FAQs about Sexual Harassment and How to Protect Yourself

What is sexual harassment?

Employees are protected from unwanted sexual attention in the workplace under federal law, Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, and many state and local laws. Employees protected under the federal law must work at a facility that employs 15 or more employees, and covered employers include private and public sector employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and federal, state, and local governments.

The critical standard to determine if you have been or are being sexually harassed is if the conduct in question is unwelcome. Even if you participated in conduct of a sexual nature actively, if the victim feels the conduct to be offensive or objectionable, it is likely unwelcome behavior.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following in the workplace or related to the workplace:

1. Unwelcome sexual advances; and/or
2. Request(s) for sexual favors; and/or
3. Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature is considered sexual harassment when it affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work product or performance; and/or
4. Jokes or comments of a sexual nature that are unwelcome; and/or
5. Conduct of a sexual nature that creates or contributes to an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an acting agent of the employer, a co-worker or supervisor from another work area or department, or even a non-employee. Sexual harassment is not determined by the gender of the victim or the harasser; the harasser may be the same sex as the victim.

What action should I take if I feel I am being sexually harassed?

First, an employee who feels they are a victim of sexual harassment should document each encounter and any subsequent incident which follows. Text messages, e-mail, notes, voicemail documenting the conduct should be saved along with any hand written or typed notes regarding the victim’s experience with the harasser.

Next, reach out for help. Speak to an attorney prior to investigating and reporting according to company policy with regard to sexual harassment, especially if there is concern about internal retaliation against the victim for reporting the harassment.

You may even have a claim, despite the fact that you might not be the intended victim of the harassment. All employees are protected under the law from offensive conduct related to sexual harassment.

I left my old job due to sexual harassment. Is it too late to take legal action?

You have a finite amount of time to file a claim with your state or city’s reporting agency. The statute of limitations varies from state to state, and your city may even have an ordinance specific to your harassment claim. Contact an attorney for legal advice and guidance into filing your claims to better understand your rights and if you can still take legal action against your harasser.

I’m worried my employer will retaliate against me for filing a sexual harassment claim. What can I do to protect myself?

Once an employee reports sexual harassment to an employer, whether the harasser is employed with the company or not, the employer must take steps to address the victim’s concerns. Further, it is in violation of the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for rejecting and/ or reporting sexual misconduct. If an employee reports harassment and the employer takes action against the reporting employee, the employee may have a legal claim for retaliation. An employer who knows sexual harassment is taking place and takes no action to prevent further harassment or retaliation, may be held legally responsible.

If you feel like you have been subjected to unwanted attention of a sexual nature, speak to an attorney to better understand your rights. He or she can help you to determine if you have a claim and a right to legal protection. Neil Henrichsen is an AV Rated attorney, the highest rating by one of the nation’s oldest attorney rating companies. Contact Neil Henrichsen at nhenrichsen@hslawyers.com

Non-compete Agreements Have Potential to Hurt and Trap Employees

Non-compete agreements have become more common to lock in employees from working with competitors.  Traditionally non-compete agreements were used for senior executives, inventors and highly paid employees, but recently non-compete agreements have become more widespread among American workers.

Enforcement of these agreements has led to legal battles that substantially impact employees, depleting savings and forcing some to take low-skilled jobs, since they could no longer work in their profession.   Non-compete lawsuits by employers against employees have tripled since 2000.

Non-compete agreements have negative effects on the economy.  Skilled workers may leave states that allow vigorous enforcement of non-compete agreements, creating brain drain from those states and subsequently making it more difficult for those states to prosper.  Wages are lower in states that allow businesses to strictly enforce non-compete agreements.  Companies know in certain states employees can’t leave their positions, due to these agreements.   Since employees are trapped in these positions, employers are less likely to award bonuses, raises, and other compensation increases or incentives.  Lack of competition is encouraged by these restrictions and certainly make it harder for employees to get ahead.

