Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

As New York City employment lawyers who are deeply concerned with the rights and fair treatment of workers, we nevertheless obviously respect our country’s capitalistic economic institutions. Our society’s view of what’s “fair” is always evolving. Today, the rallying cry “equal pay for equal work” is accepted as obvious common sense. But not long ago, it was considered a radical notion. In fact, in many countries around the world today, it still is.

Even though we’ve come a long way, however, we have farther to go, as Elianne Ramos discusses eloquently in a guest blog post she recently wrote on the official blog of the U.S. Labor Department: “Latinas and Their Families Can’t Afford Unequal Pay for Equal Work (Para Latinas la Desigualdad Salarial Cuesta Mucho).”

Ramos reports that Latinas have made major strides over the years in terms of participation in U.S. politics, higher education and small business operation. However, she warns that “when it comes to pay equality, we seem to be perennially stuck at the bottom of the barrel.”

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reports that up to 94 percent of women in Egypt have experienced sexual harassment in many forms, from catcalls to assaults.

A decree released last week by Adly Mansour, the outgoing president of Egypt, outlaws sexual harassment. This law, an amendment to the previous penal code that imposed no punishments on offenders, imposes jail sentences of 6 months to five years and fines up to $700 for one offense.

More severe sentences apply when offenders repeat the crime, abuse positions of power, or use weapons to sexually harass others.

Is “work-life balance” merely a fantasy for American workers? An increasing number of professionals seem to think so.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival regarding the difficulties of being a high-powered executive and a parent. As a professional who habitually works until midnight, Nooyi employs the help of her children’s grandparents to help raise them.

Contrary to the ideal many working mothers strive toward every day, Nooyi doesn’t believe “women can have it all.” She cites the conflicting timelines of career and parenthood, noting the years women spend raising children are the same years during which they must work toward management positions.

The mainstream media is awash with stories and editorials about minimum wage laws.

Perhaps we’re nearing tipping point — both common folk and politicians are realizing that our arcane minimum wage loss rules need to be up-leveled. People who labor hard should get fair compensation, and wages should keep up with inflation, at a minimum.

Some very interesting noises on this subject have been coming out of the Department of Labor (DOL). On June 12, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division announced that it will go forward with something called a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (NPRM), designed to hike up the minimum wage for federally contracted employees to $10.10 per hour to comply with President Obama’s Executive Order 13653.

What’s the definition of an “excessive” verdict in a sexual harassment or wage & hour case?

$10 million? $10 quadrillion? How about… $2 undecillion?

The Joseph & Kirschenbaum New York wage and hour and sexual harassment blog has covered pretty egregious cases over the years. And our team has fought and won on behalf of many thousands of employees subjected to awful workplace conditions ranging from barbaric harassment to slow, chafing “nickel and diming.” However, like all sensible people, we believe that damages should fit the bill. Damages should be appropriate — not wildly excessive, and certainly not impossible excessively. Our goal is the maximum possible recovery for each and every client, but outrageous demands result in lost credibilty and a lower or at best delayed recovery.

Many Americans don’t think “that much” about sexual harassment these days. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, even the term “sexual harassment” may sound hoary — recalling the culture war days of the early 1990s and bringing to mind nostalgic images of Nirvana concerts, the falling Berlin Wall and the Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential election.

However, sexual harassment is alive and well in many American workplaces, and it still exacts a tremendous psychological toll on the women and men who experience it. Statistics suggest that this behavior is still way-unreported. Many female and male employees who suffer through it also fall victims to employment problems like overtime violations, tip pool violations, discrimination and retaliation. They fall silent because they don’t understand their rights or know how to protect them in the judicial system.

Nevertheless, American workers definitely have it better than workers in other parts of the world — parts of the world like Egypt. Consider a shocking 2013 United Nations report, “Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women,” which found that the vast, vast majority of the female population in Egypt – 99.3 percent! – claim to have suffered sexual harassment.

Back in 1992, only 17% of college graduates took an unpaid internship. That percentage has nearly tripled — today, it’s around 50%. Meanwhile, companies justify unpaid internships as “just the way things are” and “a great way for young people to get experience.” But more and more people are rebelling against the practice of unpaid internships, calling it illegal, and filing lawsuits to get it to stop.

As this blog (and many other sources) reported, last year, unpaid interns at Fox Studios sued the big production company for making them work jobs without actually paying them.

The United States has minimum wage laws for a reason — to protect workers from exploitation, even if they might consent to such practices. A powerful new cartoon published on the site Upworthy exposes the astonishing hypocrisies at work in the unpaid internship industry. The cartoonist hopes to inspire people to crack down on this preposterous practice and compel employers to pay young workers for their time and service.

In January, a District Judge denied a motion to dismiss claims for relief in an a major sexual harassment and wage and hour case. Let’s take a quick look at the background of this case and extract a few lessons for you, if you’ve experienced sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or other unfair treatment at your workplace.

According to the allegations in this case, the defendant male worked as an IT supervisor. A female IT associate started working for the firm. The supervisor invited her to go to a bar after work hours. After accepting this invitation, she told her supervisor that she had been a victim of domestic violence that had left her feeling awful and physically and emotionally traumatized.

Once they were at the bar, the interactions took a bizarre turn, according to the complainant’s allegations.

26 year-old Lihuan Wang recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former boss at Phoenix Satellite Television’s New York Bureau. Wang said that, when she served as an unpaid intern for the Bureau back in 2010, her supervisor “grabbed her butt and tried to kiss her.” A Manhattan Federal Court Judge, Kevin Castel, put a damper on her quest for justice. A local New York paper summarized his decision: “the judge said that, since unpaid interns are not technically employees, they cannot sue for sexual harassment.

Or, as the New York Post put it: “no paycheck, no benefits – and no protection from creeps.” After Castel’s ruling on October 3rd, Wang’s attorney expressed outrage and consternation: “this is terrible … there is no logical reason to allow an intern who is young and vulnerable to be sexual harassed.”

Upon learning of this loophole, Gale Brewer, a city councilman from Manhattan, said that she will put forward legislation to prevent this kind of human rights issue in the future. Both Washington D.C. and Oregon have amended their human rights laws accordingly. Wang was so disturbed by what happened that she left United States to go back to her native China. But her lawsuit will go forward on different charges. She contends that the Television Bureau did not hire for a paid position as retaliation for her turning down her boss’s advances.

Sexual harassment at the workplace touches a nerve because it’s emotionally and viscerally offensive. But to get the behavior to stop, victims often need to be objective and systematic. This can be quite challenging. Consider the fine line between flirting and harassing someone. How can you tell the difference, and how can you prove it in court?

It’s easy to find extreme examples that clearly fall on one side of the line or the other. For instance: two coworkers share a mutual hug after closing a big account — that’s probably fine. However, when a supervisor sends his secretary lewd emails about his sexual fantasies, that’s likely harassment.

But not every situation is cut and dry.

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