In an article published in the Nashville Business Journal’s Largest Employers special report on July 6, 2018, I provided a column highlighting three important questions for employers to ask as they strive to reduce harassment in the workplace and cultivate a healthy workplace environment. The effectiveness of an anti-harassment policy often comes down to employee perception of how the policy is enforced, trained and embraced by leadership, so it is important that employers are mindful of the answers to these questions:
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Chris Lazarini commented on a case in which a former financial advisor of JPMS claimed his employment was terminated based on racial discrimination. Through application of the three-part burden shifting analysis developed in McDonnell Douglas Corp. V. Green, the court found no evidence of discrimination and upheld the termination due to the financial advisor’s violation of the company’s document integrity policies and not his race.
In an article published in the Spring 2017 edition of Employment Relations Today, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Kimberly Veirs discussed ways employers can avoid retaliation claims in her article “Avoiding Workplace Retaliation: Guidance for Employers.” Workplace retaliation remains the most commonly reported complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by U.S. employees across all industries. Following a slew of these claims and high-profile court cases, the EEOC issued detailed enforcement guidance in August 2016 – its first such guidance since 1998. With workplace retaliation included as one of the commission’s substantive priorities in the Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-2021, the EEOC remains focused on ensuring that employees and job applicants are able to challenge discrimination without fear of retribution.
In an article published by Law360, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett provided insight on the continued increase in employment discrimination lawsuits, which may be due in part to fee-shifting in such lawsuits. Fee-shifting is a mechanism by which a prevailing party in a lawsuit can require the losing party to pay the reasonable attorneys’ fees of the prevailing party. The concept sounds fair, but in employment discrimination cases the only party who benefits from fee-shifting is the employee. Employers are hopeful that a new law recently passed in Ohio will start a new trend to reverse what employers perceive as unfairly one-sided fee-shifting. Time will tell whether a new trend has begun, and the new law at least may spark an interesting public policy debate.
The full article, “A New Fee-Shifting Trend In Employer Discrimination Cases?,” was published by Law360 on April 18, 2017, and is available online.
Additional insights can be found in my earlier blog post on the topic, “Employer Recovery of Fees and Costs in Discrimination Cases – Is There a Trend Starting?,” published on March 31, 2017.
Ohio just passed a new law that could begin a trend favorable to employers. The new law allows Ohio’s Civil Rights Commission, in its discretion, to award attorneys’ fees and costs to employers who are found not to have unlawfully discriminated against an employee. Why is this important?