A reminder from the Fifth Circuit: a shift transfer can be a materially adverse action for retaliation purposes. "[A] retaliatory shift change that places a substantial burden on the plaintiff, such as significant interference with outside responsibilities or drastically and objectively less desirable hours, can dissuade an employee from reporting discrimination."
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.
Here's a valuable case for employees suffering harassment (and lawyers who bring such cases). The First Circuit reverses summary judgment for age-based and retaliatory hostile work environment, holding that the district court put the plaintiff to an impossible standard of specificity to prove individual incidents of harassment. It also holds that repeated threats of termination can constitute constructive discharge.
The Fourth Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation case, where the plaintiff's direct boss allegedly declared that she "wanted someone of a different race" in the job, then proceeded to subject her to "constant surveillance, badgering, and criticism." When the plaintiff "told the City that she intended to file a formal grievance" about the hostile work environment, the defendant fired the plaintiff the very next day.
The First Circuit affirms a $2.6 million judgment for race discrimination against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, where the jury was presented with direct evidence involving "[t]hree of the MBTA's supervisory staff who either concurred in [plaintiff]'s dismissal or were involved in the investigation of the January 25th altercation, had demonstrated racial animus towards her."
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.
In the First Circuit, a woman lieutenant successfully defends a Title VII award of $545,000 for front pay and $161,000 for emotional damages. The exhaustive 60-page opinion addresses the admissibility of harassment outside of the workplace, application of the sex-plus theory where the "plus" factor is sexual orientation, and the degree of proof necessary for front-pay relief.
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.