Recently University of Southern California head football coach Steve Sarkisian filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that he had been wrongfully terminated because of his disability, alcoholism. This raises the interesting question as to whether alcoholism is a protected status and what obligations employers have towards alcoholic employees.
To hear some employers tell it, avoiding lawsuits for employment law violations is incredibly complex. The truth is that many violations of worker rights involve employers trying to save money or avoid the hassle of firing obviously inappropriate personnel. It is not difficult for employers to obey the state and federal laws protecting employees. Many simply choose not to. An insurance company whose clients include many small- and medium-sized businesses recently conducted a study of employee lawsuits against employers. The advice that came out of that study is that simple measures all employers should have in place would prevent many of these lawsuits.
Three years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination based on gender identity was sex discrimination. That ruling meant that transgender discrimination was included among the behaviors expressly forbidden by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That ruling did not, however, tackle the question of whether anti-gay discrimination in the workplace should be considered sex discrimination. In a recent 3-2 vote, the EEOC has now made its position clear. If an employer discriminates against you based on your sexual orientation, that employer is violating the Civil Rights Act.
Among the many reasons to support same sex marriages is so that all loving couples can enjoy the benefits and legal protections afforded to spouses. In the United States, a large percentage of the population gets health insurance through their employer. The reasons for this are curious and antiquated, but the result is that employers have power over their employees in terms of the health care coverage they receive. For same sex couples, that can mean another avenue for discrimination in an employer decides that they don't personally support marriage equality.
The American workplace can be an unfair and hostile place. While the situation for women has improved in some ways, old prejudices and sexist behavior are still alive and well. Women in management have often encountered and overcome numerous challenges that their male counterparts have never faced. Gender discrimination is against New Jersey law and federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. But discrimination is insidious and continues to express itself in a wide array of employment situations.
Federal employees and job applicants are protected from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy status, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Employees are further protected from retaliation for engaging in protected behaviors, such as filing a discrimination complaint. When a victim of discrimination files a claim with a federal agency, that claim may be dismissed for several reasons. After such a dismissal, the employee or applicant can file an appeal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
This past Friday, a very interesting and closely followed workplace discrimination lawsuit against filed against Anheuser-Busch came to a close when a jury returned a verdict siding with the beverage giant.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the agency in charge of enforcing the employment laws that bar discrimination based on several protected classes, including but not limited to race, gender, age and disability. According to the agency, there were 93,727 claims filed this past fiscal year running from Oct. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013.