There is little question that the workplace is where most people spend the majority of their time. Equally true is the fact that today’s workplace is often filled with stressful situations and sometimes complex relationships. It is only natural that periodic disagreements will arise between employees. Fortunately, most employee workplace disputes are generally little more than verbal exchanges, sometimes heated, between employees. They are most commonly precipitated by a comment or conduct that one or the other finds offensive. Such conflicts rarely lead to anything more than hurt feelings and estrangement of the parties. Many times employers simply ignore such situations, expecting that the employees will work it out. However, given today’s increasingly diverse workplace, it is possible that an employee conflict could create potential legal liability for the employer. For example, a hostile comment or conduct that relates to an employee’s race, gender, national origin, or other status protected under law could create employer obligations beyond simply smoothing out the conflict.
Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and related state human rights laws all make comments or conduct that are derogatory of an employee’s unique protected status a form of “unlawful harassment.” In such a case, the employer’s response must go beyond merely resolving the employees’ disagreement and avoiding escalation of the situation. The unlawful harassment must be addressed and adequate steps taken to assure that there is no reoccurrence of the discriminatory conduct. While in theory, unlawful harassment must be “severe” or “pervasive” to be legally actionable, the reality is that in some circumstances a single offensive comment could be the basis of legal liability. Moreover, a hostile remark or act that implicates an employee’s protected status can have repercussions in the workplace for beyond the individuals involved.
In this issue, we take a comprehensive look at the future of social media, SEO, apps, and more and how they can affect your contracting business. We also look at new home automation and zoning products and trends that will benefit your customers in terms of comfort and convenience.
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