owners' religious freedom. State Senator Josh McKoon the proposed legislation would protect religious rights against government interference. Critics claim it will give business owners a license to discriminate against minorities. Last March, the bill created much controversy until it was tabled following a contentious hearing. This divisive issue is very much in flux in the state of Georgia.

If you feel that your workplace rights have been violated, you need an experienced attorney who is aware of the changes occurring in our state’s laws to help guide you through the process.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Churches & Anti-Retaliation Protections

How do anti-retaliation laws apply in the non-profit sector?

It ought to go without saying that an employer cannot discriminate against his or her employee for merely following the law. However, anti-retaliation laws have been yet again challenged in Georgia – and this time, it is the non-profit, tax-exempt sector seeking answers on this pivotal issue.

In a recent lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the petitioner is seeking damages and restitution following an alleged retaliatory decision by Atlanta’s King’s Way Baptist Church, Inc. According to the complaint, the petitioner was fired from her position as a kindergarten teacher within the church’s Christian school after reporting ongoing sexual harassment at the hands of the church’s lead pastor, who also serves as the chief executive officer of the non-profit corporation.

Allegedly, the pastor engaged in the ongoing practice of inappropriately touching the teacher, followed by veiled threats of adverse treatment if the interactions were reported. From there, the teacher reported the incidents to the church’s governing board, which opted to terminate her position rather than investigate the matter further.

In a statement by the EEOC’s Atlanta office, “[w]hen an employer fires an employee for complaining about sexual harassment, it is only compounding its own culpability and setting itself wide open for charges of retaliation….EEOC is stepping in to defend the rights of this discrimination victim not to be victimized even further. No one should be punished for telling the truth to power if that truth is sexual harassment.”

Pursuant to the lawsuit, the EEOC (on behalf of the teacher) is seeking back pay, punitive damages, and an injunction barring the school from engaging in further retaliatory acts against current or future employees. The lawsuit was filed after attempts to negotiate and settle the matter proved futile.

If you are experiencing workplace discrimination or would like to discuss your rights under state or federal anti-retaliation laws, please contact an experienced discrimination attorney toady!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Ban the Box Has Reached the Federal Government

Can a federal employer ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime?

For years, public and private employers have been permitted to ask potential employees whether they have a criminal record.  This is usually done by asking an applicant to check a box if they have ever been convicted of a crime.  Now, President Obama has banned the box.

When you are applying for a job you may be asked whether you have ever been convicted of a crime.  Why?  Because employers want to do everything they can to ensure that they are hiring a trustworthy individual.  This makes sense from an employer’s perspective, but it may not be in the best interest of a potential employee.    Serving time in jail or prison is supposed to be punitive as well as  rehabilitative.  This means that it should prepare the person to live a crime-free life.  Unfortunately, the stigma attached to being incarcerated is one that employer’s focus on and one that might lead to employment discrimination.

In fact,  65-70% of those who have been released from prison in the last year are unable to find work.  One study found that it is 50% less likely that an individual with a criminal record will land a job as opposed to a person without a criminal record.  Asking applicants to check a box if they have a criminal record enables employers to discriminate at the first juncture in the hiring process.  Removing the box will allow qualified applicants to be considered without their criminal record disqualifying them at the first opportunity.  This is not to say that employers will never be able to inquire about an applicant’s criminal record.  They just must do say at a later stage in the hiring process.

If you have a criminal record and are having a hard time finding a job, a discrimination attorney may be able to help you.

 


Friday, November 13, 2015

Churches and Anti-Retaliation Protections

How do anti-retaliation laws apply in the nonprofit sector?

It ought to go without saying that an employer cannot discriminate against his or her employee for merely following the law. However, anti-retaliation laws have been challenged yet again  in Georgia – and this time, it is the nonprofit, tax-exempt sector seeking answers on this pivotal issue.

In a recent lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the petitioner is seeking damages and restitution following an alleged retaliatory decision by Atlanta’s King’s Way Baptist Church, Inc. According to the complaint, the petitioner was fired from her position as a kindergarten teacher within the church’s Christian school after reporting ongoing sexual harassment at the hands of the church’s lead pastor, who also serves as the chief executive officer of the nonprofit corporation.

Allegedly, the pastor engaged in the ongoing practice of inappropriately touching the teacher, followed by veiled threats of adverse treatment if the interactions were reported. When the teacher reported the incidents to the church’s governing board, the board opted to terminate her position rather than investigate the matter further.

In a statement by the EEOC’s Atlanta office, “[w]hen an employer fires an employee for complaining about sexual harassment, it is only compounding its own culpability and setting itself wide open for charges of retaliation….EEOC is stepping in to defend the rights of this discrimination victim not to be victimized even further. No one should be punished for telling the truth to power if that truth is sexual harassment.”

Pursuant to the lawsuit, the EEOC (on behalf of the teacher) is seeking back pay, punitive damages, and an injunction barring the school from engaging in further retaliatory acts against current or future employees. The lawsuit was filed after attempts to negotiate and settle the matter proved futile.

