Nashville Legal Blog

Woman awarded $11.1 million in sexual harassment lawsuit

Tennessee employees who report sexual harassment in the workplace and who face retaliation as a result may want to file a lawsuit against an employer. An employee who says she was terminated after she turned down the advances of the owner of the company she worked for was awarded $11.1 million by a jury.

The company, Hologram USA, creates holograms of celebrities who have died. The employee alleged in the lawsuit that the owner had brought a male stripper in to celebrate another colleague's birthday, made her watch a pornographic video and placed his hand on her leg. The owner denied these claims.

Workplace discrimination based on genetic information

In Tennessee and the rest of the U.S., employers are prohibited from misusing the genetic information of applicants and employees. Discrimination based on the genetic information of an employee or applicant is illegal, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces this prohibition.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was passed in 2008 and became effective in 2009. It prohibits the use of genetic information for making employment-related decisions in all aspects of employment. Employers are not allowed to use the genetic information of applicants or employees for decisions about hiring, promotions, bonuses, firing, and others.

EEOC sees increase in sexual harassment complaints

Workers in Tennessee and throughout the country are reporting sexual harassment more frequently, according to information released by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Since the #MeToo movement began in late 2017 with the exposure of multiple sexual assault and harassment complaints against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment allegations have been filed more frequently with federal regulatory agencies. This has happened even as overall complaints of workplace discrimination and harassment on all grounds have gone down.

In the fiscal year for 2108, the EEOC saw a 13.6% increase of sexual harassment complaints over the year before with 7,609 reports filed with the federal agency. On the other hand, workers filed 76,418 overall allegations of harassment of all kinds, marking a 9.3% drop from the prior year. Experts note that this points to the continued problem with sexual harassment in a wide range of industries and work environments across the country. Despite increased attention and media awareness as well as a higher level of female executive presence, harassment and unwanted sexual approaches continue to be a significant workplace problem.

LGBT discrimination cases to be reviewed by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases that may answer the question of whether or not LGBT workers are protected by Title VII. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers against discrimination based on sex. However, it is unclear whether that covers sexual orientation or those who are transgender. Some courts have granted that protection while others have not yet ruled.

The 11th Circuit ruled that it was permissible to fire an individual for being homosexual. In its decision, the court pointed to a case from 1979 that it felt compelled to adhere to. The employee in question claimed that he was terminated because he was gay while the county said that it was because he mismanaged funds. During the Obama administration, the government argued that Title VII did apply to LGBT workers. However, the Trump administration is arguing that it does not.

Capitol custodians complain of sexual harassment

Workers in Tennessee and across the country continue to face serious problems with sexual harassment on the job. Even those responsible for making the laws against workplace harassment have been involved in alleged incidents of sexual misconduct and unwanted advances. For example, reports indicate that members of the U.S. Congress have sexually harassed cleaning and janitorial staff working the night shift and cleaning their offices, while attempts to impose sexual harassment training and prevention standards were diverted.

An inspector general's report was issued to track problems with sexual harassment in the Architect of the Capitol's department for the previous 10 years. The report criticized Capitol officials, noting that some had created a workplace culture that failed to protect workers or stop sexual harassment. The document also identified challenges faced by the agency as it works to improve workplace safety and address key concerns. However, some areas of the agency actually refused to cooperate or provide information to the Office of the Inspector General as it compiled its report.

Proposed legislation aims to protect workers from harassment

Going to work in Tennessee can become difficult for people who experience discrimination and harassment on the job. New legislation proposed by Democratic Senator Patty Murray could improve workplace protections and promote policies to prevent the mistreatment of employees. According to the senator's summary of the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would need to develop prevention strategies and make specific recommendations for industries known to have harassment and discrimination problems.

If signed into law, the act would involve the U.S. Census Bureau as well, requiring the agency to survey people about workplace harassment. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights would need to start investigating how civil rights are enforced. The law would also direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the economic harm caused by discrimination at work.

Don’t forget to take these steps after a car accident

A car accident is not anyone's ideal way to start the day, but it does happen. Imagine that you are on your way to work in Brentwood, with only one more block to go when a car comes out of nowhere and hits you. Like most people, you probably know the basic steps to take after a car wreck. Check for injuries, call the police, exchange insurance information and get witness statements.

These are the usual steps that most people know about but there are a few more things you should do in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. Here are some other important steps you need to take after a car crash.

AG responds to concerns about LGBTQ discrimination

Federal employees in Tennessee received some promising news about workplace discrimination when Attorney General William Barr agreed to address the concerns brought forward by DOJ Pride. The group promotes the needs of workers at the U.S. Department of Justice who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. In response to a letter from the group, Barr issued an order calling for an investigation of discrimination allegations at the FBI and Bureau of Prisons.

The attorney general called for a halt to any discrimination found during the investigation. Along with approving an investigation, he signed an equal employment opportunity policy. This document affirmed the Justice Department's commitment to fair treatment of employees regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, religion, race, or national origin.

Microsoft dealing with complaints about sexual harassment

Workers in Tennessee who have experienced workplace discrimination might find the allegations about widespread sexual harassment at Microsoft Corporation familiar. An email chain that circulated among Microsoft employees has detailed multiple complaints about mistreatment and dismissal of women's complaints. Over 90 pages of email messages have become public, and senior leadership at the company plans to investigate the problems.

The head of human resources said that top executives were upset when they heard about the experiences described in the email chain. The chain got started when a female employee emailed female colleagues in search of advice about how to advance at the company. She said that she had held the same position for six years and saw no way to get a promotion. Dozens of replies resulted from the sharing of the email as many employees shared their negative experiences.

How workplace rumors affect harassment and discrimination

Rumors about the sexual activities of people at the workplace can be grounds for harassment or discrimination lawsuits. According to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, an employer can be liable for sex discrimination claims by not stopping false rumors about an employee sleeping with a person in management. If this precedent is not reversed by the Supreme Court, it will continue to impact companies in Tennessee and all other states.

The decision made by the 4th Circuit involved a case where a woman experienced a hostile work environment due to rumors about her sleeping with the son of the company's CEO. The rumor was started by a male co-worker who started at the company at the same time but didn't receive a promotion. A warehouse manager spread the rumor further and didn't allow the woman to participate in meetings where the allegations were discussed.

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