As state and local economies reopen, employers across the country are cautiously welcoming employees back to their jobs, fearing a resurgence of the COVID-19 outbreak. For returning workers, the workplace will be different from before, including the extent to which their privacy will be protected, especially medical and health information.
In recent weeks, the White House released guidelines for reopening the nation's economy, largely punting to state and local officials to assess whether they are sufficiently prepared to stay ahead of the COVID-19 spread and when to reopen non-essential businesses. In anticipation of bringing employees back to the workplace, the administration has also instructed employers to "develop and implement appropriate policies" to keep workers and patrons safe from contagion. That may be easier said than done.
As the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis continues, many companies have arranged for significant portions of their workforce to perform their jobs remotely. The physical delineation between work and home has been blurred, and videoconferencing tools to virtually connect with coworkers and clients are a fact of work and home life. Unfortunately, giving managers and colleagues glimpses into your private world, images, messages, and even people in the background can lead to discrimination, harassment, and adverse treatment.
Much has been asked of the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Executives & Professionals Practice Group is proud to represent several of them, and we owe all the frontline heroes and first responders our deepest gratitude - especially when hospitals that are short on staff and protective gear assign them new job duties to address patient needs. The irony is that when healthcare workers are deployed and redeployed where they are needed most, employers may limit those workers' rights and the ability to safeguard their health and their family members' well-being .
The laws in New York and elsewhere throughout the country have come a long way in recent years when it comes to protecting job applicants from employment discrimination based on criminal history. "Ban the box" laws and ordinances facilitate opportunities for tens of thousands of workers who used to pay an ongoing price for transgressions that they paid for long ago.
The Seventh Circuit's opinion contains useful guidance for employees suffering disability discrimination and harassment. One key takeaway: plaintiffs should not be quick to assume - in charging, pleading and proving a hostile-work-environment claim - that harassment always constitutes one continuing violation. "[A] substantial passage of time without incident known to the employer, a change in the employee's supervisors, [or] an intervening remedial action by the employer" may break the chain.
Over the last decade, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has received an average of 3,573 charges of religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Those are just the reported incidents; many more are suspected of going unreported, further highlighting the prevalence of religious-based discrimination in workplaces across the country.
Science fiction movies and sensational headlines warn us that artificial intelligence (AI) is going to make our jobs obsolete, widen the chasm between the very rich and the barely-surviving poor, and even develop superior consciousness. Far-fetched fantasies aside, many of AI's applications pose some very real threats to the modern workplace.
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.