Articles Posted in Retaliation

Two recent court decisions in high profile sexual harassment cases show just how seriously the system takes this crime and demonstrates clearly to victims of office wrongdoing that they’re not alone and that they have recourse. Violations of basic human dignity should not be tolerated, and the legal system, when leveraged effectively, can get bad behaviors to stop and compel fair compensation for mistreatment.

The two cases below illustrate how victims can prevail in court, even when predators are powerful – e.g. a high ranking city official and a well known sports network.

Detroit Councilman’s Unacceptable Behavior Leads to 6 Figure Award

Sometimes people dream up solutions to serious problems that are so bizarre, they literally take your breath away. To wit, in England, a socialist Member of Parliament recently suggested that in order to solve the problems of sexual harassment and assault on public transportation, trains should have separate cars that are only for women.

The immediate reaction from the pundit class was, unsurprisingly, outrage, with critics calling the idea “old-fashioned sexism” and a form of “apartheid.” One activist compared it to the time when a local mass murderer had been killing women, and one politician suggested that all women should stay home to avoid danger.

Women shouldn’t have to restrict or change their movements when criminals violate laws. That clearly and obviously places the responsibility on the wrong party. The solution is to stop the illegal behavior – and/or to eliminate its root social, cultural and institutional causes — not to normalize it and compel would-be victims to change their behavior and restrict their movements. A saner strategy would involve enforcing laws against sexual assault and harassment and to deter men (and women) from violating them in the first place.

Dennis Hastert, retired Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is under investigation for sexual abuse against a former male student, which allegedly occurred at a school where Hastert worked as a teacher until 1981. The investigation was initiated after the FBI became suspicious of several large cash transactions involving Hastert and totaling $1.4 million. While this isn’t technically a sexual harassment case, we wanted to talk about this story for two reasons: 1) it’s a huge news item that has many people discussing just what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to conduct at work and at school; and 2) allegations of abuse or harassment at work often boil down to “he said, she said” type arguments, and this story illustrates the kind of polarization that such arguments can create.

Federal authorities levied charges against Hastert, whom they allege lied to the FBI about why he was making large cash withdrawals. According to the charges, the funds were being paid to the former student to keep the alleged abuse incidents secret.

The indictment also charges Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to ensure the former student would not make the abuse public. Initially, Hastert withdrew $50,000 at a time to make payments, but after bank officials questioned the activity, he lowered the amount of each withdrawal to below $10,000. The large and consistent number of withdrawals attracted the attention of federal officials, who suspected Hastert was attempting to evade income reporting requirements.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane doesn’t intend to remove Chief of Staff Jonathan Duecker from his post, despite allegations by Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Kluk accusing Duecker of sexually harassing her. Duecker, who had headed the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, was promoted to chief of staff in early May.

Kluk says Duecker ran his hand up the back of her shirt and touched her skin; she also alleges that he placed his hand on her thigh during a dinner with other narcotics bureau agents.

Kane’s communication adviser Chuck Ardo said Kane believes the claims are being made to undermine her, and he added that, after the incident, Duecker “went through his chain of command to request they look into it. The chain of command looked into it and felt no further action was warranted.”
Ardo added that it’s unclear whether an investigation was ever initiated under the attorney general’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the attorney general’s version of an internal affairs unit.

A lawsuit recently filed in Manhattan Federal Court alleges that executives at CBS committed sexual harassment. The lawsuit, filed by celebrity reporter Ken Lombardi, describes an ongoing climate of harassment at the CBS office, where the 29 year old reporter worked for several years.

The story serves as a powerful reminder that the victims of sexual harassment need not always be women.

Documents filed in the suit allege that, at a 2013 holiday party, Duane Tollison, a senior producer and Lombardi’s boss at the time, “grabbed Lombardi’s crotch and kissed his neck.” Tollison followed up the following day with a written correspondence saying: “I wanted to apologize if anything I did offended you or crossed a line. I like to get a little crazy. If you weren’t offended, then let’s do it again. LOL How is your day so far? :)”

Here’s a New York discrimination story that’s sparked thousands of conservations (and no doubt many arguments as well) among residents of the entire Big Apple.

The chain restaurant, TGI Friday’s, recent closed its Manhattan location and opened another restaurant only a block away. Workers from the old location claim that management told them they would have a chance to apply for positions at the new store. They never got the opportunity.

Critics claim that the TGI Friday’s new location opened with new, lighter skinned workers. Just one black employee from the old location successfully transitioned to the new location. According to a New York Daily News article, former employees allege that managers consistently and openly “referred to the old location as ‘the ghetto store.’” They also say that, in response to protesting Hispanic employees, management told them to “work harder.”

Our New York wage and hour attorneys strive to pay attention to trends in the labor market not only to help our clients understand their situations in context but also to measure the fundamental forces driving employers to raise wages or, conversely, to withhold wages and tips from workers.

To that end, we were fascinated by a powerful New York Times editorial from early December: “Employers Will Have To Raise Wages. They Just Don’t Know It Yet.”

The piece includes some seriously head scratching data from the Labor Department. Reports from October 2014 found that employers had been trying to fill nearly 5 million job vacancies. Curiously, though, the unemployment rate has stagnated; it remains relatively high at 5.8%, and that figure doesn’t even take into account the veritable army of freelancers and under-employed laborers who fly under the radar of these types of statistical analyses.

Actor and comedian Chris Rock and reporter Frank Rich first appeared together in 1996 on Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect. They were recently reunited for two New York lounge conversations during Rock’s promotion of the upcoming movie Top Five, which he wrote and directed.

During the conversation reported on the Vulture website, Rock had several controversial things to say about the 2014 midterm elections that were deemed “a fiasco for Obama.” For example, he said Republicans “have no problem being victims” and that colleges have become “too conservative” for his comedy acts.

Rock also observed how America could improve equality for minority groups. Rock said, “If people knew how rich, rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” Whether or not riots are imminent, there are a few things more fortunate people can do to increase equality.

Prominent civil rights attorney, John Doar, died of heart failure in his Manhattan home on November 12, 2014. The impact of his accomplishments will never be forgotten.

Doar played a key role in protecting the rights of black students, both in the voting booths and in academia. Doar’s work often took him to Mississippi – one of the last states to accept integration in the 1960s. When the University of Mississippi finally integrated in 1962, Doar escorted its first black student, James Meredith, onto campus.

Doar was also known for his tireless work defending civil rights activists and other disenfranchised black citizens throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1967, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, three young civil rights workers, were slain. Doar served as the prosecuting attorney in their case, successfully charging seventeen men with violating the civil rights of the three victims.

As the U.S. labor world digests the news of the passage of measures in six states (and two cities in California) that have elevated the minimum wage, workers and their families probably are wondering just how high the minimum wage might climb in various states and across the U.S.

On the one hand, when wages are too low, that’s obviously problematic. As we discussed in our recent analysis comparing the lives of fast-food workers in Denmark with fast-food workers here in the United States, when you can’t make enough to pay rent, cover your medical bills, and feed your family — and you’re constantly at risk of losing your job or being made redundant — you suffer, your family suffers, and the community around you suffers.

But critics of minimum wage increases counter that raising the minimum wage too high can disincentivize employers from hiring and instead push them to outsource or automate. In aggregate, this process could increase unemployment rates and ultimately torpedo the economy.