Fair Work P.C.

Boston Employee Rights Legal Blog

CBS faces discrimination claims from former executive

Massachusetts fans of CBS reality TV hit series such as "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" may be disappointed to learn that the executive who launched them is no longer with the network. Ghen Maynard, who is of Japanese ancestry, says his ousting was part of a systemic effort at the network to keep white men in the top-level executive jobs.

According to Maynard's lawsuit, all the other executives at his level were white, and at meetings, any minorities present were obviously lower-level employees. Former CEO Les Moonves had hired Maynard, who said his problems started after Moonves left. He also said that he got condescending notes from white executives, who showed no interest in his other projects.

What to know about wage theft

There are many ways in which an employer can steal money from an employee. For instance, a Massachusetts company could fail to pay its workers an overtime wage or fail to pay the minimum wage. Employers may also fail to compensate their people for time spent doing work while not on the clock. Finally, companies may decide to designate their workers as independent contractors as opposed to employees.

According to a study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), workers in the 10 most populous states lose $8 billion per year because of wage theft. That is roughly half of the total losses related to property theft each year in the United States. The EPI believes that $15 billion is lost because of wage theft throughout the country based on figures in those 10 most populated states. While employees can file lawsuits, it can be difficult for most to do so.

Many workers report witnessing or experiencing discrimination

Discrimination continues to be a common experience for workers in Massachusetts and across the country. According to a survey conducted by an online job site, almost 60% of all workers in the U.S. have personally experienced or witnessed discrimination on the job. Workers reported different experiences with various types of discrimination, including race, sex, age and disability discrimination. The site said that employees want a safer, more diverse and inclusive environment, and many are concerned about aspects of their identity and experiences being used against them in the workplace.

Around 1,100 employees participated in the workplace discrimination survey. Of those who responded, 45% noted experiencing or witnessing age discrimination, 42% race discrimination and 42% gender discrimination. Another one-third of respondents reported discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Younger workers were more likely to report age, race or gender bias. Spokespeople for the job site said that companies are hiring more specialists on diversity and inclusion, reflecting a certain amount of concern about bias. Large companies headquartered in major cities are more likely to hire human resources specialists with a focus on preventing employment discrimination.

Women still face trouble getting promoted

Many gains have been made in the fight sexism at work, but the battle is not over. Not all women can succeed in their roles–this can be due to push back from male coworkers who hold old-fashioned views about the role of women.

These outdated opinions not only hold women back from being hired, but they also affect their careers. This year a Massachusetts firefighter was passed over when it came time to select a new captain. Even though she scored higher than a male coworker on an exam and had a good record, he received the promotion. The town's fire department has never had a woman in the role. She has now had to take legal action against the city for the biased methods used when choosing who to promote.

Sex discrimination continues to hold back women workers

Women in Massachusetts continue to face substantial and pervasive employment discrimination on the job. High-profile cases have drawn attention to the issue of sexual harassment, especially in industries like entertainment and technology. However, there are a wide range of factors that contribute to sex discrimination on the job. Women find themselves being denied opportunities and promotions or facing termination due to stereotypes and other discriminatory factors. At the same time, many valid discrimination claims are never pursued because women fear that they will face retaliation on the job.

Pay gaps between men and women are some of the most long-lasting issues faced by female employees despite the fact that pay discrimination based on sex is illegal. This disparity is not simply related to the fact that men are more likely to have higher-paying jobs. In fact, men are more likely to out-earn women even when they share the same profession or job classification. Some of these issues may be linked to the way that salary negotiations by female and male employees are viewed. Women who ask for more money when starting a job are more likely to be viewed negatively, and workers who begin from a lower starting point may never catch up in terms of salary.

Overtime salary threshold change can benefit workers

Some Massachusetts workers may be pleased to hear about a new federal regulation requiring that more workers receive overtime pay if they work over 40 hours a week. The National Labor Relations Act defines exempt workers, those not covered by the law's wage and hour provisions, as those who make at least a certain salary and also have a high level of independent judgment or management responsibilities in their roles. Originally intended to classify professional workers and management staff, the exempt classification has been used by many companies to avoid overtime pay for relatively low-wage workers who are often highly directed by others.

On Sept. 24, the federal Department of Labor announced that it intended to raise the salary threshold to $35,568 from its earlier amount of $23,660, an amount that sits below the poverty line for a family of four. Earlier, under the Obama administration, the Labor Department sought to raise that minimum salary to around $47,000, which would have expanded the provisions to 3 million more workers than this proposal. However, those efforts were blocked by a federal court decision prior to the change in administrations. This new proposal will benefit around 1.3 million workers across the country.

What the EEOC may do to help workers

Individuals in Massachusetts who have been harassed or discriminated against at work may be able to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If a claim is successful, a person may be able to obtain financial compensation as well as reinstatement to a position. Individuals who were bypassed for a job could be entitled to that position or a similar one. Similar positions are those that have mostly the same duties or responsibilities as those an individual lost out on.

It is permissible for a business to oust the individual who currently holds a position in favor of the employee who was the victim of discrimination. Companies could be required to take other action to ensure that harassment or discrimination will not occur again in the future. Those actions could include providing training for all current employees or managers or providing assurances that the illegal behavior will not continue.

Massachusetts allows commission-only pay, within limits

Under Massachusetts law, employers can pay a sales employee entirely through commissions on the sales made by the salesperson. The more you sell, the more you make. End of story (almost).

The commonwealth has long protected commission-only employees with an important footnote and, this year, it added another. Massachusetts employers and salespeople are still double-checking the terms of their contracts to confirm they follow the laws, old and new.

Woman sues employer for firing her after attending pride parade

Despite advances in legal rights for the LGBT community in Massachusetts, people continue to endure discrimination at work, like the transgender woman currently suing Circle K. Her lawsuit against the convenience store location that employed her seeks compensation for lost pay, benefits, emotional distress and legal costs. The 26-year-old woman reportedly lost her job after taking a day off to attend a pride parade in her neighborhood.

Her lawsuit describes ongoing incidents of discriminatory treatment at work prior to her dismissal. Court filings indicate that co-workers asked her offensive questions about her sex life. The African-American plaintiff also alleged in her complaint that the store manager repeatedly called African-American customers by the N-word.

Age discrimination more likely for men, says study

Men are more likely than women to experience discrimination in Massachusetts workplaces based on their age, according to a study. Insurance company Hiscox released its 2019 Ageism in the Workplace Study, which found that less than 33% of women believed age had been an obstacle in looking for a new job after they were 40 years old. At the same time, 43% of men in the study said they thought being 40 or over had negatively impacted their job search.

Approximately 25% of women said they believed age hindered their career advancement after they reached 40, compared to almost 40% of men. One out of five workers at or over the age of 40, overall, said they had been discriminated against at work because of their age. Most respondents also said there was no ageism bias training over the prior 12 months. According to the study, people believe workplace age discrimination is most likely beginning at age 51, but 67% of respondents said they planned to work until after they were 66 years old.

If it’s happened in the workplace, chances are, one of us has dealt with it.
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