Remember back in January when we announced the Weekly Employment Law Update?  And how I said I would update….weekly?  And for a good while I did that.  Then, however, work got in the way.  In March and April, our firm was busy in court with a variety of cases, including equal pay, age discrimination and unpaid wages claims.  As a result of our heavy litigation load, the weekly update fell by the wayside.

Meanwhile, employment law news did not stop, with many new and interesting questions arising in the field. From harassment to pay parity to severed heads, this review has it all!

Severed Heads?

You may think your workplace is bad but consider the allegations of a Chicago-based employee who claims that co-workers left three severed heads on his desk.  Dale Wheatley claims he complained internally about this employer, the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois (AGA), mishandling donated body parts.  Wheatley contends people got mad at him and, attempting to send him a message, left three severed heads on his desk.  Wheatley has filed a police report but has not yet taken legal action, hoping the shocking news will encourage the AGA to care more for their donor bodies. Wheatley’s attorney has also called for an investigation. Let’s hope the AGA takes these accusations to heart!

The Pay Gap Persists

While it’s exciting that the Equal Pay Act turned 60 in June, a check-in with gender pay parity indicates that the US still has a ways to go. Full-time working women have gone from making 59 cents to 84 cents compared to a dollar for men, but the gap has not narrowed as considerably for women of color or women working part-time/intermittently. What makes the problem extra complicated? Societal expectations around childcare and women in the labor force will likely have to change in addition to salary to close the gap.

Equal Opportunity Harassment

Employers commonly assert what we call “the equal opportunity harasser defense” claiming the accused bad actor harasses both men and women equally.  Employers claim this defense to try to argue that the bad actor may be a jerk, but s/he is not a jerk based on gender.  This defense has been successful in Courts far too often. The Ninth Circuit, however, recently decided a case where it rejected this defense.  In that case, the Plaintiff claimed that the regular playing of music which contained sexually demeaning lyrics about women was sexual harassment.  The employer responded by claiming the harassment was not actionable because both women and men were offended by it.  The Court applied a refreshingly common-sense analysis and held, “sexually charged conduct may simultaneously offend different genders in unique and meaningful ways” and that one should not detract from the other.