The Wall Street Journal reports today that more than 70,000 claims were filed with the EEOC for the first six months of the governmnet's fiscal year that ended on April 30, 2010. This is a 60% increase from the same period last year. The article looks at the increase from both the employer side and the employee side. Due to layoffs, employees who are not able to find a new job quickly may be more likely to engage in the litigation process. On the other hand, employers may be conducting layoffs improperly by replacing older workers with younger, lower paid workers. Disability claims are also up 10% over the previous year, and more than 20% since 2007. The increase is due, in part, to the amendments to the ADA that make it easier to qualify as being "disabled". In light of the depressed economy, many employers are finding it more burdensome to accommodate their employees who are disabled due to the costs involved.
Practice pointer. As more charges are being filed with the EEOC, both by those employees who have been laid off, and by those employees who think that they may be laid off in an attempt to protect their jobs, employers must be more diligent than ever in training their workforce, documenting disciplinary problems, in making decisions about termination or reductions in force and in responding to the EEOC when a charge is filed.
Another "Duh" moment
The American Bar Association Journal published one of those stories that make you wonder just how smart lawyers really are. A California lawyer sued his law firm alleging that he was disciplined by having his pay cut, and ultimately fired after he refused to participate in the firm's weekend retreat titled a "New Warrior Training Adventure". Among the activities, according to the lawsuit, was sitting naked in a circle with other man and discussing their feelings while passing around a wooden phallus. The law firm contends that the retreat was not a job requirement, and the reduction in pay was part of his employment agreement. The website for The Mankind Project, which runs the New Warrior Training Adventure, refers to the program as a "modern male initiation and self-examination" and that nudity "is NOT required" although "the VAST majority of men choose to participate".
Of course, anyone can sue anyone for anything. It does not mean that the suit will be successful. Unfortunately, whenever a charge or suit is filed, it often results in a great deal of expense, both monetary (legal fees, expenses, manpower diverted to defending the suit instead of "real" work) and non-monetary (decrease in morale, distractions, bad publicity).
Additionally, this suit is a reminder that activities away from work may result in claims for harassment and/or discrimination.