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Washington, DC Employment Law Blog

DDo women still face pregnancy discrimination in the workplace?

With the economy strong and unemployment rates low, more and more employers are offering generous maternity leave benefits and work-life balance perks to keep women happy at their jobs after having a child. However, even in 2019, women are not immune from pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

EEOC dumps nearly one-third of all discrimination complaints

All Americans have the right to a workplace that's safe and free from discrimination. When your employer violates that right, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). But what happens then?

According to a recent article in Vox, the answer is more and more often: Nothing. While the U.S. workforce has doubled since the 1980s, the EEOC budget has remained flat. The agency doesn't have enough staff, and the staff it has have struggled to keep up with the cases they receive. At the same time, the EEOC has faced pressure from Congress to push through its backlog of cases. The result? EEOC members have filed a growing number of cases into its lowest priority category-and then closed those cases without ever investigating them.

Providing parental leave for dads could reduce discrimination

Washington D.C. is one of the best places to live for workers who may need paid family leave. Most states in America have no provisions for paid family leave, especially where men are concerned. According to Forbes, out of 41 developed countries all around the world, America is the only one that does not provide paid parental leave.

What the government does make provisions for is unpaid leave up to 12 weeks. Mothers typically need this time to heal and adjust to their new roles. However, many women cannot afford to take this time off; some are back to work within a matter of days. Not all mothers qualify for FMLA either. Companies with less than 50 employees may be under no obligation to provide this.

Dealing with disabilities in the workplace

Many workers in D.C. may feel inclined to keep their disabilities a secret from their boss. This may be due to a fear that the employer may believe they are not well-suited for current or higher positions. Other people may dislike the stigma around their disabilities, which may create an uncomfortable work environment, even if the hostility is only perceived rather than actual.

Forbes reports that 15% of the world's population suffers from some kind of disability. In addition to this, three of ever four employees now face mental illness in some form. In a 2014 study cited by Forbes, more than half of the participants believed their mental illness had interfered with their ability to get a job they wanted before. Others received negative responses or even lost current employment.

DC and a handful of US states pave the way for paid leave

The United States, as a developed country, comes short in comparison to its peers in providing paid sick leave and family leave. Washington, D.C., a few states and some private companies have gone the extra mile to provide paid sick and family leave to workers. This includes paid leave for new parents, adults who need to take care of a sick family member and workers who need to take care of themselves.

In fact, CNBC names Washington D.C. as one of the best places to live in America to get access to paid family leave. The D.C. law that passed in 2016 and that takes effect in the summer of 2020 allows workers to earn up to 90% of their salaries while on paid leave (with a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000). This benefit applies even when D.C. workers live outside of city limits, but does not apply to federal government employees. California was the first state to pass a bill providing paid leave. Other states with paid leave provisions include New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island; Washington state's law will take effect in 2020.

Are fathers eligible for FMLA leave?

If you are preparing to welcome a new baby into your home, you are probably planning to take some time off to care for your family and bond with your new child. While you may know that the federal and District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Acts allow mothers to take time away from work in this circumstance, you may not be sure of your rights as a father. If you work for an FMLA-covered employer in Washington, D.C., you may take FMLA leave for the birth of a child regardless of whether you are the child's mother or father. In general, to qualify for FMLA leave, you must have worked for your current employer for at least one year, and for at least 1,000 hours over the past year. Employees who work for employers with fewer than 20 employees are not covered by the DC laws, and the federal law requires at least 50 employees.

The United States Department of Labor provides employees with extensive information on the federal FMLA program. According to the DOL, both men and women may take FMLA leave for the birth of a child. You may also take leave if you are adopting a child or welcoming a foster child into your family, or to provide health care for a family member. In most cases, you must take FMLA leave within a year of your new child's placement or birth. Unless you make other arrangements with your employer, you must take all of your FMLA leave as a continuous block. However, you may be able to work out a different arrangement with your employer, such as working a part-time schedule for several months.

Will my reputation suffer as a whistleblower?

A person who reveals troubling practices at their place or work, without regard for their own well-being, should be hailed as a hero. Sadly, this is not always the case. If a whistleblower at an organization isn't explicitly retaliated against, they're often subject to damaging accusations that can tarnish their reputation. Forbes explains why it's the duty of employers to create a culture where whistleblowers aren't unfairly targeted for their good deeds. 

One report illustrated the risks whistleblowers take when speaking up. The group of 25 workers studied for the report cited many troubling developments after speaking up. In some cases, the employee was pressured to resign. When workers stayed in their positions, they were privy to harassment, including bullying behaviors or isolation. This led to serious mental health issues, which affected workers both in the workplace as well as outside it. 

Filing an age discrimination law suit

Older workers typically earn higher salaries, earn more benefits and accumulate more vacation time. This adds to the bottom line cost of the company. But older workers’ performance, knowledge and experience commonly makes this investment pay off. However, unscrupulous employers do target older employees for termination to trim costs and a variety of other reasons.

Protections against age discrimination

Am I being sexually harassed?

Sexual harassment is a very serious concern in the workplace. Because it's such a personal issue, it sometimes can be difficult for people to recognize when they're the victim of harassment, even when the actions are blatant. Business Insider lists some of the signs of sexual harassment so you can take the proper steps to have the issue rectified.

For many people, sexual harassment is ongoing, even after the employee speaks up about the behavior. This is a hallmark of harassing behavior; a person requests that the behavior stops, whether it involves jokes, offensive remarks, or romantic advances, but the harasser continues and even escalates the harassment. This can create a hostile work environment that prevents the employee from doing his or her job, as the subject of harassment is likely to become quite upset and may even think about quitting their job due to the behavior.

Fourth Circuit - Race Discrimination decision

The Fourth Circuit today reversed the district court (South Carolina) in a Section 1981 and Title VII race discrimination case. The plaintiff was evidently represented pro bono on appeal by the Univ. of Virginia. The plaintiff was a garbage truck driver and was terminated after he complained about delays in getting his truck repaired; the employer also claimed that the plaintiff had committed several earlier infractions.

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