Employment Law This Week: Harassment Prevention, Board Diversity Disclosure, Paid Sick Leave, Law Against Discrimination

Episode 33: Week of July 11, 2016

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We invite you to view Employment Law This Week - a weekly rundown of the latest news in the field, brought to you by Epstein Becker Green. We look at the latest trends, important court decisions, and new developments that could impact your work. Join us every Monday for a new five-minute episode! Read the firm's press release here and subscribe for updates.

This week’s stories include ...

(1)  EEOC Calls for Increased Harassment Prevention

Our top story: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) urges increased harassment prevention measures in the workplace. About one third of charges filed with the agency in 2015 involved claims of some form of harassment. The agency recommends that employers update their worker training to focus on bystander intervention and workplace civility. In addition, employers should increase their own awareness of risk factors. These include physical isolation of workers and significant power disparities. Bill Milani, from Epstein Becker Green, has more:

"The report suggests employers should take a number of actions concerning harassment in the workplace. First, an audit of organizational risk factors as outlined by EEOC. ... Second, a review of your policies against discrimination and harassment to ensure that they are current, they reference all of the protected classes, not just sexual harassment, but harassment based on race, color, religion, ethnicity. Training. Training is vital. Training for all employees on anti-harassment. ... On top of the training that all employees received, managers trained to understand their heightened responsibilities as the employer, managers trained to understand their role in the complaint procedure. And finally, crucial that leadership embrace and be accountable for issues of workplace conduct."

See also our extended interview with Bill Milani.

(2) SEC Chairman Pushes Board Diversity Disclosure

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calls for board diversity disclosure. SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White is advocating a new regulation requiring companies to disclose information about the racial and gender diversity of their boards. White contends that existing disclosures do not provide investors with enough information and pointed out that female directors comprise just 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies. The timeline for issuing the proposed regulation has not yet been announced.

(3) Chicago City Council Approves Paid Sick Leave

Employers in the city of Chicago will soon be required to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick leave a year. The City Council unanimously approved the paid sick leave ordinance, which will apply to all individuals and businesses with at least one employee. Chicago will now join more than two dozen other U.S. cities that require employers to provide paid sick leave. The mayor is expected to sign the ordinance, which is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2017. For more on this story, click here.

(4) NJ Justices Extend Reach of Law Against Discrimination

The New Jersey Supreme Court extends the state’s Law Against Discrimination. A medical response services company fired an employee who was going through a marital separation with a coworker. The termination was based on a supervisor’s assumption that it would likely lead to an "ugly divorce." The Court ruled that the marital status protection in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applies in this case, effectively expanding the law to include protections for separated, divorced, and widowed employees.

(5) Tip of the Week

Diane DiResta, Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, shares some advice for in-house counsel on how to be more media savvy:

"Today more than ever before, everybody needs broadcasting skills, even if you’re in-house counsel. Maybe you’re never talking to the national media, but you will be interviewed at a conference, and it may be over telepresence or live stream. So it’s really important that people have media and broadcasting skills. ... The first thing you need to know is, what is your message? Create message points for yourself and always remember the rule of three. Three is that magical number. People remember things in threes. So have three distinct messages. The second thing to be aware of is you need to keep it simple. ... The way you do that is to create sound bites. A sound bite is a quotable quote. It’s a sentence or two that can easily be lifted. ... The third thing is to stay on message. And what I mean by that is that it’s easy to go off in another direction, so use the skill of bridging. What bridging is, is you answer the reporter or interviewer’s question, and then you always bridge back to your message. ... Those messages are your home base. And that’s how you succeed in a media interview."

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