Hostile work environment not uncommon, according to recent survey

woman in hostile work environment

Rand Corp., Harvard Med, and UCLA recently surveyed 3,066 American workers about their jobs. The results were shocking:

  • Nearly 20% said they face a threatening or hostile work environment
  • Almost 55% reported “unpleasant and potentially hazardous conditions” at work
  • Approximately 75% said they spend at least one fourth of their time on the job doing “intense or repetitive physical labor”
  • 78% responded that their employers do not permit telework
  • Only 38% felt that they had opportunities for advancement in their jobs, a prospect that becomes less likely as the worker gets older

What is a hostile work environment?

Although the working conditions survey respondents reported sound downright cold, they may not be illegal. In employment cases, the law recognizes two types of harassment:

  • Harassment that ends in a tangible employment action such as a demotion or termination; or
  • Harassment that creates a hostile work environment.

To make a claim for hostile work environment, you must prove:

  • That you were subjected to unwelcome conduct
  • That was severe and/or pervasive
  • And based on your membership in a protected group.

Some examples of protected groups include gender, age, race, national origin, and disability. One way to prove that harassment is based on your protected characteristic is to show that your employer treated employees outside of your protected group better than you. For example, a female employee may be able to prove hostile work environment if she can demonstrate that male employees have better working conditions or benefits.

What should I do if I work in a hostile work environment?

If you have concerns about a hostile work environment, contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you have concerns about a hostile work environment. Call us at (202) 463-6036, or email us. We offer strategic and results-driven legal services to clients in DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia, and to federal government employees around the world.

A sample of our hostile work environment cases

Faraci v. CACI: We represented a government contractor who worked overseas. The arbitrator ruled in our client’s favor on sexual harassment and retaliation claims and, as a result, awarded compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.

Figueroa v. Savanar: We won a jury trial in a sexual harassment case and obtained a $200,000 verdict.

Chadwick v. District of Columbia: We won a jury trial and obtained a $400,000 verdict on behalf of a former employee of the District of Columbia’s Oak Hill Youth Center, who alleged that she was sexually harassed by her former supervisors.

Navigating the EEO process for congressional employees

The Capitol

Federal government employees have to follow a specific procedure to file an EEO complaint of discrimination or retaliation.  The EEO process for employees within the legislative branch of government is unique from the process for other government employees.

Where do I file my EEO complaint?   

The Office of Compliance (OOC) is charged with processing EEO complaints for most legislative employees, including those employed by:

  • S. House of Representatives
  • S. Senate
  • S. Capitol Police
  • Congressional Budget Office
  • Office of the Architect of the Capitol
  • Office of the Attending Physician
  • Office of Compliance and
  • Office of Congressional Accessibility Services.[1]

What do I do first?

You must file a request for counseling with OOC within 180 days of the act of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.  Identifying your claims is critical because only claims specifically listed in the request for counseling may proceed through the EEO process.

The counseling period lasts for 30 days.

What happens after counseling?

After the counseling period, you have 15 days to file a request for mediation with the OOC.   Mediation is a mandatory settlement conference between you and your employer.  During mediation, a mediator will attempt to resolve the complaint.

What do I do if my case doesn’t settle at mediation?  

If you do not reach a settlement at mediation, you may file a lawsuit in federal district court.  You must file a lawsuit no earlier than 30-days after the end of mediation, but no later than 90-days after mediation concludes.  Alternatively, you may file a request for a hearing before a hearing officer at the OOC.

Should I request a hearing or file a lawsuit?

This is an important decision that depends on a variety of factors including the facts of your case, the defense arguments raised at mediation, and general case strategy.  Making this decision requires the expertise of a lawyer who has argued before both hearing officers at the OOC and federal district court judges.

The legislative branch process is very technical and separate from how EEO complaints are processed in the executive branch.  Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you are a legislative employee who has been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

 

[1] Library of Congress (LOC) employees follow a different process.

Age discrimination: A brief guide

age discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, commonly referred to as the ADEA, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are 40 years of age or older. Complaints of age discrimination are extremely prevalent in the federal government. One third of federal employee discrimination complaints include age-based allegations, making age the second most common basis in formal EEO complaints.

What is age discrimination?

