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Kansas City Missouri Employment Law Blog

Women in supervisory positions face more sexual harassment

Women in Missouri and elsewhere are more likely to be subjected to workplace sexual harassment if they are in supervisory positions, according to a new study. The findings run counter to the long-held assumption that sexual harassment is more related to power than sex.

For the study, researchers at the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University surveyed workers in Sweden, Japan and the United States. Even though the cultures differ among those countries, they found that female supervisors were almost universally more likely to experience sexual harassment than women who were not in supervisory positions. Specifically, they found that female supervisors working in Sweden were 30% more likely to face sexual harassment, those working in the U.S. were 50% more likely to be harassed and those working in Japan were 100% more likely to be subjected to harassment. In addition, the researchers found that the risk of getting sexually harassed went up in all three countries when a female supervisor's subordinates were mostly male.

Airline agrees to settlement in sexual harassment action

A major airline has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. United Airlines will pay $321,000 under the terms of the agreement to dispose of a claim by a flight attendant who alleged a pilot posted sexual photos of her to the internet without consent. Employers operating in Missouri are required to provide employees with a safe working environment, and sexual comments or behaviors might give rise to actionable legal claims.

The posts made by the pilot included the name of the flight attendant along with her home airport and the tagline Fly the Friendly Skies. According to the EEOC complaint, the posts were seen by the flight attendant's coworkers as well as by potential passengers. The complaint alleged that she experienced embarrassment and humiliation and that her work environment was adversely affected by the posts. The EEOC said the company did not correct or prevent the behavior of the pilot, despite the flight attendant complaining about it several times and providing evidence.

Backup evidence can support a pay discrimination claim

Women workers in Missouri continue to deal with pay discrimination on the job, from entry-level positions to high-ranking executive posts. Some cases present clear examples of discriminatory pay, while other instances of discrimination may be more challenging to prove. For example, an employer may pay two workers who have substantially identical duties at different rates of pay, and these rates of pay vary consistently by sex. This may present the classic example of a federal Title VII claim for pay discrimination based on sex. However, it is not the only instance in which such a claim is valid.

In one case before a federal appeals court, a former corporate executive sued her past employer, saying that she received lower pay than other executives at the same level who were male. The court initially dismissed her claim because it said she failed to show that her duties were essentially the same as her male colleagues. At the appeals level, however, the federal court affirmed that additional circumstances may be considered in a sex discrimination case involving pay. Specifically, it noted that the plaintiff showed that male executives were routinely paid at a level above market rate while her own pay was below market rate.

Most workplace sexual violence attributed to nonauthority figures

Both men and women in Missouri might experience sexual harassment in the workplace. One study found that sexual harassment affected 1 in 18 women and 1 in 40 men. Authority figures, like supervisors, managers and owners, were not the only people responsible for harassing employees. Co-workers, customers and clients frequently represent the sources of unwanted sexual verbal harassment, sexual contact or assault. Researchers who surveyed victims asked them whether authority or nonauthority figures had harassed them. Among women, harassers were twice as likely to be nonauthority figures than people with direct power over them at work.

When the researchers collected information from people who has experienced sexual violence, a subset of them had been victims of people from their workplaces. Among respondents to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 5.6% of women and 2.5% of men knew their attackers from work. Roughly 4% of the women said that nonauthority figures had been responsible compared to 2% of women who suffered from mistreatment at the hands of authority figures. Among men, 2% of them received unwanted attention from nonauthority figures compared to the 0.6% of men who attributed their harassment to authority figures.

Uber settles sexual harassment claim for $4.4 million

Many people in Missouri use Uber ridesharing for their transportation needs. In 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Uber for sex discrimination and retaliation. After the EEOC conducted an investigation into the allegations, Uber agreed to a settlement with a $4.4 million fine. Money from the settlement will be dispersed among Uber drivers who have experienced sexual harassment or retaliation from Jan. 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019.

The EEOC investigation was conducted after reports surfaced about the Uber work environment while Travis Kalanick was acting as CEO. According to the findings from the investigation, Uber allowed a culture of sexual harassment to foster. Investigators also found evidence that individuals at Uber who had complained about sexual harassment were retaliated against.

DOL says Fashion Nova owes factory workers millions in back pay

People in Missouri following fashion influencers on Instagram have likely heard about Fashion Nova. The clothing brand styles its clothing as affordable and sexy for real women, but an investigation of the company by the U.S. Department of Labor has found widespread wage and hour law violations. The factory workers making the clothing in Los Angeles reportedly receive very low pay, such as $270 for a 60-hour work week. Some people only earn wages that total $2.77 to $3.46 an hour.

According to DOL investigators, hundreds of factory workers have been shorted on their pay. Federal regulators estimated that Fashion Nova owed $3.8 million in back pay. General counsel for the company said that Fashion Nova was committed to paying workers properly and denied completely that the company had underpaid workers.

Sexual harassment case filed by male Chipotle worker is settled

Despite increased attention paid to people who have been victimized by sexual harassment at work in Kansas City and across the nation, these behaviors still happen with a troubling frequency. There are many ways in which people can be confronted with inappropriate attention, lewd comments, unwanted sexual advances and more. In some cases, the victim seeks compensation in a legal filing, and the evidence leads to a settlement.

A worker at Chipotle who claimed to have been sexually harassed reached a settlement with the company. According to the male employee, 22, his female boss committed a variety of acts including talking about her sexual activities, having a detailed description of the sex lives of the restaurant staff, her saying she wanted to perform sexual acts on him and more. In addition, she reportedly touched him inappropriately.

Harassment victims may have to work with toxic colleagues

Missouri employees and others who have been harassed while on the job may face the prospect of sharing a workplace with their abusers. Generally speaking, an employer can fulfill its obligation to a harassment victim without terminating the perpetrator. In many cases, harassment cases are resolved through arbitration, which means that a victim can't pursue a matter in court. A study found that 48% of arbitration cases were fully or partially overturned on appeal.

It also found that 41% of those who were terminated after an arbitration hearing had their punishment reduced to a suspension upon appeal. That study analyzed workplace arbitration cases from 2008 to 2018 and was published in the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal. Those who are required to work with colleagues who have harassed them may have ways to protect themselves while on the job.

Lawsuit against McDonald's cites 'culture of sexual harassment'

McDonald's restaurants are a common sight across Missouri, but the corporation and its franchisees have come under increasing scrutiny for allegations of widespread sexual harassment. Attorneys representing female workers at an out-of-state franchise are seeking class-action status for a case that might include over 50 former female employees at the franchise. The lawsuit wants the franchise owner to pay $5 million in damages.

Although the lawsuit concerns the franchise operator, the lead plaintiff believes that the entire corporation tolerates a toxic workplace culture from the top down. The CEO of McDonald's recently had to step down after violating company policy by dating a co-worker. The plaintiff's complaints about sexual harassment at the franchise level were ignored according to her court filings. She, along with other women at the restaurant, reported abuses to the general manager, who allegedly did nothing because the store manager continued to touch the plaintiff, call her names and solicit sex. The lawsuit details an incident in which he allegedly put his penis in her hand while working alongside the woman in the kitchen.

Disney fights class action certification in wage and hour case

The plaintiffs in employment class actions in Missouri and around the country are sometimes awarded damages that run into the tens of millions of dollars. This type of legal action occurs when several workers with identical claims against their employer elect to join together and file a single lawsuit. Class actions allow plaintiffs to share their legal expenses, and they also put more pressure on employers to settle. However, a judge must review the case and certify the class action before litigation can begin.

Judges will generally only grant such certification if the legal claim involved applies to all of the members of the class. Establishing this is sometimes difficult as employers often contest class action certifications vigorously. These are the arguments currently being made in California in a case involving a group of Walt Disney Company workers who accuse their longtime employer of violating the California Fair Pay Act. The case was originally filed by three Disney employees on April 3, but the number of plaintiffs has now grown to 10.

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