On July 21, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) issued what it described as “a long overdue” decision eliminating unwarranted protection for employees who engage in obscene, racist, and sexually harassing behavior under the guise of protected concerted activity.

Continue Reading NLRB Catches Up To The #MeToo and #BLM Movements

In Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar cried out “Et Tu Brute?” – translated “Even you Brutus?” – as he lay dying from the assassin’s sword that had been plunged into his chest by his friend and confidant, Marcus Brutus.  These words came to mind as I read an article about a sordid tale of rampant sexual misconduct by SEIU officials. Even them???

Continue Reading #MeToo (Et Tu SEIU?)

I found a recent case to be a peculiar example of how Title VII is not a “general civility code” in the workplace. In Butto v. CJKant Resource Group, LLC, a male executive was terminated after complaining about being required to arrange female escorts for his married supervisor and perform other activities to facilitate his supervisor’s infidelity. It seems like a reasonable complaint, right? But does that mean it was protected under Title VII?
Continue Reading Being Required to Hire Female Escorts Is Not Actually a Title VII Violation

As you may know, I am a die-hard management-side lawyer. I usually cheer judicial opinions that uphold the rights of employers, which I feel are too often constrained by well-meaning but easily-abused employment laws. But every now and then, even my management-side soul can be a little surprised by a judge’s pro-employer ruling. This was the situation in the recent case of Dawson v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

Continue Reading Forcing Employee to Quit Second Job Is Not a Tangible Job Action?

Allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated by top officials are not new, nor are lawsuits or threats of lawsuits based on those allegations.  Wise companies take such matters seriously and, if they conclude that the allegations have merit, take action not just to resolve the matter with the complaining party but to root out the problem so it does not reoccur.  Fire the offender, change the culture and move forward.
Continue Reading Boards of Directors in the Bullseye: #MeToo and the Fiduciary Duty

It has become an all too familiar story in this age of #MeToo (although this one has a twist, as you’ll see below): a supervisor using managerial authority to pressure a subordinate to give sexual favors. In this story, the employee claims the pressure started at hire, involved the supervisor demanding attention, favors, gifts and even food then escalating to demands for sex in the office. The employee needed the job and ultimately concluded that sex was the only performance metric that mattered because the clear implication was that the supervisor would ruin the employee if the employee did not comply.
Continue Reading What, #MeToo???

Before I became a lawyer or even considered the profession, I was a waitress. I also was a feminist.  I was 18 and working at a restaurant In Providence RI.  Ronnie’s Rascal House!  One of the line cooks constantly called me “honey, baby and sweetie.”  Every time I put an order check on the wheel and spun it to him into the kitchen, he said it. One day I had had enough and I said, “I am not your honey or baby or sweetie.”  I snapped those words. He looked at me stunned and said, “I am sorry. I had no idea.”  After that we became very good friends.
Continue Reading You Have To Believe It To See It!

I was perusing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recently released Volume 2 of its 2018 Federal Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law (yes, I know I need some better hobbies), and noticed an article entitled, “Assessing Workplace Harassment Prevention Methods Through Comparisons With Similar Crime Prevention Strategies.” The article posits that “[b]y comparing harassment prevention strategies to similar crime prevention efforts, for which empirical research already exists, the EEOC hopes to identify useful tools for preventing workplace harassment.” Well, that struck me as an interesting, if somewhat questionable, approach. But let’s look at what the EEOC says.
Continue Reading The EEOC Compares Harassment Prevention to Crime Prevention

I have a friend who is a high school biology teacher. A few years ago, her class dissected a sheep’s brain. After class, one of her students confessed to her that he had licked the brain!!! (I’ll pause here for a moment so you can wrap your own brain around that….) Unsurprisingly, this caused an immediate uproar. The school nurse was appropriately concerned about possible health issues (prions that can cause horrific diseases, poisonous chemicals, etc.). On the other hand, an administrator questioned whether my friend had failed to preemptively instruct her students NOT TO LICK THE BRAIN. Um, what? I think we can agree that is one of those things that is so glaringly obvious you should not have to spell it out as a general matter.
Continue Reading Starbucks – Training Employees on the Obvious?

As a minority female, I have had my share of being harassed, and I have felt rage at the unfairness. I completely understand the desire to lash out at the harasser. But actually burning them with a cigarette? Well, that crosses the line (unless, of course, the harasser is threatening physical harm. Then, all bets – and gloves – are off!) But that’s what one employee did, and yet she was surprised when the employer fired her for it.
Continue Reading Burning a Customer Is Not the Appropriate Response to Harassment