Age discrimination can take many forms, including the following:

  • Marine V., et al. v. Social Security Administration:  The Social Security Administration  used a written examination to screen out internal candidates and recruit external hires. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that the exam helped the agency weed out older applicants. Consequently, the EEOC ordered the agency to give the aggrieved employees their jobs.
  • Cook v. Department of Labor:  A 59-year-old human resources employee was subjected to age discrimination when her supervisor asked about her retirement plan, removed her supervisory duties, and made age-based comments. The supervisor’s comments raised an inference of discrimination. For example, the supervisor said, “younger people are coming in and out and they are better with computers.” The EEOC awarded the complainant compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
  • Kruecke v. Department of Veterans Affairs:  The Department of Veterans Affairs fired a 67 year-old nurse for bad performance. However, the agency did not fire a younger employee who had performance issues. The administrative judge (AJ) found that the firing was age discrimination. The EEOC affirmed the AJ’s findings and ordered the agency to pay back pay and train its responsible officials.

How do I file an age discrimination complaint?

Employees may file complaints through the administrative process (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state and local human rights offices); however, this is not necessary. Employees who feel they have been a target of age discrimination may file a complaint directly in federal district court.

Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you feel that your employer made employment decisions based on your age. We offer strategic and results-driven legal services to federal government employees around the world. Call 202-463-6036 to schedule a consultation.

Alexandria employee sues city for violating FMLA

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eastern District reinstated a former employee’s case against the City of Alexandria for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Quintana v. City of Alexandria, No. 16-1630 (4th Cir. filed June 6, 2017).

City of Alexandria fired employee for taking FMLA leave

Monica Quintana was hired by the City of Alexandria in 2011. After one year, the City outsourced its payroll and other duties to Randstad USA, a staffing agency. However, Quintana’s job functions remained the same, and she continued to report to a supervisor who was a City employee.

On or about January 9, 2014, the City granted Quintana’s request for FMLA leave to care for her comatose husband. Quintana told Randstad that she was approved to take three months of FMLA leave. However, on January 17, 2014, the City terminated Quintana’s employment for failing to report to work without notice.

Employee filed lawsuit against City of Alexandria for denying FMLA leave

Quintana filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, naming both Randstad and the City of Alexandria as defendants. In response, the City argued that it was not Quintana’s primary employer, and thus, was not liable for denying Quintana FMLA leave or for retaliating against her for requesting leave. The court accepted this argument and, as a result, dismissed Quintana’s claims against the City.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the decision. The Fourth Circuit ruled that Quintana alleged enough facts to show that the City of Alexandria and Randstad were her employers. Consequently, the court reinstated Quintana’s lawsuit.

If you believe your employer interfered with your rights to take FMLA leave or retaliated against you for requesting FMLA leave, contact us today. Alan Lescht and Associates, offers strategic, results-driven legal services to clients in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia, and to federal employees around the world.

D.C. Public Schools sued over disability discrimination

Employees face discrimination in the workplace for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, an employer may treat a worker differently because of race or national origin. Or, an employee may lose her job due to gender or religious beliefs. In Washington, D.C., and the whole country, some people may not realize that disability discrimination is also against the law. Regrettably, employees with a wide variety of disabilities experience discrimination that can be humiliating and make their job very difficult. Regardless, employees must identify and deal with discrimination immediately.

Former teacher files disability discrimination lawsuit

A woman claims her former employer, D.C. Public Schools, subjected her to disability discrimination. The woman, who used to work for the school system as a teacher, said that she was subjected to discrimination over a disability that she suffered from, which was a long-term health condition. She recently filed a lawsuit against the school system.

The ex-teacher said that the mistreatment has had a significant impact on her from an emotional and even physical standpoint. Moreover, she claims that school staff and administrators discriminated against her. The woman chose to keep her identity private.

Victims of discrimination may feel uneasy going to work and afraid to speak out. However, they deserve a voice and should not think twice about defending their rights. Moreover, employees who decide to take action should know that retaliation is also illegal. Figuring out the best path forward can be tricky, especially when a job is involved. However, turning to an attorney may help.

Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you have been subjected to disability discrimination.

Source: WUSA9, “Former DC teacher sues DCPS for discrimination,” Delia Goncalves, May 4, 2017

National origin discrimination common against immigrant workers

If you moved to the United States for work, or are considering immigrating here, you may have an array of uncertainties, stressors, and concerns. In Washington, DC, and all over the country, there are many opportunities that can help immigrants further their lives. Unfortunately, many immigrants experience national origin discrimination or other types of discrimination in the workplace. It is vital for you to recognize and take action if you ever experience discrimination yourself.

