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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Dec. 17 - 23, 2017

Below is a review of the posts (on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week. You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

In the post on Sunday 12/17/17 we noted racism is not necessarily employer's fault even if incident occurs on its premises. Read the post.

TAKEAWAY: There must be an actual nexus between the alleged discrimination and the employer's (in)action. Mere coincidence won't be enough.

The post on Monday 12/18/17 asked: What is a condo (or home in another planned community)? Know your rights and obligations. These types of homes come with legal documents that govern what you can and cannot do in and around (and sometimes on or in) your home, so make sure you read them and understand them before buying. And you pay for certain things, whether or not you want or need them. The post gives some examples of these and other categories.

TAKEAWAY: If you are thinking about purchasing a home that is in a community with a homeowners' association, make sure you understand the Governing Documents. Take them to an attorney.

In the post on Tuesday 12/19/17 we learned that employee told to "go back to Poland" suffered direct race discrimination (and noted this would probably play out the same here). The plaintiff alleged his colleague subjected him to many discriminatory behaviors, including his annual leave being denied unless he gave the colleague a bottle of vodka (and more in the post). The court said none of those was sufficient proof of discrimination under the facts before it, but it did find discrimination in one comment. The employee asked to work a shift with his daughter so he could safely walk her home after. The post contains the colleague's response and set up the company for liability.

TAKEAWAY: In the right circumstances, a single comment can lead to liability for discrimination Train your employees.

The post on Wednesday 12/20/17 told us that failing to address harassment allegations can cost employers (financially and in the court of public opinion). The first example in the post is when a complainant brought a response "Oh, no, not again". Not good. There are other examples in the post.

TAKEAWAY: If you receive an allegation of harassment, don't stick your head in the sand and hope it will go away – or automatically assume it is not well-founded. Investigate. And take action as warranted.

In the post on Thursday 12/21/17 we talked about he said / she said: pronoun use and the evolving landscape of transgender rights in the workplace. In other words, addressing someone using the wrong pronoun can subject your company to liability for sex discrimination or harassment. The post gives examples of some laws and cases Even the EEOC has guidance on this – see the post. Of course, the DOJ has now asserted that Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and so is at odds with the EEOC. Until a court decides this finally, employers should look carefully at the areas identified in the post to stay out of hot water.

TAKEAWAY: Make it easy on yourself – refer to your employees how they ask to be referred to. Simple.

The post on Friday 12/22/17 noted a former Penn State employee sued for more than $150,000 for age discrimination. Tracey was hired by PSU in 1985 and was promoted over her 31 years of employment. She was fired in 2017. She alleged it was based on age (not performance). A mere 8 days after papers showed how much she would get at retirement, the retirement program was changed. The post has the details. PSU denies any wrongdoing.

TAKEAWAY: If you are going to take adverse action against an employee, make sure it is for a valid reason and not one that you come up with after the fact.

Finally, in the post yesterday 12/23/17 we noted a move affecting income might be retaliation. Loose lips … You know. Leonard was a statistics professor, black and from Nigeria. He uses a textbook he wrote in his class, thus earning additional income. He filed many complaints over the years about being underpaid. Finally management agreed. But … see what happened next in the post. Aargh. And the court let his newest suit go forward.

TAKEAWAY: It's bad enough to discriminate against an employee. But you can almost bet that if it hits their pocketbook, they will file a charge or sue (thus hitting your pocketbook).

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