Workplace Harassment & Discrimination in the News

June 17, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • It is critical that employers maintain environments that are free from all forms of discrimination in the workplace- including sexual harassment
  • Failure to maintain workplaces that are free of harassment and discrimination for all employees exposes employers to potentially devastating and expensive public lawsuits.
  • The Federal government has recently passed legislation prohibiting employers from mandating arbitration for sexual harassment claims brought by employees.
  • Clear Law Institute’s online training courses and services provide employers with a complete workplace harassment prevention program.

With the recent string of high-profile stories in the news about employees suing their employers for alleged sexual harassment in their workplace, it is critical that employers maintain environments that are free from all forms of discrimination in the workplace- including sexual harassment. By failing to maintain environments that are free of harassment and discrimination for all employees, employers risk facing potentially expensive and public lawsuits that can have devastating effects on their businesses and reputations.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.[1] It is also important to note that sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination. As such, sexual harassment in the workplace is also prohibited by Title VII.

Eden Foods, Inc. Sued for Sexual Harassment

On April 25th, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Eden Foods, Inc. based on allegations of sexual harassment committed by the president and owner of the company, Michael Potter. Eden Foods has denied the allegations, but Mr. Potter has been accused of regularly and inappropriately kissing and touching female employees, as well as making frequent sexually suggestive and lewd comments about female employees in the workspace which continued despite numerous complaints. Eden Foods has denied the allegations, but if proven the alleged conduct by the company president would likely be considered sexual harassment and thus a violation of the workplace protections mandated by Title VII.

The EEOC and Eden Foods failed to settle prior to litigation, so the EEOC is now pursuing compensation for the employees and an injunction prohibiting similar conduct in the future. In order to avoid potentially costly litigation and irreparable damage to their public image, employers should frequently review their sexual harassment policies and provide their employees adequate training to ensure compliance with Title VII and all other applicable federal, state, and local anti-discrimination and harassment laws.

Sexual Harassment Claim by Tesla Employee Allowed to Proceed in Court Despite Binding Arbitration Agreement

 On March 3, 2022, President Biden signed the "Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021" (the Act) or H.R. 4555, which prohibits employers from enforcing mandatory arbitration agreements for claims of sexual assault and harassment brought by employees. The Act amends the Federal Arbitration Act and gives individuals asserting sexual assault or sexual harassment claims under federal, state, or tribal law the option to bring those claims in court even if they had agreed to arbitrate such disputes before the claims arose.

Recently, Tesla, Inc. failed in its attempt to move a “rampant sexual harassment case” out of court and into arbitration in California. The Alameda County Superior Court ruled that the female employee bringing the case could proceed in court, despite having signed an arbitration agreement not to sue.[2] The Court found that the employee was “ambushed” and that Tesla had  given no “indication that she would have to agree to arbitrate employment claims and give up her right to a jury trial.”[3]

The employee described “nightmarish” conditions that she suffered while working the nightshift for Tesla, including co-workers making repeated lewd comments and gestures to her. She claimed that the harassment continued even after she reported the behavior to human resources and her supervisors. Six other former and current female Tesla employees have since sued Tesla for sexual harassment based on the inappropriate treatment they say they received while working for the company.

RREMC, LLC Settles Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit for $45,000

The EEOC announced on May 17th, 2022, that RREMC, a Florida-based company and the third-largest Denny’s franchisee in the US, has agreed to pay $45,000 to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by one of its former employees. According to the EEOC, an employee at the Brandon, Florida-based restaurant was subjected to a hostile work environment because he is Mexican. Such treatment would constitute unlawful workplace discrimination based on his national origin.[4]

In addition to $45,000 settlement, RREMC must also adopt and distribute a policy prohibiting national origin discrimination and provide specialized training to its human resources personnel, managers, and other employees to ensure all its employees are aware of the proper procedures to follow when confronted with employment discrimination complaints.

How Clear Law Can Help

Consistent with EEOC guidelines and court decisions, Clear Law’s interactive, online harassment training covers not just sexual harassment, but all forms of workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. 

The online course is fully customizable; each organization can include their logo, workplace images, introductory messages, and the company’s unique policies and procedures for preventing and addressing workplace discrimination.

Learn more about Clear Law Institute’s full suite of online sexual harassment training. Clear Law Institute is also proud to offer harassment prevention compliance packages, which include required policies, notices, and postings for each jurisdiction in which employers operate.

If you have any questions about the law, please contact us at 703-372-0550 or at [email protected]

This article is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and readers should not regard this article as a substitute for detailed advice in individual instances.

[1] Title VII

[2]https://fortune.com/2022/05/24/tesla-fails-move-rampant-sexual-harassment-case-open-court-closed-door-arbitration/

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/05/24/tesla-sexual-harassment-case/

[4]https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/owner-brandon-dennys-pay-45000-settle-eeoc-national-origin-harassment-lawsuit

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