Austin Employment Law Blog

Nursing mothers face workplace harassment, discrimination

Despite the existence of laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, lactating women continue to face discrimination on the job in Texas and across the country. One Delaware woman recently won a $1.5 million jury verdict after she was subjected to harassment and degradation in the workplace while nursing, causing her to stop pumping and eventually lose her milk supply. Despite the success of such cases, however, nursing mothers continue to face major problems on the job.

One report by [email protected], an advocacy group, found that lactating mothers are often denied pumping spaces, break times or private areas in which to pump breast milk. They may also face crude, sexual or other harassing comments from coworkers or even supervisors while pumping breastmilk on the job. In some cases, women were denied pumping breaks even when their breasts were painful and leaking milk. Other mothers were fired from their jobs simply for asking for time to pump. Still, other lactating women were directed to pump in public areas, dirty bathrooms or physically dangerous spaces. Being a nursing mother in a discriminatory workplace can be especially difficult because not pumping can lead a mother's milk supply to dry up, forcing her to switch to formula feeding.

Employee claims retaliation after a harassment charge

It isn't uncommon for employers in Texas and other states to have men in positions of power. For one woman at Ernst & Young, it was no big deal to know that this was the case with her employer as well. However, she soon found out why women were rarely promoted to leadership positions. It was because females were isolated and otherwise discriminated against because of their gender.

In September 2018, the woman filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She claims that the company engaged in retaliation after filing the charge. The company claims that she was let go because of her work performance and nothing more. According to the employee who filed the complaint, the problem started in 2013 after she refused to get a drink with her boss. She claimed that as a result, he started taking credit for her work and otherwise undermining her authority.

3 signs of ageism in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace occurs in many ways, i.e., gender, religion, sexual, age, etc. Most workers are not too aware of how rampant ageism can be. Employees over the age of 40 are more likely than their younger counterparts to experience adverse employment actions that can lead to harassment and wrongful termination.

Employers may have their reasons for hiring a younger workforce. However, mistreating or firing older workers to employ, promote and give preferential treatment to younger employees is a form of unlawful discrimination called ageism. Here are a few signs of age discrimination everyone should know.

Court rules that job applicants aren't always protected by ADEA

Anti-discrimination laws have long protected employees over the age of 40 in Texas and across the United States. However, a new decision released by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals raises questions on whether or not those protections are extended to job applicants as well.

In the recently decided case, a 58-year-old man submitted an application to a large medical device company for a legal role. The man was ultimately never given an interview. He later learned that the position went to a 29-year-old man with fewer qualifications. This led the man to file an age discrimination lawsuit alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). His lawsuit alleged that the discrimination had a disparate impact on his career. After an appeal from the trial court, the 7th Circuit disagreed, citing the "plain language" of the ADEA. According to the court, Congress explicitly intended the protections of the ADEA to apply only to current employees and not prospective hires.

Tech employees battle forced arbitration in discrimination cases

A group of technology employees from companies like Google continue to apply public pressure on employers that force people to sign away their rights to sue or participate in class-action lawsuits as a condition of employment. Many employees in Texas likely work under contracts that force them into arbitration when they have complaints about sexual harassment or discrimination on the job. The workers' rights activists have planned a day-long social media campaign to highlight how arbitration favors employers and promotes harassment and discrimination.

Researchers have determined that employees have a lower chance of winning cases against employers through arbitration compared to addressing complaints in court. The minority of complainants who win settlements from employers through arbitration also tend to receive lower payouts than those who pursue litigation.

Male ex-employee sues Disney Cruise Line for discrimination

While it is common for male employees in Texas and elsewhere to be subjected to sexual harassment because they are gay or transgender, experts say it is relatively rare for male workers to be sexually harassed by female co-workers or supervisors. However, a male former Disney Cruise Line employee has filed a lawsuit claiming that he experienced sexual and age-based harassment while working at the company.

According to the lawsuit, the man worked as a labor analyst at Disney for nearly two decades. However, it alleges that a younger female supervisor created a hostile work environment for him during his last few years with the company. For example, the suit alleges that the supervisor tried to embarrass the plaintiff by detailing sexual experiences she had with various partners, including experiences she had in "sex rooms" on Disney ships. The claim further alleges that all senior managers and executives in the plaintiff's division were women.

Workplace hostility may affect mental health

Nearly every worker remembers a job that affected his or her sense of well-being. It may have started out as a fun, pleasant place to work. Maintaining harmony in the workplace is essential. New managers, employees, or a change in company policies can make or break a work environment.

When an employee wants to quit, that is a sure sign something is wrong. Searching for a new job takes a great deal of energy and time. There are no guarantees that a new office will be any better than the current workplace. Many workers will not leave a job unless they feel miserable there.

Workplace discrimination prevalent among doctors who are mothers

Female doctors have become commonplace throughout Texas, but a survey of mothers who work as doctors has revealed their struggles with discriminatory attitudes. The results of a survey that investigated workplace challenges among doctors who are mothers found that more than one-third of 6,000 respondents had been discriminated against at work after becoming parents.

Many female doctors reported that they faced different expectations at work compared to their male colleagues, and they had lower pay. Diminished opportunities for promotions became a regular theme among the 947 doctors who provided researchers with additional comments. Women said that they were frequently excluded from workplace functions that could have helped them build their careers. Male doctors, however, always received invitations to career-building activities. One woman said that colleagues assumed that she would rather care for her children than do something extra at work. Another doctor said that managers changed their attitude toward her performance after she had a baby.

Legislation aims to put a stop to pay discrimination

There are many statutes that make it illegal to pay workers differently based on their gender. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was a federal law and the first attempt to close the wage gap between men and women doing similar work. Title VII, passed in 1964, was also designed to create greater equity between genders when it came to promotions and other employment decisions. The EPA was an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

All employers are covered under the EPA whether they work for a government agency or in the private sector. However, it doesn't mean that it is illegal for a man and a woman to be paid a different wage for performing substantially similar work. For instance, an employer could create a seniority system or base pay on a worker's quality of work over a given period of time.

Paying employees overtime for on-call work

Some Texas employees who work on-call shifts may be eligible for overtime pay. As evidenced by a court case in Ohio, however, there can be some confusion regarding when that overtime pay is required. The judge in that case found that a nurse who was on call throughout the weekend should have been paid overtime even though she didn't work the entire 48 hours that she was on call.

The nurse worked an on-call shift every other weekend. This was in addition to her usual work week. She was paid her regular rate for the on-call time, but she argued that she should have been given overtime. The hospital argued that since the nurse was not working for the entire 48 hours, this was not warranted. The court disagreed. First, it argued that it was compensable time since the hospital paid her the regular rate.

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