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Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog

Movie to implement sexual harassment guidelines

Pennsylvania fans of superhero films might be interested to know that the second movie in the "Wonder Woman" series is set to be the first to adhere to new sexual harassment guidelines. The Producers Guild of America released the guidelines on January 19, and they provide a number of recommendations for the treatment of personnel during film and television production. The PGA has more than 8,000 members.

The PGA recommends that film productions offer a range of procedures for reporting sexual harassment, comply with state and federal laws and make in-person sexual harassment training available for all crew and cast members at the beginning of the production. For ongoing productions, the PGA recommends in-person training at the beginning of a new season. The recommendations provide protocols for producers, witnesses and victims to follow when reporting or dealing with claims of sexual harassment.

Polls look at experiences of workplace sexual harassment

While a number of women face harassment in the workplace, the design of polls may cause the percentages reporting harassment to differ. Survey timing as well as the wording, placement and order of questions may all account for differing answers. Furthermore, some women are uncomfortable answering questions about harassment. Pennsylvania employees may not always have the same ideas about what constitutes workplace harassment.

For example, a poll taken by the Barna Group in October 2017 found that 86 percent of women but only 70 percent of men felt that sexual comments about a person's body or looks was harassment. Texts or emails that were sexually explicit were regarded as harassment by 83 percent of women but 69 percent of men. Staring, whistling or winking was considered to be harassment by fewer than 33 percent of men or women. However, a poll from Economist/YouGov found that just 38 percent of men thought looking at a woman's breasts constituted harassment compared to 55 percent of women.

Bartending and sexual harassment

Bartenders in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. experience the third-highest rate of nonfatal workplace violence. Even through they may be frequently subject to sexual harassment, some bartenders feel like they just have to deal with it. Many bars and clubs offer little formal training to staff. In some cases, they simply refer to the employee handbook or offer no guidance at all.

However, research shows that teaching bystanders to get involved when they see misconduct occurring can be effective in preventing sexual harassment. A program called Safe Bars teaches both patrons and bartenders how to diffuse situations in which a person may feel uncomfortable. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is not necessarily the cause of harassment in bars. However, booze can often be a factor in its occurrence.

Flight attendants file discrimination lawsuit against Delta

Pennsylvania residents might be interested to learn that four flight attendants have filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines, alleging that the airline engages in anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic behavior. The plaintiffs state that the airline has a pattern of intentional discrimination against both employees and passengers who are Jewish. Two of the flight attendants are described as having an ethnic background that is Jewish/Hebrew/Israeli while the other two say they were disciplined because of their associations with others of that background.

One flight attendant says that she was granted leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and that the airline fired her because she was Jewish and not because she did not turn up for work as the airline claims. One non-Jewish attendant says that she faced suspension without pay and demotion after she helped a Jewish friend. Another says the same thing happened to her after she shared her corporate travel pass with a Jewish friend.

All parents may be eligible for FMLA leave

Mothers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere may be entitled to take FMLA leave during a pregnancy or after giving birth. However, fathers are also generally entitled to take the same unpaid leave to care for a newborn child or the child's mother. Eligible fathers may take FMLA leave even if the mother also takes leave. Those who work for covered employers are eligible for such time off.

A covered employer in the private sector is one that has 50 or more employees for more than 20 weeks in the past calendar year. Those who work in elementary or secondary schools are exempt no matter how many employees the school has. The same is true for those who work for government agencies. The employee must work for 1,250 hours over a 12-month period to be eligible to take FMLA leave. According to the National Compensation Survey (NCS), 14 percent of civilian workers had access to paid family leave.

Discrimination still common in American workplaces

According to an analysis of data provided by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of women who work in the U.S. say they have faced gender discrimination on the job. Pennsylvania readers may be aware of the large number of sexual misconduct allegations that arose during the latter part of 2017 in the entertainment industry, politics and other arenas. The Pew survey was conducted earlier in the year and found that women were nearly twice as likely as men to say they have experienced gender discrimination at work.

The survey covered eight specific types of gender discrimination, including income disparity, slights at work, receiving less support and being passed over for assignments. The survey was conducted between July 11 and Aug. 10 and included responses from 4,914 individuals, 4,702 of whom were employed at least part-time. Twenty-five percent of working women said they have earned less money than a male peer for performance of the same job. Only 5 percent of men said a female peer had been paid more than them for the same work.

Study proposed to examine long commute times for truckers

Commercial truck drivers in Pennsylvania spend many hours on the road, and all of them aren't necessarily actual work hours. Many truckers have long commutes from home to work, and this issue is about to be examined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency is now taking comments on a proposed survey of excessive commuting for drivers and the role long commutes play in their safety.

FMCSA defines excessive commuting as any commute to work that takes 150 minutes or longer. Under the 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the agency must conduct a survey on the safety effects commutes of over two and half hours have on commercial motor vehicle drivers. FMCSA says that in the past 20 years, the number of drivers has increased and so has the distance to affordable housing in metropolitan areas. These factors have resulted in more drivers having long commute times.

Proposed rule would allow tip pools

A regulation that protected tipped workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. may soon be modified. The Obama-era rule prohibited restaurants, bars and hotels from requiring tipped employees to pool their tips with non-tipped workers. A newly proposed regulation from the Trump Administration would allow restaurants to require tipped employees to participate in pools with back-of-the-house employees.

Opponents of the proposed regulation point to language in the rule that states that managers could use the pooled tips for structural improvements. They state that there is no requirement in the rule that the tips the workers earn will actually be distributed to them. They also say that there isn't a requirement in the rule that the pooled tips are distributed to any of the workers and may allow the employers to simply take their tips.

NBC fires Matt Lauer for sexual harassment

Pennsylvania fans of NBC's "The Today Show" were likely saddened to learn that star Matt Lauer was fired by the network for alleged sexual misconduct. Lauer's firing comes as part of a wave of sexual harassment cases sweeps through the entertainment, political and media sectors.

According to news sources, an NBC employee came forward and filed a complaint with NBC against Lauer, alleging that he engaged in sexual misconduct while they were both at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The victim alleged that the behavior continued after both had returned home.

Democrats and Republicans unite to combat sexual harassment

Pennsylvania residents are likely aware that lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have been accused of engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior in recent weeks. Republican Roy Moore's chances of filling the vacant Alabama Senate seat were damaged when several women stepped forward to say that the former state judge had propositioned them sexually when they were teenagers, and there have been calls for Democrat Al Franken to resign in the wake of groping allegations leveled by four women.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats have joined together to address the issue. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Nov. 14 that he supported proposed legislation that would require all members and their staffs to attend sexual harassment training. Ryan spoke about the issue days after the Senate unanimously passed a similar measure and just hours after two female lawmakers talked about the sexual harassment that they have been subjected to during a House Administration hearing.