Many workers are not aware that they are subject to non-compete agreements as they are often hidden among many documents one signs when hired.  Even if workers are aware of the agreements they might need a job and have no choice but to sign.  The non-compete agreements are typically introduced when employees are brand new and lack negotiating leverage.  Make sure you read all agreements with your employer carefully before signing and know that you have a choice.

Henrichsen Siegel has decades of experience in representing employees and their rights.  If you feel that you may be trapped by a non-compete agreement, please contact us here.

To read more on non-compete agreements.

In the News

Mr. Henrichsen made a recent appearance on News 4 Jax’s This Week In Jacksonville.

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See the May 14th, 2017 appearance here.

VIOLATION OF THE FAIR HOUSING ACT-Supreme Court Ruling of Bank of America and Wells Fargo in Violation of the Fair Housing Act

The City of Miami filed suit against Bank of America and Wells Fargo alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings and in other housing-related transactions.  The City charged that the Banks intentionally targeted African-American and Latino neighborhoods and residents.  They started lending to minority borrowers on worse terms than equally creditworthy non-minority borrowers and then failed to extend re-financing and loan modification to minority borrowers on fair terms.

The City alleged that these actions led to a disproportionate number for foreclosures and vacancies in minority neighborhoods.  This disproportion impaired the City’s effort to assure racial integration, diminished the City’s property tax revenue, and increased demand for police, fire, and other municipal services.  The Supreme Court held that the City of Miami is an aggrieved person authorized to bring suit under the Fair Housing Act. Holding that a city can sue banks that engage in predatory lending practices that increase segregation.

Henrichsen Siegel handles discrimination claims, including discrimination involving housing under local, state and federal laws, including the Fair Housing Act.  If you feel that you may have been discriminated against in housing practices, please contact us here.

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Contingency Fee Business Cases (No Attorneys’ Fees Paid Unless You Prevail)

For many years, the legal profession has charged businesses hourly fees for business dispute litigation where the law firm is paid win or lose.   However, results oriented contingency or hybrid attorney fee arrangements allow the pursuit of business claims for companies or individuals that may not have the budget for hourly representation.  Henrichsen Siegel, P.L.L.C.  has represented small businesses to Fortune 500 companies as plaintiffs in commercial cases, including claims involving business torts, commercial fraud, negligence, accountant and other professional malpractice, banking and other commercial claims in courts and alternative dispute resolution forums throughout the United States.

What You Should Know About Contingency Fees

  • A contingency fee means that your company pays no fees unless your case is won or obtains a recovery.
  • Attorneys will work on your behalf and pursue compensation for your claims in exchange for a portion of the recovery, and if provided for by law or contract, will seek the attorneys’ fees from the opposing party.
  • Through contingency fees your business is able to level the playing field against larger opponents.
  • You are able to seek what is due your company with no upfront cost for attorneys’ fees.

Henrichsen Siegel, P.L.L.C. reviews cases for contingency representation and provides a free consultation for business dispute cases.  Henrichsen Siegel attorneys are licensed in Washington, DC, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, with offices in Washington, DC, Jacksonville, FL, Miami, FL and New York, NY.  Contact Neil L. Henrichsen regarding your company’s specific situation at nhenrichsen@hslawyers.com.

 

The Mask of Corporate Procedures for Sex Discrimination

Many employees call company hotlines to report problems anonymously.  Many companies have hotlines that work well and guarantee anonymity.  They can be a useful tool for Human Resources but a question arises of what is done with the information once it’s provided to the people inside.  The attorney who represented Gretchen Carlson in her sex harassment lawsuit against Fox News, was quoted as saying that making use of the hotline also introduces the risk that an employer can gather valuable information before an employee has attorney representation.

