Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Is Sniffing Sexual Harassment?

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has found that sniffing may be considered sexual harassment.  Denise Royal claims she was fired without explanation shortly after she complained to her supervisor about being sniffed by co-workers.  Royal, employed as a leasing manager for an apartment complex, claimed that two maintenance workers would enter her office, hover over her as she sat at her desk and sniff her. The complaint alleges that the harassment occurred about twelve times, for each worker, over the four days of Royal’s brief employment.  When she complained to her supervisor she allegedly was told to let it go.   At a meeting, Royal complained of being sniffed, but one of the men claimed that it was a medical condition that she was misinterpreting.  Royal was fired later that afternoon. 

Royal filed suit against her former employer for sexual harassment and retaliation.   The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted summary judgment to the employer, concluding that no reasonable juror in the woman's shoes would have viewed herself as a victim of sexual harassment.  Royal appealed and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held there is a genuine dispute of material fact whether the maintenance men's behavior violated Title VII.  The opinion stating that the magistrate judge “overemphasized the lack of physical contact. Certainly, lack of physical contact is a factor to consider. But it is hardly dispositive.”  The court found that “sniffing and hovering over a woman, by two men, in a small, confined space could be viewed by a reasonable jury as harassment based on Royal's sex.”

The North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act prohibits discrimination in employment because of sex, including sexual harassment (NC Gen. Stat. Sec. 143-422.2 et seq.). The Act applies to all private employers of 15 or more employees. Employers with 15 or more employees are also covered by the federal fair employment law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Given this broad definition, it is not surprising that sexual harassment can take many forms in the workplace.  There are a number of steps that you can take to reduce the risk of sexual harassment occurring in your workplace.  Such steps include, adopting a clear sexual harassment policy in your employee handbook, conduct training sessions for employees where you review your complaint procedure, and train supervisors and managers on how to deal with complaints.

Thursday, December 5, 2013 Delays For Small Businesses

The Obama Administration announced a year delay in's small business functions. The administration had previously delayed online enrollment from October 1, 2013 to the end of November.  The announcement did not come as a surprise to many small businesses as they have already made other plans for insuring their workers in 2014, frequently achieved by renewing the existing policies. serves customers for health insurance in 36 states. It was originally designed to help small businesses as well as individuals.  However, Administration officials said with the widespread website problems, they had to focus on the basic functions of the website, so that individuals could shop for insurance, before offering online enrollment for small businesses.

Officials have encouraged small business owners to work through insurance brokers or agents. Owners who buy qualifying coverage through an agent may be eligible for tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times reported an Administration official saying, “The agent, broker or insurer will help the employer fill out a paper application for SHOP eligibility and send it in to the SHOP marketplace." The insurer can also tell employers what premiums they would have to pay and can enroll employees.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Sharon Hoyer, general manager of Dill Pickle Food Co-op in Chicago, which has nine full-time employees including herself, who said she preferred going through her agent. "I imagine we'll have a speedier response." 

The Wall Street Journal also interviewed Nancy Clark, owner of Glen Group, an eight-person advertising firm in North Conway, N.H., who said she sent in a paper application for small business coverage under the new healthcare law last week because the online option wasn't available. While she is still waiting to see how much group coverage would cost, she said it was likely she would ask each of her employees to apply for individual coverage online.  Ms. Clark said she would continue to pay for health coverage as she has done for the past 15 years, but "I am going to pay through raises."

Congress had wanted to provide small business employees with a range of health plan options. While some state-run exchanges, not affected by the announcement, will allow employers to offer such choices to employees, the federal exchange will not do so until 2015.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...