Parks Chesin & Walbert | Employment Law
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From Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas to Gretchen Carlson, Roger Ailes: Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone

Mention sexual harassment to anyone of news-viewing age in the 1990s and few names spring to mind faster than Anita Hill or Clarence Thomas. The phrase “sexual harassment” was first coined by journalist and Cornell lecturer, Lin Farley, as a succinct description of the unwelcome, insidious behavior women experienced in male-dominated work environments. However, the phrase – and its meaning – didn’t come to national prominence until 1991 – the year Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court.

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Employment Practices Liability Insurance: What It Is & Why It Matters

Roger Murdoch is probably thankful he has insurance.

Earlier this year, Gretchen Carlson, a former high-profile news anchor on Fox News, sued Roger Ailes and Fox for damages relating to decades of sexual harassment she experienced during her Fox News tenure. Her suit quickly settled for an astonishing $20 million. In the aftermath, many women employed at Fox came forward (and continue to come forward) with stories about a pervasive business culture of both quid pro quo and hostile-work-environment types of harassment within the Fox News corporation.

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The History of Sexual Harassment Claims in the Workplace

It is only in the last 50 years that sexual harassment has become recognized as an obstacle to a safe working environment for all employees. For hundreds of years it was nearly impossible for a woman to successfully bring claims of rape or a lawsuit for damages against an employer who harassed her or demanded sexual favors. The rise of the Women’s Rights Movement in the mid-1800’s brought to light the issue of sexual coercion of working women (particularly servants). However, this generally received less attention than women’s lack of access to property rights, poor working conditions, and societal dependence on men.

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5 of the Most Common Mistakes Employers Make

The employer-employee relationship is a power dynamic that can often involve emotions. When an employee is terminated it is important for cooler heads to prevail in order to avoid litigation. Below, are five common employer mistakes (out of many!) to avoid if you want the separation to go smoothly as possible.

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Sexual Harassment: Blurred Lines

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes workplace sexual harassment illegal. Sexual harassment includes sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other sexual conduct that “explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment”. This includes “quid pro quo” behavior, and any conduct that works to create a hostile work environment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with enforcing Title VII. An investigation will consider the wider picture of the workplace by asking questions like: What is the nature of the sexual advances? What is the context of the workplace?

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Whistleblower Win: Changes That Go Ch-Ching

On a local and national scale, whistleblowers are starting to win.

In August, the U.S. tax court awarded over $17 million to a pair of whistleblowers in a landmark decision that expanded the range of what can be claimed in such cases. For the first time, the tax court’s ruling permitted whistleblowers to get a portion of criminal fines and civil forfeitures in addition to part of the taxes the government recouped because of information they provided. The Wall Street Journal reports that the parties involved in the case weren’t disclosed, but it appears to stem from the prosecution of Wegelin & Co. The Swiss bank closed after it pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers to hide money from the IRS.

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After Orlando: What Georgia Employers Should Know about Gun Laws and How They Could Change

A Mass Shooting Tragedy Claims 49 Lives

On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a U.S.-born-and-raised Afghani, entered an Orlando night club with a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 and killed 49 people while pledging allegiance to ISIL. It is the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001 and the deadliest single-gunman mass shooting in U.S. history. Following the tragedy, the long-standing debate over regulation of gun ownership in the US rages on. Part of the debate over whether gun ownership restrictions would have prevented the Orlando tragedy stems from the fact that Mateen held a valid concealed carry permit and legally purchased the weapons and ammunition he used even though the FBI briefly placed Mateen on a terrorist watch list following his expression of pro-al-Quaeda and pro-ISIS sentiments.

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The Equal Pay Act: What Has It (Really) Achieved?

The first bill President Obama ever signed as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. The law amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It clarified the statute of limitations on bringing a claim of wage discrimination. Before the passing of the law and according to a 2007 Supreme Court case, the statute of limitations began when the wage discrimination began (presumably when a woman started her job). This meant that by the time a woman learned of the wage disparity, the statute of limitations may have already been fulfilled.

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What It Means to be an At-Will State

The default presumption for an employer/employee relationship across the United States is “at-will”. What does “at-will” mean? In an at-will relationship, employment can be terminated at any time and for any reason. This is a two-way street. While the employer can fire an employee at any time, so too can an employee resign his or her employment whenever they choose, without providing any notice or reason. At-will employment can be controversial. On one hand, employees are free to take up employment and leave when they prefer. Employers can dismiss their workers as and how business requires. Yet in a relationship in which only one party (the employer) has the upper hand- the consequences for a vulnerable employee left without a salary or security can be devastating. It is contrary to our sense of decency that careers can simply be taken away on a whim.

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State Employment Discrimination Laws and Georgia

Many employees, and potential employees experience harassment and discrimination based on their gender, disability, race or sexual orientation. Sometimes the behavior is subtle, and sometimes it is overt. Whatever the situation, it is always inexcusable. Federal laws exist to combat discrimination.

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