Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

Ellen Johnston

Dallas Employment Trail Lawyer Ellie Johnston

As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is in the air, but it’s essential to strike a balance between romance and professionalism in the workplace. For employees navigating relationships at work, understanding the implications of Valentine’s Day festivities and workplace dynamics is crucial. In this blog post, we’ll explore how Valentine’s Day intersects with employment law and the potential legal considerations that employees should be aware of, with the guidance of a plaintiff’s employment law firm.

 Many people spend a significant portion of their waking hours at work, making it a common place for relationships to develop. While workplace romances are not inherently problematic, they can give rise to legal issues if not managed appropriately.

Time does not stop for anyone. There are time limits for filing claims against your employer. In fact, state and federal claims have different deadlines for different types of claims. When pursuing a claim against your employer, it is important to note the statute of limitations for the claim you intend to pursue. The biggest mistake I see employees make is waiting too long to pursue a claim. If the statute of limitations for your claim has expired, you will not be able to pursue your claim – even if you have a strong claim. There’s no way around it. Below are some of the most common employment-related claims and each claim’s respective statute of limitations.

Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation.

Claims of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, or retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, must first be filed with the United State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). A complaint with the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the adverse employment action. An adverse action can range from a write-up to termination. If you do not file a charge of discrimination or retaliation with the EEOC within 300 days of the adverse action, you lose the right to pursue your claims in court.

On March 3, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law new legislation banning the use of arbitration clauses in employment contracts that force victims of sexual assault and harassment to pursue their claims in private arbitration rather than in open court. The legislation passed Congress with bipartisan support and has been described as one of the most significant workplace reforms in history. It is estimated that about 60 million Americans are subject to arbitration clauses.

The law allows victims of sexual assault and harassment to have their day in court and to speak publicly about their cases. Until now, victims who had signed an arbitration agreement with their employers were forced to bring their claims in a private and largely employer-friendly arbitration process, where cases are typically decided by a single arbitrator instead of a jury.

  1. What is the new law called?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Love them or hate them, this is the time of the year during which employers are finalizing holiday party plans. After a long pause on holiday parties due to Covid-19, many employers are gearing up for their first holiday party since the pandemic.  Work holiday parties are a time for employees to get together, socialize, and celebrate a year well done. This is your opportunity to shake hands with the movers and shakers. However, holiday parties are notoriously known to pose serious risks for employees, especially if alcohol is served.

Let’s address the big Texas elephant in the room. Texas is an “at-will” state. That means your employer can fire you for no reason or any reason, short of unlawful discrimination or retaliation. In Texas, termination caused by your actions at a work holiday party is no exception to the “at-will” rule.

Following the holiday season, I typically notice an increase in consultations from employees who were terminated based on their behavior at a holiday party or who were either sexually harassed or discriminated against at a holiday party. A typical misconception is that your behavior and your employer’s behavior at a holiday party is not subject to workplace polices or procedures or employment laws. However, you are still subject to workplace policies and your employer is still subject to labor and employment laws, regardless of whether the party is held at work or off-site.

Well folks, everything is bigger in Texas and our laws and penalties are certainly no exception. Despite the efforts of Texas Democrats to block a voting restriction bill, that bill and 665 additional bills were passed, many of which took effect on September 1, 2021. Here are some of the major new laws that took effect on Wednesday:

“Heartbeat” abortion ban.

One of the major and—undoubtedly most controversial laws—that took effect is the “heartbeat” abortion bill. While many Texans and Americans hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would weigh in on the proposed bill, the Court sat idle, allowing Texas to pass a bill that could prevent the vast majority of abortions in the state, upending nearly fifty-years of established legal precedent.  This new law prohibits abortion once a heartbeat is detected in an embryo, which could happen as early as about six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. It has always been an issue. In light of the #Metoo movement, employees nationwide are more willing to publicly condemn their harassers and hold employers accountable for their inaction. As Valentine’s Day approaches, this blog will highlight various examples of sexual harassment in the workplace, and explore behaviors that, while inappropriate, do not rise to the level of sexual harassment.  

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC guidelines define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • • Submission to such conduct is a term or condition of an individual’s employment. 
  • • Submission or rejection of the conduct is a basis for employment decisions.
  • • Conduct of a sexual nature has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance.
  • • Conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. 

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Generally, you have the burden of proving if your employer’s actions toward you violate the law. Of course, sophisticated employers seldom admit to doing something that breaks the law, and often employment cases turn on a “he-said/she-said” moment, where the employee claims something was said and the employer later denies it. One way, we sometimes see employees try to even the playing field by secretly recording conversations in the workplace to have proof of illegal activity beyond their own word.

This article answers some key questions employees often have about recording in the workplace. Is it legal for you to do it? Can your employer order you not to? Can your employer punish you for recording? Is it a good idea?

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Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment in the workplace has always been an issue. However, in the wake of the #Metoo movement sparked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, more and more victims of workplace sexual harassment are now speaking up about workplace harassment and inequality that they’ve endured for far too long.

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Last week we discussed Texas employers’ responsibilities after an employee reports discrimination, including instances involving hostile work environments. Here, we take a closer look at what constitutes a hostile work environment.

Under state and federal civil rights laws, Texas employers are prohibited from engaging in discrimination based on an employee’s sex, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, or pregnancy. Harassment is among the conduct that is prohibited under the anti-discrimination laws. Further, sexual harassment can include a wide range of offensive conduct. A few common examples of harassment are:

  • offensive jokes

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. Courts have long held that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Thus, employers who engage in sexual harassment or allow their employees to engage in such behavior without intervening violate Texas and federal anti-discrimination laws.

There are several types of sexual harassment. One of the most commonly seen type of sexual harassment is called “quid pro quo” harassment. Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning to get something for giving something. In the context of a sex discrimination lawsuit, quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor propositions an employee, typically for sexual favors, in exchange for some employment benefit. For example, a manager who makes an employee’s raise contingent upon the employee going on a date with the manager has engaged in quid pro quo harassment.

Quid pro quo harassment also occurs when an employee suffers some kind of adverse employment outcome for refusing an employer’s sexual advances.

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