It has been reported in the media that Sterling Jewelers has had several complaints of women calling their TIPS hotline to report sexual harassment and then being chastised by a human resources associate before then being fired a couple weeks later.  On February 26th, the statements of hundreds of former employees of Sterling Jewelers were released.  The statements are part of a class-action case that includes 69,000 current or former employees accusing Sterling of pay discrimination against women.  Many women in the class-action suit described situations where people got promotions for being friends with the boss or even sleeping with the boss, but not because of job postings.  They argued that the lack of promotions helped contribute to lower wages for women.  It is alleged that Sterling managed the promotions by a “tap on the shoulder” policy where managers picked the people they liked rather than publicly posting job openings.   Although the company has denied any wrong-doing, the 1,300 pages of documents provided in the case give insight into how some widely used corporate procedures can hide problems that women often face in the workplace.  The potential for retaliation that arises with the hotline is an example of this.

Another corporate procedure that may mask the problems women face is a “no-suing” policy.  Since 1998, it was reported that all employees at Sterling have had to agree that they will never sue the company.  They have an internal dispute system that can escalate to an arbitration hearing, which is where the class-action case is currently.  The good thing about the internal dispute system is that a lot of problems get solved but if the disputes become legal claims, employees who used the in-house program can be at a disadvantage.  Employers fight hard when employees have tried to bypass the in-house Resolve rules and file claims in court.  In 2004, a female employee of Sterling claimed that she had witnessed the rape of her roommate by a Sterling manager at an annual resort outing sponsored by Sterling.  They fired the man, who pleaded no contest to sexual battery, but the employee who brought the claim said the company set out to investigate, intimidate and discredit her and the assault victim after the company got notice that the victim might sue the firm.  They then fired her saying she withheld information in the investigation of the rape case.  She then sued Sterling, accusing them of wrongful termination, retaliation and invasion of privacy.

Wages should be based upon skill, performance, and merit, not gender.  Gender harassment is illegal and not acceptable in the workplace.  If you feel that you are being paid less for accomplishing the same work product as your male counterpart or sexually harassed at your job, you might have legal recourse.  Speak to an attorney to find out how you might be protected and to help you file a charge with the appropriate reporting agencies. Our attorneys are experienced at litigating employment law claims, as well as representing employees in the administrative processes through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as well as state and local government human rights commissions in both the private and federal sector, and state and local equal employment commission and merit system boards. Henrichsen Siegel has decades of experience in employment discrimination law.  If you feel you have been discriminated against contact us through our website’s submission form.

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St. Jude Medical Defibrillators Recall

Why is there a recall?

St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD) and Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Defibrillators (CRT-Ds)  provide pacing for slow heart rhythms, and electrical shock or pacing to stop dangerously fast heart rhythms.  They are implanted in the upper chest are with connecting wires called leads that go into the heart.

Some devices manufactured prior to May 23, 2015 contain batteries which could run out of energy earlier than expected i.e. premature battery depletion.

FDA and St. Jude Medical are alerting patients, patient-caregivers and physicians to respond immediately to ERI alerts.  Due to problems with these batteries, patients don’t have the normal 3-month lead time for device replacement.  Some batteries have run out within 24 hours of the patient receiving an ERI alert (an alert warning that the battery will need to be replaced soon).  If the battery runs out the ICD or CRT-D will be unable to deliver life-saving pacing or shocks, which could lead to patient death.

As of March 2017, the worldwide experience for the affected devices that were returned for product analysis due to premature battery depletion are: 40 people reported dizziness, 11 people fainted, 1 person had an emergency loss of defibrillation, and 2 people died.

What devices does the recall affect?

The recall affects the Fortify, Unify and Assura ICD CRT-D devices manufactured between January 2010 and May 2015.  The devices were distributed between February 2010 and October 2016.

On the St. Jude Medical website one can put in their device’s model # and serial # to see if they are subject to the advisory.

