Nashville Legal Blog

Sexual harassment: restaurant workers should file claims

In Tennessee, restaurant employees are eligible to file sexual harassment lawsuits if they experience harassment on the job. Statistics show that managers, other employees and customers sexually harass 70 percent of male workers and 90 percent of female workers. Countless incidents occur in which customers sexually harass restaurant employees, but workers do not report these incidents because they rely on tips. Recent newspaper headlines have reported McDonald's worker strikes taking place in 10 cities.

Since unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments pervade the restaurant world, employers need to know how to protect their workers. First, employers should understand the underlying reasons for sexual harassment in the workplace. One major cause is because men hold more managerial positions in restaurants while women are more likely to hold positions as servers. These female workers receive minimum wages for their efforts.

Lawsuit against IKEA proposes class action for older employees

Many older workers in Tennessee acknowledge the existence of age discrimination. Although proving that employers hold prejudices against older people presents challenges, a 54-year-old male employee of IKEA has gone forward with a lawsuit against the home furnishings company. His lawsuit cites federal age discrimination law, and he seeks relief for himself and a proposed class of older employees at the company.

According to his court filings, IKEA specifically recruits young workers and grooms them for future management positions. Existing employees, like himself, who have strong performance records face rejection when seeking promotions to managerial positions. He alleges that the company ignored his repeated applications for promotions.

Report finds big sexual harassment problem in academic medicine

People in Tennessee pursuing a career in medicine might be most vulnerable to harassment at work during their training in academic settings. A study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine identified academic medicine as an environment where sexual harassment occurred nearly twice as often compared to workplaces for other engineering and science sectors.

A survey of medical trainees across multiple institutions indicated that harassers came from both faculty and staff. The widespread harassment raised stress for trainees, reduced their performance and increased burnout. The report concluded that the mistreatment drove away talented people and threatened the mission of public health.

Nursing mothers face discrimination at work

Nursing mothers in Tennessee and across the country have protected rights on the job under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other laws. While one mother recently won a $1.5 million jury verdict after facing harassment over nursing that forced her to stop breastfeeding, other nursing mothers continue to face serious problems on the job. One report indicates that lactating women are often denied time to take pumping breaks. When they do get breaks to pump, they are often directed to inappropriate, public or unsanitary spaces. In other cases, these women may face sexual harassment or inappropriate comments from other co-workers.

In addition, women who attempt to defend their right to nurse may face retaliation on the job. Lactating women at work often have to face difficult choices, despite the existence of legislation designed to protect them. If they stop pumping, their milk supply will dry up and they will need to formula feed, losing out on the benefits of nursing. By trying to keep up with a nursing schedule, their jobs may be at risk, putting their children's future in an even more precarious position.

Proposal could reduce age discrimination in the workplace

Older workers in Tennessee may face greater protection in the workplace if a bipartisan proposal makes its way through Congress and becomes a law. Sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat each in the House and Senate, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will make it less difficult for workers to claim age discrimination.

In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that a worker had to demonstrate that they were fired or demoted because of age discrimination. Prior to that ruling, employers had borne the burden of giving a reason for dismissing or demoting older workers. If POWADA passes, employees will only be required to show that age discrimination occurred. Furthermore, they will only need to show that age discrimination was a factor in the employer's actions and not the entire reason for being dismissed or demoted.

Do you feel pressure to work off the clock?

Off the clock hours are essentially hours that you won't get paid for and that won't get you any closer to overtime pay, as they're not recorded. You're just told that they're something you have to accept.

Have you ever been in this situation? It may very well be illegal. You need to know your rights as an employee.

Labor Department to propose overtime rule change

Workers in Tennessee and across the country may be affected by a new rule on overtime pay scheduled to be announced soon. Reports indicate that the Department of Labor has drafted a new regulation for review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The agency must review new regulations before they go into effect to ensure that the rule-making process meets with legal standards and responsibilities. It can take up to three months to review the proposed rule, but no minimum period is required before approval.

The Department of Labor said in 2018 that it expected to bring a new overtime rule proposal forward by March 2019. It replaces an Obama-era rule that was later declared invalid in federal court. The 2016 proposal dramatically changed the threshold for the salary of employees who can be considered "exempt" from the protections of the National Labor Relations Act. Employees only must make $23,660 each year to be exempt from overtime pay regulations, despite the fact that many workers with such low salaries do not have meaningful autonomy or management authority. Exemptions to the law are meant to apply to white-collar, managerial or professional workers.

Survey of tech workers reveals fear of age discrimination

Workers in many industries throughout Tennessee might worry about age discrimination, but the concern is especially prevalent among people in the technology sector. A survey conducted by the job website asked 1,011 technology professionals about their attitudes toward age and the possibility of discrimination. Responses from people with work experience averaging 15 years and 9 months showed that 43 percent of them worried about job loss due to their age.

A researcher fo workplace demographics and innovation concluded that people place an outdated emphasis on age based on 20th-century norms. Traditionally, adults are expected to progress through their lives from schooling or training to employment and then to retirement. With people living longer, however, the lines are blurring as older workers might seek new training to pursue second or third careers.

The many ways breastfeeding discrimination hurts working mothers

Employers in Tennessee and throughout the country are supposed to allow mothers to take time to breastfeed. Mothers who need to pump milk are generally entitled to breaks to do so in a private area. However, employers don't always provide accommodations to those who need them. In some cases, workers are terminated for complaining about breastfeeding discrimination in their workplaces. This can have many negative repercussions for female workers such as jeopardizing their financial security.

Those who breastfeed at work may be thought of as less than their colleagues as there tends to be a bias against mothers in the workplace. However, there are benefits for employers who protect workers who have young children. For instance, a happy employee is more likely to want to remain with a company and may take less sick time. That can result in a cost savings for employers as well as the ability to claim a moral high ground on the issue of protecting their female workers.

7th Circuit Court allows age discrimination against job seekers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has issued a ruling that excludes job candidates from the protections created by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Although this court does not impact Tennessee, the decision reveals a weakness in the laws meant to protect people over 40 from age discrimination. The panel of judges believed that the law only applied to a company's existing employees and not job candidates in regard to disparate impact.

The case involved a 58-year-old man who applied for a job at medical device maker. Although he was qualified for the legal position, he did not get an interview, and the company offered the job to a 29-year-old person who lacked the credentials of the older candidate. The man subsequently sued the company for allegedly rejecting him because of his age.

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