DOL’s recently released Questions and Answers: The Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking, offers examples of employment discrimination and retaliation that may be overlooked.
What are some examples of employment decisions that may violate Title VII and involve applicants or employees who experience domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking?
Title VII prohibits disparate treatment based on sex, which may include treatment based on sex-based stereotypes. For example:
- A hiring manager, believing that only women can be true victims of domestic violence because men should be able to protect themselves, does not select a male applicant when he learns that the applicant obtained a restraining order against a male domestic partner.
- An employer allows a male employee to use unpaid leave for a court appearance in the criminal prosecution of an assault, but does not allow a similarly situated female employee to use equivalent leave to testify in the criminal prosecution of domestic violence she experienced. The employer says that the assault by a stranger is a "real crime," whereas domestic violence is "just a marital problem" and "women think everything is domestic violence."
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- An employer terminates an employee after learning she has been subjected to domestic violence, saying he fears the potential "drama battered women bring to the workplace."
- An employee’s co-worker sits uncomfortably close to her in meetings, and has made suggestive comments. He waits for her in the dark outside the women’s bathroom and in the parking lot outside of work, and blocks her passage in the hallway in a threatening manner. He also repeatedly telephones her after hours, sends personal e-mails, and shows up outside her apartment building at night.
She reports these incidents to management and complains that she feels unsafe and afraid working nearby him. In response, management transfers him to another area of the building, but he continues to subject her to sexual advances and stalking. She notifies management but no further action is taken.
- A seasonal farmworker’s supervisor learns that she has recently been subject to domestic abuse, and is now living in a shelter. Viewing her as vulnerable, he makes sexual advances, and when she refuses he terminates her.
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What about retaliation?
Title VII prohibits retaliation for protected activity such as filing a charge of discrimination, complaining to one’s employer about job discrimination, requesting accommodation under the EEO laws, participating in an EEO investigation, or otherwise opposing discrimination. For example:
- An employee files a complaint with her employer’s HR department alleging that she was raped by a prominent company manager while on a business trip. In response, other company managers reassign her to less favorable projects, stop including her in meetings, and tell co-workers not to speak with her.
In tomorrow’s Advisor, when the ADA may cover situations related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, plus an introduction to the all-compensation-in-one website, Compensation.BLR.com.