May 27, 2010

Novartis apparently not so mom-friendly

Posted in Discrimination, Gender / Sex tagged , , , , at 11:12 am by Tom Jacobson

Ironically, Novartis, the pharmaceutical giant that has been regularly included in Working Mother magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies, has been ordered by a New York jury to pay $250 million in a class action gender discrimination suit.

According to ABC  News (http://bit.ly/98E3vD), the October 2009 issue of Working Mother praised Novartis for its “job-sharing programs and ‘customizable child-care offerings’.”  The jury apparently had a different perception, and now Novartis has been socked with this huge verdict.

The case points out how lip-service to policies and procedures will not save a company from a discrimination claims if those policies and procedures are not truly followed.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only.  They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship.  For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Advertisements

May 25, 2010

The Ghost Whisperer Goes to Work

Posted in Discrimination, Religion tagged , , , , , at 12:48 pm by Tom Jacobson

I’m not making this stuff up.

Zachary Winspear worked for Community Development, Inc.  After his brother died, a co-worker, Sierra (who happened to be one of the owner’s wives), told him that she could communicate with the dead.  She also told him that his brother was in hell and that if he did not “find God,” he, too, would go to hell.  Similar comments continued for three weeks.  After Winspear complained twice to the owner, the owner told him that Sierra really could talk to the dead and that he should follow her instructions. Winspear eventually quit “to escape the religious and other harassment by Sierra.”

Winspear later sued CDI in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.  That court threw out Winspear’s claims, so Winspear appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Eighth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision and ordered the District Court to reconsider whether there was enough evidence of a religiously-hostile work envrionment for the case to go to trial.

Despite its bizarre facts, the case highlights the challenge an employer can face when it must balance the sometimes competing religious beliefs (and non-beliefs) that may surface in the workplace.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only.  They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship.  For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

May 21, 2010

Facebook faux pas costs waitress her job

Posted in Social Media in the Workplace, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:05 am by Tom Jacobson

What happens when an employer discovers that an employee, on her off-duty time, posted on Facebook some derogatory comments about the employer and the employer’s customers?  It cost this waitress her job.  To read the full story from the Charlotte, NC Observer, visit http://bit.ly/dujZVW.

The legal implications of social media in the workplace will be addressed at the Seventh Annual West Central Minnesota Employment Law Update on June 10 in Alexandria, MN.  For more information on the seminar, visit http://bit.ly/adcEVi.

May 18, 2010

Ellen DeGeneres & Gender Stereotyping under Title VII

Posted in Discrimination, Stereotyping tagged , , , , , , at 9:45 am by Tom Jacobson

Ellen DeGeneres has been the face for many things, including CoverGirl.  So, it’s ironic that her appearance would be featured in a federal lawsuit brought by an Iowa woman who claimed she was fired for not being pretty enough and looking too much like Ellen.

According to a recent decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Brenna Lewis worked as  a night auditor and in other front desk roles for Heartland Inns of America.  Things went well for Ms. Lewis until a director of operations started characterizing her as having “an Ellen DeGeneres kind of look.”  She was also referred to as being “tomboyish,” and a manager said it was important for women at the front desk to be “pretty”  and that Ms. Lewis lacked the “Midwestern girl look.”

After Heartland fired Ms. Lewis, she sued, claiming that she was dismissed soley because of unlawful sex stereotyping.  Her case was initially dismissed by the trial court, but the appellate court reversed that decision after concluding that there was evidence suggesting that Heartland had improperly considered gender stereotypes when deciding to fire Ms. Lewis.

This is certainly not the first case where sexual stereotyping has been recognized as an unlawful basis for making decisions about an employee.  But, it is good reminder of the expansive scope of Title VII and of the importance of making decisions about employees based on performance and not pre-conceived gender stereotypes.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only.  They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship.  For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

%d bloggers like this: