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Baton Rouge Employment Law Blog

What is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?

Your workplace may include a diverse population of employees of varying ages and skill levels, or it may contain less than 20 people, all roughly of the same age and skill level. Even though no two employment situations are the same, the same state and federal employment laws apply to all, including those that protect employees who have suffered age discrimination at work. 

Any type of workplace discrimination is unlawful, and there are definite steps you can take to rectify such problems. Going up against your boss or a co-worker can be quite unsettling. The good news is that there are support networks in place that can act alongside you to find a positive solution to your problem.  

Addressing retaliation in the workplace

Suffering from harassment in one's place of work is a mountainous obstacle on its own; experiencing retaliation as a result of reporting harassment can present an entirely new set of issues. Louisiana employees receive protection from harassment of any kind under federal law, but this unfortunately does not stop countless incidents in the workplace. There are a few things to know when addressing these complex situations.

What can employees first do to protect themselves from further harassment? According to NPR, a wise step one can take involves keeping a paper trail of the workplace abuse. Maintaining documents that prove retaliation can make all the difference in a harassment case. Although most incidents involve bosses and employees in authoritative roles, NPR stresses that anyone in the work environment can stoop to this form of harassment. When it comes to retaliation, employees often face exclusion from important meetings, demotions from bosses, undesirable assignments and other forms of unfair treatment. And admist the progress the nation has recently seen in regard to seeking justice in harassment cases, NPR shares that a large majority of managers and others guilty of harassment face no repercussions.

Understanding the family medical leave act

Going through any kind of health issue -- or watching a family member suffer from one -- can be excruciating. First, there are the immediate medical concerns to address, followed by potentially long windows of recovery time. When such a life change happens, employment is a common concern. What can Louisiana employees know to best prepare for time out of work?

Last June, U.S. News provided some important pointers about the Family and Medical Leave Act, starting with a tip about unpaid leave. Some employers mistakenly believe that the allotted 12-month period the FMLA gives to workers is paid; however, this is not the case. Only with an employer's approval can employees use paid leave while on the leave with FMLA. For instance, vacation and sick days could go toward paid FMLA leave. In addition to needing employer approval for leave, workers may need to explain in depth why they may need the time off to begin with. Usually, workers granted this time must deal with ill family members, care for a service member or care for a newborn. 

Pregnancy discrimination and the law

With 40 years behind the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, one might assume women no longer face discrimination while planning to expand a family. Unfortunately, amidst the #MeToo movement and other recent shifts in public attitudes toward harassment in general, a struggle in the workplace nevertheless affects countless female employees. Some Louisiana workers may be unfamiliar with the laws that protect pregnant women, as well as the current outlook of this problem.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines pregnancy discrimination as the unfavorable treatment of a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth or any medical condition related to these stages. As aforementioned, pregnant workers receive protection from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which include the following activities:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Job assignments 
  • Pay
  • Promotions  

School district accused of unfair dismissal

People employed in Louisiana should always feel free to speak up when they believe unethical or even illegal actions are taking place in their work environments. This is true whether they work for private or public entities. Unfortunately, there are times when people experience negative repercussions from taking these steps to highlight wrongs and protect others. 

An example of this may well be playing out now in Lafayette Parish as one woman who formerly worked for the school district in that parish has filed a lawsuit. The woman began her employment in 2016 and was involved in recruiting students to apply for admission to schools known as magnet schools. These schools were said to have selected applicants based on a lottery system to ensure that enrollment decisions were unbiased and fair.

How do I prove retaliation in the workplace?

Employees of Louisiana are not only protected from various forms of discrimination, but they are also protected from retaliation in the workplace that may stem from a discriminatory issue. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, you can file a lawsuit against your employer claiming retaliation if you think you have been the target of retaliatory practices. However, you will need to prove three things: protected activity, action taken against you and causation.

Protected activity includes action under the federal laws that are in effect to prohibit discrimination, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Opposition is one type of protected activity, which occurs when you oppose a specific act that is illegal due to these federal laws, verbalize your opposition or refuse to go along with a discriminatory practice. This can also include taking part in the investigation as a witness. Participation, a second type of protected activity, occurs when you file an official charge with a state agency or participate in any manner in the lawsuit.

Awareness of harassment problem growing

Sexual harassment is not necessarily a term, concept or reality that is foreign to residents in Louisiana yet it would be hard to imagine a time in history when it has been more talked about than now. The same is true of gender discrimination, a closely aligned but separate problem. Whether attributed to the Me Too movement, celebrity revealments or more, it does seem that these things are holding many people's attention today.

For the past 16 years, Louisiana State University has conducted what it calls its Louisiana Survey to measure public opinions on various topics. The 2018 survey has been completed and when looking at the results compared to 2017, there is an overwhelming message that shows more people across the state acknowledge the problems associated with gender discrimination and sexual harassment than even one year ago. These results are consistent across a variety of demographic subgroups including democrats, republicans, men and women. In all groups, more people felt the discrimination and harassment are experienced either by some or a lot of women today than in 2017.

The rundown of pregnancy discrimination

There are enough challenges already involved in bringing a child into the world, but when an employer refuses to assist with the process at work, matters can become serious. Louisiana workers at any stage of pregnancy understand that this life chapter requires a considerable amount of time, dedication and planning. Those who have become victim to an employer's unfair treatment as a result of pregnancy may decide to seek legal action.

Discrimination in the workplace is hardly a small issue in today's world. CNN focused on pregnancy discrimination specifically, stating in a report that, despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, thousands of women face repercussions at work after making the life-changing decision to expand a family. One aspect that may have created complications is in regard to the 2008 amendments made to the Americans with Disabilities Act -- an amendment that required employers to assist pregnant women with conditions qualified as disabilities. Recently, activists across the nation have worked to redefine "disability" in this context in order to better assist pregnant women. Other movements have followed suit, demanding better accommodations for expecting mothers on the job. 

Gay rights and legislative power come to head in battle

While many gay or lesbian people in Louisiana might say that they feel more comfortable being open about their sexual orientation today than they could have several decades ago, that is something of a low bar when it comes to really considering how well their rights are respected. The fact remains that equality may be quite a way off in the eyes of some people in the state. This attempt at equality is something that the state's Governor is said to have been fighting for with an executive order he signed two years ago.

In 2016, the Governor signed an order that make it illegal for anyone to discriminate against state contractors or employees based upon sexual orientation or identity. Since then, the matter has been tangled up in the court system because the Attorney General argued that the Governor went too far with making the order and that he did not have the authority to do so. The case was actually presented to the State Supreme Court who ended up refusing to try the case.

What does a 1963 law have to do with your current workplace?

A law is a law. It doesn't matter if the government enacted a law several decades ago; it remains valid and applicable as time goes on. Lawmakers set regulations in 1963 that still impact your current employment situation. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 governs employers regarding wages and employment provisions. If you're currently facing a wage problem at work and believe your employer is discriminating against you in some fashion, then this law may be a good resource to help you rectify the situation.  

There are also other laws prohibiting all forms of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. While you may be hesitant to take action against such unlawful practices out of fear of retaliation or some other reason, doing so may not only help resolve your current problem, but may help prevent others from suffering similar unfair treatment in the future. The key to rectification often lies in understanding your rights ahead of time and knowing where to turn for support.