If you are experiencing workplace discrimination or retaliation it is in your best interests to contact a reputable attorney who specializes in such matters


Monday, October 5, 2015

Video Series Highlighting LGBT Discrimination is Launched by Georgia Equality

Is it possible to be fired simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity in the state of Georgia?

In spite of the fact that the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of same gender couples to marry, there is still a long way to go to ensure that everyone in our society is treated fairly and afforded equal protection under the law. Evidence of this can be found in the new Georgia Equality video series entitled "All Things Being Equal." Documenting the ongoing struggle for LGBT Georgians who have suffered discrimination at the workplace, in housing, and in access to public services, the series makes a strong case for just how much work still needs to be done to overcome prejudice and discrimination, not only in Georgia, but in many other parts of the United States.

The programs will focus on stories of Georgians who have been discriminated against simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, “Many people...assume that it’s already illegal to fire someone or deny them housing or other services simply because they’re LGBT, but that’s not true. Amazingly, in Georgia, as well as in 27 other states in the country, there are no laws protecting individuals from discrimination of this kind.

Because there are no federal laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and there are no pertinent state laws on the books in Georgia, discrimination remains a devastating problem for the LGBT portion of our communities. Law-abiding, hardworking Georgians are confronting issues of inequality every day, in many cases making it nearly impossible for them to feed, clothe, and house their families. 

The first video presented in the Georgia Equality video series focuses on Connie Galloway from Blue Ridge, Georgia.  This woman, a dedicated worker for more than 30 years at a firm providing mental health and disability support services, was abruptly fired just before Christmas because an interim director did not approve of her lesbianism. Connie's previously successful career at the organization, well-documented by promotions and commendations from supervisors and the board of directors, was totally disregarded.

Unfortunately, this is the reality of discrimination as it now exists in Georgia and many other parts of the country. Connie Galloway is just one example of an innocent victim of discrimination who has, after a period of long, stable, dedicated employment,  lost her financial stability and potential retirement for no other reason than her sexual orientation.

The dedicated attorneys at Pankey & Horlock are prepared to fight for you in cases of employment discrimination like the one detailed above. We  have a high rate of success in fighting for our clients' rights in cases involving discrimination, withholding of overtime pay and other employment violations. If you are facing mistreatment in the workplace anywhere in the state of Georgia,  please get in touch us at 770-670-6250.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Employment Rights of Union vs Nonunion Employees

Why does Tom Brady, the football player, have more employment rights than the average American?

The ongoing "deflategate" investigation  has resulted in an as yet unresolved four-game suspension of Tom Brady by the National Football League Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Many people question why he has the right to challenge his employer's decision when most of us, under parallel circumstances,  do not. The reason is that the vast majority of workers in the United States are not union members, whereas as Tom Brady  belongs to a powerful union.

The gap between the employment rights of union and nonunion workers in this country is a wide one. Where employers of union members must have a good reason ("just cause") to punish or fire their workers, employers of nonunion workers are permitted by law to fire "at-will," meaning on a whim, for no reason at all.

Nonetheless, there are major exceptions to the concept of "at will" penalties or termination . Primary among these is discrimination, which is strictly forbidden in a number of areas. Employees cannot be penalized or fired because of:

  • Race
  • Nationality or ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Disability status

It should be noted, however, that, although gay marriage has recently been legalized in this county, in more than half the states employers are free to fire employees for sexual orientation. Laws supporting such discrimination, however, are  gradually changing as they are being vigorously challenged.

Other limitations on at-will dismissals include the following: employers may not fire workers for union organizing, whistleblowing, jury duty or filing for workers' compensation.

In spite of these restrictions, strange as it seems, it is perfectly legal for an employer to fire a worker for being insubordinate, obsequious, aloof or even overly friendly,  for wearing particular clothing or for sporting a particular hairstyle.

Is "at will" firing policy accepted in other parts of the world?

No, among the industrialized nations, the United States is the only one to have at-will employment laws. In most of the developed world, businesses must have valid reasons for firing an employee. The one state in this country that has dropped the at-will standard is Montana, bringing Montana more in line with typical international policies.

In spite of the relative rigidity of employment laws for nonunion workers in this country, knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can help you  challenge unfair disciplinary actions and firings at the workplace.  The dedicated attorneys at Pankey  & Horlock have a high rate of success in fighting for the  their clients in cases involving discrimination, withholding of overtime pay and other employment violations. If you are facing mistreatment in the workplace anywhere in the state of Georgia,  please get in touch us at 770-670-6250.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Catholic School Being Sued by Homosexual Teacher

Is firing someone due to his or her intention to enter into a same-sex marriage the same as discriminating against him or her for sexual orientation?

An openly gay band teacher at a Catholic school in Georgia was fired from his position in 2014 after announcing that he would enter into a same-sex marriage.  The teacher is claiming that he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation based on the recent landmark United States Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.  He has brought a civil action against the school in Federal court.