There are many types of national origin discrimination.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employment immigrants may be discriminated against at work in many different ways. For example, an employer may discriminate against a person because of his national origin or his association with people from a certain country. National origin discrimination includes treating employees unfairly because of their citizenship status, ancestry, the way they dress or look, or their accents.

Discrimination rears its head in diverse ways in work spaces all over the nation. Strugging to find a job or losing the job you have throws your life into chaos. If you think your employer treated you differently because of your national origin, you may want to contact an attorney. Employers who discriminate should be held accountable for their actions.

This article was put together for general informational purposes and is not legal advice. Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you believe you have been subjected to national origin discrimination.

EEOC says parental status discrimination is illegal under executive order

father with baby working on computer

Many people are aware of the prevalence of discrimination based on age, race or religious beliefs. However, workers are subjected to many other types of discrimination, such as parental status discrimination. If you think that you have been discriminated against based on your parental status, you should consider your options.

EEOC says Executive Order 13152 prohibits parental status discrimination

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Executive Order 13152 prohibits parental status discrimination. The EEOC does not include parental status discrimination as a covered basis when enforcing discrimination laws. However, this form of discrimination may constitute disability or sex discrimination, depending on what happened. Additionally, it is illegal for the federal government to discriminate against employees and job applicants on the basis of parental status.

If you have children discrimination based on your parental status can be especially troubling. Whether your hours were cut, you were denied a job, or you were fired because of your parental responsibilities, discrimination is financially and emotionally draining. If your employer violated your rights, you can hold your employer accountable.

Remember, this post is not offered as an alternative to legal advice. Contact Alan Lescht and Associates if you think you have been discriminated against because you are a parent.

Sexual harassment: Recognizing signs in the workplace

Sexual harassment is illegal under federal law and under many state and local laws. It is something no worker should ever have to experience. Unfortunately, it happens in workplaces all over the country.

It can be difficult to identify. Victims may feel helpless and embarrassed, and they may question if what they are experiencing is truly sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can take many forms

Let’s take a look at some types of actions and behaviors that may be considered sexual harassment:

  • Repeatedly asking a coworker out on a date
  • Making comments about a colleague’s appearance
  • Inappropriately touching a coworker (rubbing, hugging, patting, purposely rubbing up against, etc.)
  • Sending suggestive emails, instant messages, or text messages to a coworker
  • Displaying pornography or other inappropriate images or videos at work
  • Asking questions about a coworker’s sexual orientation, sexual experience, love live, etc.

Sexual harassment can occur between two colleagues or between a colleague and a superior. In either case, it is illegal.

Employers must take immediate action

As soon as a supervisor becomes aware of sexual harassment, he or she must take immediate action to address the behavior. If a supervisor fails to do so, the employer may be liable.

In some cases, an employer will retaliate against an employee who complains about sexual harassment by demoting or firing him or her. This is illegal.

It is advisable for victims to speak to an attorney who handles workplace harassment cases. Victims should learn about their rights, legal options, and options for seeking compensation.

Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today, if you believe you have been sexually harassed at your job. Your consultation is completely confidential.

Age discrimination: Recognizing signs in the workplace

Age discrimination lawyers

In a perfect world, employees would be hired and evaluated based on their knowledge, skills, and work ethic. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. Discrimination in its many forms can make for a toxic work environment – affecting the victim of discrimination as well as other employees and the workplace as a whole. Age discrimination is one type of workplace discrimination that is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as under many state and local laws. This type of discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee unfairly because of the employee’s age. Unfortunately, age discrimination can be hard to prove, and sometimes it can be hard to recognize.

Common examples of age discrimination

Here are some common examples of age discrimination in the workplace:

  • Promoting a younger, less experienced or less qualified employee
  • Paying older employees less than younger employees for the same job
  • Making jokes or comments about an employee’s age
  • Excluding an employee from certain meetings or activities because of his or her age
  • Suddenly giving an older employee a bad review or scrutinizing his or her work
  • Pressuring an employee to retire (or questioning an employee about retirement plans)
  • Using age-specific words in a job description (for example, “join our young and dynamic team”)

If you suspect that you are experiencing age discrimination, you should speak to an attorney. An attorney from our firm can initiate a full investigation of your case and help you determine a course of legal action.

Remember: Age discrimination is wrong and it is illegal – and victims may be eligible for monetary compensation.

Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you have experienced age discrimination at work. For a free phone consultation, please call 202-463-6036.