Employee Rights Short Takes: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, 8 Million Dollar Verdict For Cancer Victim, Race Discrimination And More

Here are a few short takes about discrimination cases that made the news this week:

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Is Unconstitutional

United States District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled last week that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  (DADT) is unconstitutional because it violates both the first amendment free speech and fifth amendment due process rights of gay and lesbian service members. Judge Phillips is expected to issue an injunction that would bar the federal government from enforcing DADT though government lawyers contend that Phillips does not have the authority to do so. For a good NY Times editorial about it  read here. For the opinion, read here. 

Goldman Sachs Sued For Gender Discrimination

Three former female employees at Goldman Sachs sued the investment bank claiming that it is guilty of systematic discrimination against women. The lawsuit alleges that Goldman discriminates in pay and promotion and that a persistent pattern of bias has resulted in the underrepresentation of women in the firm’s management ranks. Sex discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more about the case read here.

Wall Street has had an ongoing problem with sex discrimination. Morgan Stanley settled two class action lawsuits brought by thousands of employees for more than $100 million dollars in 2004 and 2007. Smith Barney paid out $33 million in settlement of a case two years ago.

Earlier this year, Goldman and CitiGroup were sued over allegations that the banking firms discriminated against working mothers. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have come close to the end of reading about these kinds of cases in this particular industry.

Roadway Express Settles Racial Harassment Case For $10 Million

The EEOC announced on Wednesday that a federal magistrate in Chicago granted preliminary approval of a 10 million dollar,  five-year consent decree which will settle a race harassment and discrimination case filed against Roadway Express and YRC, Inc. Race discrimination and race harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suit included allegations that the company subjected black employees at its Chicago Heights and Elk Grove Village facilities to a racially hostile work environment and racial discrimination including multiple incidents of hangman's nooses (unbelievable that this still goes on) racist graffiti, racist cartoons, and racist comments.

The EEOC also planned to present evidence that black employees were subjected to harsher discipline and scrutiny that their white counterparts and given more difficult and time-consuming work assignments than white employees.

According to the EEOC, black employees complained over a number of years about all of these conditions but the company failed to take any corrective action.

Cancer Survivor Wins $8.1 Million Verdict For Wrongful Discharge

Lawyers USA reported news of an $8.1 million dollar verdict earlier this month in a case against Michaels Stores, Inc for a Florida woman who was fired after taking time off to get treatment for cancer. Yes, getting fired because of cancer is still a somewhat regular occurrence I am sorry to report.

(Discrimination because of cancer violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. (“ADA”).Employees who work for companies with 50 or more employees are entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.)

According to the article, Kara Jorud was viewed as an exemplary manager until she went out for double mastectomy surgeries. After that, she received a number of calls from her supervisor urging her to come back to work even though she was projected to need nine to ten weeks of recovery time.

Her job was threatened four days after she returned to work in August of 2008, and within thirty days she was fired. Jorud was accused of a variety of petty offenses. She showed, with evidence from more than twenty co-employees, that others committed similar offenses and were not fired.

The jury awarded Jorud $4 million for pain and suffering, $100,000 in back pay, and $4 million dollars in punitive damages. The court will also be awarding attorneys fees and costs.

It’s not only illegal to fire someone with cancer, it’s a stupid business decision that can obviously offend the sensibilities of many potential jurors. A full and complete damage award –which can often mean a sizable verdict -- is not a surprising outcome in this kind of case.

 image: www.ajsgarage.com   www.topnews.in   www.appliedplanning.com

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Yancey the BasicEmployeeRights Advocate - September 23, 2010 5:31 PM

In reference to the "Roadway Express Settles Racial Harassment Case For $10 Million" suit it is clear the perennial champ among EEOC complaints is unfortunately alive and well. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". This is what the Declaration of Independence states.

Unfortunately, the only truth that has been and is self-evident is all men are not treated equally. These facts, "...the company subjected black employees at its Chicago Heights and Elk Grove Village facilities to a racially hostile work environment and racial discrimination including multiple incidents of hangman's nooses (unbelievable that this still goes on) racist graffiti, racist cartoons, and racist comments." only reinforce the plain truth that race discrimination remains the norm not the exception as some would have us to believe.

In another article I disclosed how my experience and research revealed how various types workplace discrimination is being hidden behind a pretext of "bullying" which unfortunately remains federally unprotected. Bullying has many of the same insidious characteristics of discrimination.

This comment, "According to the EEOC, black employees complained over a number of years about all of these conditions but the company failed to take any corrective action." represents a workplace culture that also presents "corporate bullying" also pretexting discrimination.

As an employment rights mediator,educator,coach and advocate I've come to understand how critically important these four things every career seeker and employee should be aware of;

1. Learn your basic employee rights before seeking and accepting employment!
2. The employer will usually assume you don’t know your basic employee rights!
3. The average supervisor or manager doesn’t know basic employee rights!
4. The employer doesn't want you to know your basic employee rights!

Everyone stepping into a job without this four pronged knowledge leaves themselves open to consequences of discrimination, bullying and all other workplace ills. Had these diverse employees taken the time as career seekers to learn how to recognize and prove race discrimination BEFORE accepting employment how much grief could they have saved themselves.

Also being aware its employees knew their Basic Employee Rights, how different would Roadway's workplace culture have been saving the monetary and negative public goodwill it now suffers.

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