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Washington, DC Employment Law Blog

What paternity leave rights do new fathers have?

Our society places significant emphasis on the rights of working mothers when they give birth and seek maternity leave while maintaining their employment. However, working mothers can also benefit from the help of the child's father. Close collaboration when it comes to parenting can help the child greatly.  At the same time, it can also help both parents to share family responsibilities so that they can better manage their careers.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers around 50% of the national workforce and gives rights to employees who need to take time away from work for medical or family reasons.  Washington D.C., and some states (including Maryland) have their own FMLA laws that cover smaller employers who are exempt from the federal law.  These federal and state statutes usually require that the parent have worked for a number of months before they are eligible to take FMLA leave. 

Do jokes and comments count as sexual harassment?

Most Washington, D.C., residents understand that the definition of sexual harassment covers actions such as forced physical contact or requests for sexual favors in exchange for employment. Other actions may be harder to classify. If you are experiencing unwelcome jokes or discussions at work that are sexual in nature, you may be able to file a harassment complaint. However, it is sometimes more difficult to determine whether words and jokes qualify as sexual harassment.

RAINN is a national anti-sexual-violence organization that provides information and help to survivors. RAINN's website offers detailed information on sexual harassment in the workplace. According to the site, sexual harassment laws may not cover some types of sexual jokes and comments even if they cause negative emotional effects. However, certain types of speech do fall under sexual harassment laws. For example, you may be able to file a complaint against someone in your office who continuously makes disparaging remarks about your sexual orientation or about people of a specific gender.

Recognizing discriminatory behaviors against whistleblowers

When people work for an employer they admire, chances are they hope to have a positive experience and without hazards, threats to their career or safety, or discriminatory behavior. Unfortunately, there are situations where an employer acts illegally or unprofessionally, with negative consequences for the customers, investors, and employees.

Is weight discrimination legal in Washington, D.C.?

There has been a lot of rightful media attention on sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. High-profile cases have brought attention to a long-overlooked issue in American workplaces. That workplace issue is weight discrimination.

Despite recent body-positive social movements, research has shown that heavier workers earn less, promoted less often, and viewed less favorably. In fact, the study said employers see overweight employees as less disciplined. Weight bias also includes negative comments about a worker’s weight or penalties brought on by their company’s benefits program due to their weight.

Keeping the EEOC focused on protecting at-risk workers

Pursuing a career in Washington, DC, brings with it many unique challenges and opportunities. One hurdle that people should not have to face is the fear of being discriminated against in the workplace. Their place of employment should allow them the safety and support to perform their responsibilities with confidence and effectiveness. Unfortunately, there are plenty of situations where people do not feel safe at work because of the way they are treated. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains the responsibility of enforcing laws that have been designed to expose, address and eliminate discrimination of any kind within the workplace. With adequate response to claims where employees have alleged, they were discriminated against, the EEOC can encourage businesses to implement practices that will help them create a culture of acceptance and tolerance. In turn, companies can see an increase in productivity and a unified drive to accomplish organizational objectives by all employees. 

Sexual harassment and hypermasculinity begins at home

Corporate and political jobs in D.C. are often dominated by men. While men are becoming increasingly accustomed to seeing women in the workplace, this may only serve to make women a threat. In the sentiment of "boys will be boys" men often respond to this threat with aggression, including sexual aggression. This may not always include physical actions, but men may convey this aggression through words or gestures.

Some organizations -- whether voluntarily or through inaction -- perpetuate a culture where men may feel entitled to not just the top positions but the women at work. This becomes a strong precursor to sexual harassment. According to MarketWatch, there has been a 14% increase in sexual harassment claims filed in 2018 with the Equal Employment Commission. While men do get sexually harassed too, the overwhelming majority of victims are women. Also, many men often harass other men.

Companies often perform better due to whistleblowers

Many companies in D.C. fear whistleblowers. They believe that with one word in the wrong ear, a whistleblower can take down an entire company that was previously thriving. While whistleblowers certainly may do this, a CNBC article says that they also help their companies to perform better. But how?

It really boils down to the level of priority a company places on integrity. If the priority is high, this should reflect in making proper channels available for employees to make illegal or unethical activities known. This may help companies to take action internally before any corporate scandal, lawsuit or external investigation by law enforcement occurs and decide on a strategy.

Major hotel chain settles disability discrimination suit

A major hotel corporation agreed to pay $85,000, provide $15,000 worth of paid leave and offer other relief to a New York employee to settle a discrimination lawsuit, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The employee works at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City as a front desk agent, according to the lawsuit. He suffers from a back impairment that flares up and becomes painful when standing for long periods of time. He requested a chair, which the hotel provided – only to take it away two weeks later, requiring him to stand once again.

The effects of the #metoo movement on sexual harassment at work

When the #MeToo movement first took off in America, it mostly tackled the entertainment industry in Hollywood. Men in power were exposed for habitually taking advantage of younger women seeking fame or success. It soon spread into corporate and politics, thus making its way to D.C. and even The White House itself.

Forbes notes that it was only a matter of time before awareness of sexual harassment hit corporate environments. Statistics now show that regardless of geography or industry, women face high rates of sexual harassment all around the world. Up to 102 million women in the European Union and 33.6 million women in the U.S. have experienced sexual harassment.

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