John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Minneapolis Wrongful Termination Law Blog

Understand your options after suffering from sexual harassment

Several of our most recent posts here have focused on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. The reasoning for this intense focus should be evident to our readers: this issue is roiling workplaces throughout the country, from Hollywood to New York City. It seems that every day now there is a new story in the news about a prominent celebrity, business executive or news anchor being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace.

Why is this seeming wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations sweeping through the country? Well, there are many potential reasons, but one reason may be that, with increased focus and news media attention on the issue, victims of sexual harassment may be beginning to understand that they don't have to sit there and take this abuse - they have options.

What should the consequences be for workplace sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment has been occurring in workplaces in Minnesota and throughout the country for a long time, but now it seems this topic is getting much-needed attention in the daily news cycle, both locally and nationwide. High-powered executives, movie producers and even politicians are facing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. Now that these allegations are out in the public light, the next issue needs to be addressed: What should the consequences be for individuals who engage in workplace sexual harassment?

A recent article explored this topic, noting that many well-known individuals are facing sexual harassment allegations. In essence, the article broke the consequences down into two areas: legal and cultural.

Examining the bar to meet for sexual harassment claims

Recent posts here have commented on the current state of discussion regarding sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, not to mention the significantly increased news coverage that our readers are likely seeing on a daily basis. It seems that this issue is finally getting the attention that is needed to make some changes in workplaces in Minnesota and across the country. Unfortunately, it may take the law some additional time to properly recognize the degree of sexual harassment that can make an employee feel victimized.

Some people are of the opinion that the bar to meet when labeling offensive conduct sexual harassment is too high, as the law is currently written. From previous posts here, our readers know that there are several state and federal laws that protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. But, is the bar to meet on these types of claims too high?

What is "ERISA" and why does it matter for employee rights?

Most employees in Minnesota go to work every day just to do their jobs - do them well - and then go home to their families. They don't usually think about the many different laws that are in place to protect employees and their rights. Previous posts here have mentioned many of these laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the laws that protect employees from various forms of discrimination. But, there is one law that many people aren't familiar with: the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly known as "ERISA."

What is ERISA and why does it matter for employee rights in Minnesota? Well, ERISA is a fairly broad law dealing with healthcare plans and pension plans that employers offer in the private sector. ERISA sets minimum standards for these plans, protecting employees who are part of the plans.

Allegations claim race discrimination is occurring at CNN

Many of our readers in Minnesota have probably seen the many different reports concerning allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination taking place at Fox News, one of the cable news giants in America. However, a recent report suggests that Fox News isn't the only media company with an employment discrimination problem on its hands.

According to a recent report, CNN, one of the other cable news giants -- and a competitor of Fox News -- is reportedly facing allegations of race discrimination in the workplace. The report states that the allegations are similar to previous allegations that were filed in a lawsuit against CNN that was dismissed. This time, the report indicates that the allegations will be filed against CNN as a class action lawsuit.

Fighting back against whistleblower retaliation

It can be hard for some Minnesota residents to imagine the difficulty that employees face when they discover that their employer has engaged in illegal actions. For some employees, there is a strong loyalty to their employer, and they may feel like they shouldn't take action. However, for those employees who know that they need to do the right thing and report the illegal activity, they should take some comfort in the fact that there are laws in place that provide whistleblower protection.

In particular, employees who are whistleblowers are protected from retaliation from the employer. That means that employees who report the illegal conduct of an employer cannot be wrongfully discharged from their employment for taking action.

Latinos commonly face employment discrimination

Discrimination in the Minneapolis workplace has been in the national news headlines quite a bit recently, due to the sexual harassment and abuse allegations that seem to be flooding out of Hollywood lately. Any type of discrimination should not be tolerated in the workplace. While that includes sex discrimination on movie sets and elsewhere, it also includes many other types of discrimination, including discrimination based on race.

Unfortunately, according to one report, one out of every three Latinos questioned for a recent survey stated that they have experienced some type of discrimination based on their race or ethnicity. The survey, conducted in part by researchers at Harvard University, also asked the same question of most other races and ethnicities.

How to tell if you are facing age discrimination in the workplace

"Respect your elders" is a phrase that most people in Minnesota are familiar with. And, for the most part, people follow this age-old advice. But, as with most things, there can be instances when people don't live up to the standards that society sets. In the workplace, if someone is discriminated against due to their age, it could result in an employment discrimination lawsuit.

But, how do you know if you are being discriminated against due to your age? After all, many forms of discrimination are subtle, and those who are engaging in this type of illegal behavior don't want to be caught. For instance, in some cases of age discrimination, a qualified employee might be bypassed for a promotion, instead seeing a younger employee take the spot. Perhaps management will justify the slight on grounds other than age, but sometimes that alternative explanation just doesn't add up.

What are your options when disability discrimination occurs?

Living with a disability can be tough, even in today's society that has made huge strides in keeping the "playing field" level for those who have disabilities. Despite the challenges they face, many people who have a disability are able to maintain employment and support themselves. And, for the most part, many employers are happy to accommodate disabled employees, if they have the right skills for the job. But, what happens when a Minnesota resident faces disability discrimination in the workplace? What are the options?

First, it is important to recognize what type of discrimination the victim is dealing with. In some cases, the discrimination comes in the form of verbal harassment from supervisors or co-workers. If these types of insults and comments continue and are not addressed, it could constitute a hostile work environment for the employee. In other cases, an employer may not allow a disabled employee the time off of work that might be needed for medical treatment or other doctor appointments. Then, in some other cases, an employer may not make the "reasonable accommodations" for the disabled employee that are mandated by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Protect your legal rights when sexual harassment occurs

Sexual harassment has been in the news quite a bit lately. It seems that the revelations about one particular Hollywood movie producer's behavior have opened the floodgates for allegations of sexual harassment - and even assault - from the movie and television stars whose work we all enjoy. The news makes it apparent that the workplace for those on the West Coast can be a hostile environment.

But, as far away as this recent issue in the news may seem for Minnesota residents, our readers should understand that those types of scenarios are not completely out of the realm of possibility right here in our own workplaces. Sexually explicit materials in the workplace, lewd comments and unwanted sexual advances can occur just as easily in a Minnesota workplace as a Hollywood workplace. And victims here in Minnesota can face the same range of issues when it comes to sexual harassment: demotions, lost wages and even termination from employment.

Defending the Civil Rights of Vulnerable People

When employers discriminate or allow harassment and retaliation to take place or continue, we are dedicated to holding them accountable for their unlawful actions.

John A. Klassen, PA
Attorneys at Law
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