Flint Dollar was hired as a band teacher at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Georgia in April of 2011.  Dollar claims that during the hiring process he revealed to school officials that he was gay and living with his partner.  In May of 2014, Dollar announced to officials that he planned to marry his long-time partner later that year.  Dollar also made this announcement via Facebook.  Several weeks later, he was fired, even though he had just signed a contract for the 2014-2015 school year.

The school based the firing of Dollar on the fact that he intended to enter into a same-sex marriage, which violated the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Dollar claims that he was never aware that he could be fired for a behavior that violated church teaching and that other employees, such as those that are heterosexual and live with their partners prior to marriage, and those that are divorced, had not been fired, even though both activities clearly violate the teachings of the church.

Dollar alleges in his lawsuit that he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation.  The school maintains that he was fired not due to his sexual orientation, but due to his intention to enter into a same-sex marriage in clear violation of church teaching.  The school cites to its goal of providing an education that is based on church doctrine and the local Diocese and other organizations, such as the Cardinal Newman Society and the Catholic University of America, have come out in support of the schools decision.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to your sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic, please contact Pankey & Horlock today.  Our team of Georgia employment discrimination lawyers can be reached at (770)670-6250.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Employee of Georgia Organization Claims Race and Gender Discrimination

As a black female, can I sue my former employer for undermining my work and passing me over to promote a white male?

A Georgia woman who worked for a teacher's advocacy group has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit over her failure to receive a promotion.

Tracey-Ann Nelson, a former lobbyist with the Georgia Association of Educators, alleges that she was a victim of both race and gender discrimination when her then-employer selected a while male, instead of her, to serve as executive director of the organization. 

In her lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Atlanta, Ms. Nelson, who is African-American, says the organization not only passed her over for promotion but also undermined her advocacy efforts on behalf of teachers in the Georgia House of Representatives. She alleges that her ex-employer's president and the new executive director questioned the Georgia House Minority Leader about Nelson’s performance. She believes their conduct adversely affected her effectiveness as a lobbyist.

Nelson left the Georgia Association of Educators and is now Executive Director of the Arkansas Education Association. In her lawsuit, she is seeking back pay, financial damages, and other remuneration.

Without addressing specific allegations, the General Counsel of the Georgia Association of Educators denied Nelson's race and gender discrimination claims. He stated that a racially diverse board of women and men turned down Nelson's application to be executive director. He also said the organization would vigorously defend against the claims made in the employment discrimination lawsuit.

Suing a former employer can be a battle, but the skilled attorneys at Pankey & Horlock, LLC have effectively represented the interests of employees throughout Georgia in all types of employment and workplace discrimination claims. For a free confidential case evaluation, call the experienced legal team at 770-670-6250 today or schedule a consultation online.  


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Can Telecommuting be a Reasonable Accommodation to a Disability?

More and more, companies are allowing employees to work from home. Proponents of telecommuting (employers and employees alike) argue that telecommuting can cut costs, reduce turnover and actually increase productivity. Many opponents of the popular telecommuting movement insist that a team with members scattered about can't collaborate as effectively and efficiently when they're not physically located in the same office environment. In some cases, however, regardless of management’s general preferences, telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation to a disability depending on the facts of the situation and the job’s requirements.

If an employee has a disability, as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the employer needs to make reasonable accommodations to the employee so that person can perform the essential functions of the position.

To be qualified for the job, the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. An employer need not provide an accommodation that imposes an undue hardship on running the operation.

Reasonable accommodation disputes are driven by the facts of the particular case. Telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation to one person holding a particular job working for one employer, but it might not be reasonable for a different job for another employer.

In a recent case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, EEOC v. Ford, the appeals court ruled in favor of the employer and stated that for Jane Harris, an employee seeking an accommodation due to her irritable bowel syndrome, telecommuting was not a reasonable accommodation. The court agreed with the trial court and dismissed the case.

Harris worked as a resale buyer for Ford (she was an intermediary between suppliers and her company) and the court found that the work not only consisted of communications by phone and email, but personal interactions through meetings with suppliers at their sites and Ford employees at Ford sites. This personal interaction was found to be an essential function of the job, one she could not perform if she only worked at home.

If you are unsure as to your own situation, take time to consider whether others performing the same job can telecommute as that would strengthen a claim that telecommuting should be permitted as an accommodation to your disability as well. If an employer allows non-disabled employees to telecommute, but does not allow that for disabled employees, in addition to this being accommodation issue it is also disability discrimination based on the fact that a disabled employee is being prevented from enjoying equal terms and conditions of employment.

If you live in Georgia and believe that you need an accommodation at work because of your disability, the disability discrimination attorneys at Pankey & Horlock, LLC, can answer your questions and advise you of your legal rights and your employer’s responsibilities. Call today at (770) 670-6250 for a free case evaluation.


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