The following devices have been affected:

  • Fortify VR: Model No(s). CD1231-40, CD1231-40Q
  • Fortify ST VR: Model No(s). CD1241-40, CD1241-40Q
  • Fortify Assura VR: Model No(s). CD1257-40, CD1257-40Q, CD1357-40C, CD1357-40Q
  • Fortify Assura ST VR: Model No(s). CD1263-40, CD1263-40Q, CD1363-40C, CD1363-40Q
  • Fortify DR: Model No(s). CD2231-40, CD2231-40Q.
  • Fortify ST DR: Model No(s). CD2241-40, CD-2241-40Q, CD2263-40, CD2263-40Q
  • Fortify Assura DR: Model No(s). CD2257-40, CD2257-40Q, CD2357-40C, CD2357-40Q
  • Fortify Assura ST DR: Model No(s). CD2363-40C, CD2363-40Q
  • Unify: Model No(s). CD3231-40, CD3231-40Q
  • Unify Quadra: Model No(s). CD3249-40, CD3249-40Q
  • Unify Assura: Model No(s). CD3257-40, CD3257-40Q, CD3357-40C, CD3357-40Q
  • Quadra Assura: Model No(s). CD3265-40, CD3265-40Q, CD3365-40C, CD3365-40Q
  • Quadra Assura MP: Model No(s). CD3269-40, CD3269-40Q, CD3369-40C

If you or a loved one has been the victim of an injury from using a product or have been misled or deceived about a product or service, contact the law firm of Henrichsen Siegel, P.L.L.C. right away to find out your legal rights as a consumer.

 

 

JP Morgan Chase Settles for $55 Million on Charges of Discriminatory Mortgage Practices

On January 18, 2017, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a lawsuit against J.P. Morgan Chase with claims that the bank had engaged in discriminatory mortgage practices from 2006 to 2009.  These discriminatory practices occurred when brokers charged African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher rates for mortgages than white borrowers with similar credit profiles.  It is estimated that the disparities in loan terms may have resulted in around 53,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers being charged tens of millions of dollars more than white borrowers.

The U.S. Attorney found that J.P. Morgan Chase allowed mortgage brokers to vary the interest rate they charged customers based on factors other than creditworthiness.  Brokers make more money when the rate on a loan is higher than the rate designated by the bank based on creditworthiness.  The discretion given to brokers, in the case of JP Morgan Chase, resulted in higher rates being charged based on the basis of race and ethnicity, breaking federal discrimination laws.  Although the brokers were the ones giving the higher rates, JP Morgan Chase had the legal responsibility to determine if pricing discretion was being used in a way that violated the law.  JP Morgan Chase’s failure to adequately monitor the practices of the brokers and to prevent or fix practices that resulted in racial and ethnic discrimination, violates the Federal Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.  Through J.P. Morgan Chase denies allegations of wrongdoing, they have agreed to pay $55 million to settle the claims.

 

EEOC Released a New Question & Answer Guide on National Origin Discrimination

National origin discrimination is defined by the EEOC as “Treating people unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not)”.  National origin discrimination is covered under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC has released a new question and answer guide on national origin discrimination.  It was designed to help the public interpret anti-discrimination law.  The guide provides a description of national origin discrimination, gives employers guidelines for avoiding discrimination and gives examples of “promising practices” to reduce the risk for violation.

Henrichsen Siegel has decades of experience in employment discrimination law.  If you feel you have been discriminated against contact us through our website’s submission form.

Here is a link to the Question and Answer Guide: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/national-origin-guidance.cfm

National Origin and Citizenship Employment Discrimination: New Regulation

A new regulation takes effect today, January 18, 2017, to prevent national origin and citizenship discrimination in employment.  The Department of Justice stated that treating a worker differently when requesting documents during the employment verification process, no matter the intent, will be prohibited.  The department redefined this type of discrimination as “The act of intentionally treating an individual differently from other individuals because of notional origin or citizenship status, regardless of whether such treatment is because of animus or hostility”.  Before this revision, the DOJ could not effectively pursue charges against employers if hiring practices were considered discriminatory but not carried out with intent or harm.  This applies in the I-9 as well as the E-Verify processes.  With these new rules, employers will need to examine their hiring policies to make sure they adhere.

Henrichsen Siegel has decades of experience in employment discrimination law.  If you feel you have been discriminated against contact us through our website’s submission form.

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