October 2012

The EEOC recently issued guidance on how an employer’s stereotypical responses to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking could run afoul of the discrimination laws. The guidance, here, gives some examples which, to the savvy employer, may appear obvious examples of inappropriate (and unlawful) stereotyping. However, the guidance is worth the read. Why? A few reasons:

  1. So often, the characteristics that cause us the most challenge are those that we are blind to in ourselves but can so easily see in others. We employment lawyers and HR professionals are no exception. Thus, being reminded of (and challenged to rid) inappropriate stereotypes in our workplaces is never a wasted exercise.
  2. Some of the examples provided in the EEOC guidance can assist the next round of training. An employer would be wise to add some of the examples used in the guidance. This ‘ever-seeking-to-improve’ approach to training serves the important dual purpose of not merely providing more thorough training for legal defense, but most importantly, more thorough training for creating the kind of workplace that is responsive to the ever-changing needs of all employees – in essence, helping to create the kind of workplace where we all would want to work.
  3. Some may claim that this guidance serves as another example of the EEOC’s reaching for greater enforcement and “stretching” Title VII and other discrimination laws. An unbiased read, however, more likely will disclose that the examples do reflect inappropriate stereotypes that employers would be wise to rid from their workplaces.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB, “the Board”) is at it again. In a recent ruling, the Board found an employer’s routine “courtesy” policy violated its employees’ Section 7 rights. Time will tell whether a federal court will agree with the Board and enforce its decision, but employers should take note of the current regulatory environment and the Board’s aggressive view in examining company policies.

In a split 2-1 decision recently issued by the NLRB (Karl Knauz Motors, Inc., 358 NLRB No. 164 (9/28/12)), the Board found that an auto dealership’s maintenance of an employee handbook provision requiring every employee to display “courtesy” toward customers, vendors, suppliers and fellow employees, violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”)1. The majority, consisting of Chairman Mark Pearce and Member Sharon Block, found that the courtesy policy was “overbroad” and interfered with employee rights. They reasoned that employees “. . . would reasonably construe its broad prohibition against ‘disrespectful’ conduct and ‘language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership’” to include protected Section7 activity such as statements objecting to or seeking to improve working conditions. Continue Reading Does Your “Courtesy” Policy Violate the NLRA?