By Mikael Rojas and Maria Malaver
Being the subject of malicious gossip or innuendo in the workplace can sabotage your relationships with coworkers and impede your career prospects. But can this behavior actually rise to the level of a hostile work environment under the law and provide the basis for a sexual harassment claim? According to several cases from around the country, the answer is yes - if adequately supported, evidence of rumors, innuendo, and gossip can demonstrate actionable gender-based discrimination.
"U.S.A.! Equal Pay! Equal Pay!" These chants from the crowd after the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (USWNT) won the World Cup became the rallying cry behind its ongoing efforts to obtain pay equity for female athletes. Following the team's second straight international championship, and fourth overall, the players returned home to increased national recognition of both their sport and their struggle. Now that the women's team and the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) failed to resolve their pay dispute in mediation, they are now preparing their cases for the courtroom while making their respective cases in the court of public opinion.
As the #MeToo movement sweeps through popular culture, unseating powerhouses in industries from entertainment to politics to academia, the financial industry has been remarkably quiet. On Wall Street, complaints of sexism, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment have simmered for years, but there have been no significant personalities removed from their positions or otherwise dethroned from power.
From the schoolyard to the workplace, bullying is an epidemic. Because mistreatment and abuse of employees can result in legal action and liability, one would think lawyers and law firms would be vigilant in stopping or preventing bullying in their offices. Surveys of workers in the legal profession show otherwise.
Many immigrants in the U.S. who are not on the path to citizenship, particularly those previously protected by the DACA program, still pursue the American dream of a college education and buying their own home and car along with other major purchases.
Each year, before the teams draft new talent for the following fall season, the NFL organizes its Scouting Combine, a multi-day evaluation and audition process for the most promising football players. Hundreds of hopeful athletes compete to improve their chances to be drafted into a professional football career. Like every other job interview, this one takes guts, stamina, and talent, and a player's personality factors into hiring decisions.
Given recent headlines about Uber and Google, it might be tempting to assume that tech is the only sector still facing stubborn problems with gender discrimination, hostile work environments, and sexual harassment. That certainly isn't the case, and one only has to look at the financial services industry to see that the issue is very prevalent in many other workplaces.
New York City's Commission on Human Rights saw a staggering 60 percent jump in discrimination and harassment complaints in 2016. In 2017, complaints are up an addition al 30% so far this year. Of these complaints, approximately 40 percent are reports of discrimination or harassment based on a person's race, religion, national origin and immigration status. The Commission says it has nearly doubled its investigations into that category of complaints in the past two years.
By now, we are all aware of former Google employee James Damore's internally published manifesto complaining of a company culture of shaming that suppresses legitimate discussion about discrimination against women working in technology.