The Importance of Company Sexual Harassment Policies
Over the last year, sexual harassment and the common circumstances surrounding it have been, for lack of a better word, eye-opening. Though the idea of sexual harassment is nothing new, the prevalence of the issue in the age of the #MeToo movement has been nothing short of impactful.
Now, companies are focusing more on how to best combat the problem. With out-of-date policies, companies are learning more and more that they must somehow forge a path for a new standard.
The Role of Human Resources
Part of the bigger problem surrounding policy in the workplace begins with the emphasis placed, or not placed, on the important role of human resources. Though many companies have tended to view the department as a necessary afterthought, its focus has long been on administering benefits and meeting legal requirements; not dealing with issues of sexual harassment.
A law professor who specializes in employment discrimination at City University of New York, explains that not only is it a legal and moral issue, but a financial mistake as well. Those who are talking about and dealing with sexual harassment are not focused on and performing optimally. That is why it is important to properly invest in human resources and find ways to empower the department.
In addition, there are other initiatives that can be implemented into the corporate culture to make harassment less likely to occur.
Create Channels for Reporting Outside Human Resources
Frequently, middle managers are the ones who fall responsible for dealing with allegations of sexual harassment. The issue with this is that while they do carry some weight, they do not have enough power to truly eliminate the issues.
Though they are aware that they can report allegations to HR, if an employee is reluctant to file an official claim with the department, the middle manager’s hands are often tied. That is why allegations often stop with these managers.
It is advisable for companies to put in writing their expectations surrounding reporting. If a manager is aware of an issue, but fails to report it, since the manager is considered to be a representative of the company, the company may still be found liable.
By designated select individuals to become well-versed in the issues surrounding sexual harassment and company policy, these individuals can be easily accessed if an allegation occurs.
Finally, sometimes individuals do not want to file a formal complaint; rather, they are just looking to express their disdain for how a situation occurred. This is why having an employee outside of HR allows other employees to assess whether they wish to file.
Put Non-Retaliation Policies in Writing
A major deterrent for coming forward to report sexual harassment is workplace retaliation. Though the law prohibits such conduct, it is all too common. Often, after a report is filed, the employee is victimized all over again, suffering professionally as a consequence.
The best option is to adopt a written non-retaliation policy, which spells out what retaliation is, and what the consequences of such retaliation would be.
Invest in Proper Training – Especially for Bystanders
Though sexual harassment training is a good idea, it is often only conducted to check off legal boxes. It frequently paints it out to be a black-and-white issue, though that is certainly not the case.
Bystander intervention training teaches employees what to do should they witness inappropriate behavior. It teaches them things such as conflict management techniques, including de-escalation and redirection techniques
Treat Each Case Separately
It is important for companies to understand and to make known that not all behaviors, regardless of being inappropriate, are considered on the level of sexual harassment. The real focus needs to be on the workplace climate and overall company culture.
If you have been involved with a case surrounding the sexual harassment of a company employee, it is extremely important to take the proper steps to handle the situation correctly. Contact us online for a consultation with our employment law lawyers or call MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106.
Starting a Charter School
Cuts in federal, state, and local funding for public schools across the country have placed limits on the quality of education districts can offer. Transportation problems, aging facilities, redistricting, and intense pressure to compete with private schools have forced public school systems to re-evaluate their mission and educational philosophies. Reduced wages, benefits, and retirement plans for educators have resulted in an increasing shortage of qualified teachers and administrators.
Disillusioned parents and frustrated educational administrators are taking matters into their own hands by opening charter schools that provide a vehicle for specialized educational programs and redefined goals. Over 6,000 charter schools have opened across the country over the past 15 years, and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) claims there are over one million children on waiting lists in the United States, hoping for the opportunity to be accepted into these schools. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have already created charter school legislation, but the standards vary greatly from state to state.
Getting a Charter School Started
All charter schools first start with an idea and a vision. Getting those ideas and visions established into a formalized charter school takes work, perseverance, and commitment from a team of dedicated professionals that share the same ideals.
Here are the basic steps necessary to open a charter school in the United States.
The Petition: In the initial stage of creating a charter school, a petition must be submitted to the local or county Board of Education. The petition must specifically outline the school’s vision, mission, curriculum design, hiring practices, discipline approach, school structure, and communication plan.
This step typically involves intense research, collaboration, and lots of revision before submission.
Board of Education and Community Approval: Once the Board of Education has accepted the petition, it is time for a public hearing. The Board will question what is written in the petition, may request evidence to support the petition, and can require revisions before finalizing their decision.
A public hearing for the community follows and gives parents, businesses, and residents the chance to voice concerns and support for the charter school. Those submitting an application for a charter school must be prepared to answer a myriad of questions from educators, as well as the community.
Implementing the Plan: Once the Board has approved the charter school, the hard work begins. Securing grants will provide the funds necessary to begin finding a location for the school, buying materials to support the curriculum, hiring teachers, and recruiting students. This process can take months to several years to complete.
With minimal funding, marketing becomes a challenge, but utilizing local news stations, newspapers, and social media forums can help get the word out about your school.
Accountability: Once a charter school has been established, proof of learning, as well as plans for continued success, must be provided to the local Board of Education. As charter renewal requirements vary from state to state, charter school boards and administrators must ensure that they are in compliance with their state’s laws.
The West Chester education lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser LLC provide legal counsel for all your educational law issues. Call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our West Chester offices serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and Pennsylvania.
The United States Supreme Court Rules that the ADEA applies to all Governmental Entities regardless of Size
In resolving a split among the circuits, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is applicable to state and local government entities, regardless of how many employees they have. The Court held that all government entities are considered employers under the ADEA, not just those that employ 20 or more employees. If you are a small local government entity, you will need to take this into consideration when making employment decisions that affect those over the age of 40.
In Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, Justice Ginsburg opined that the ADEA establishes “separate categories: persons engaged in an industry affecting commerce with 20 or more employees; and states or political subdivisions with no attendant numerosity limitation.” The employer, Mount Lemmon Fire District, is an 11-employee political subdivision of the state of Arizona. The group laid off two firefighter captains who were over the age of 40 and the oldest full-time employees. The pair then sued the Fire District under the ADEA, which protects employees and applicants from discrimination on the basis of age. The ADEA applied to private employers with 20 or more employees, and applies to states and political subdivisions, but the language that relates to state employees does not mention the 20-employee mandate.
Ginsburg noted that originally, public employers were excluded from coverage by both the ADEA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a broader anti-discrimination law, which bars employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. In 1972, Congress extended Title VII to public employees, providing the same threshold that applies to private employers under the law to cover only those that employ a certain number of people.
In its argument, the Fire District held that it was not subject to the ADEA because it did not employ 20 or more employees. The matter went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the district court agreed. The Ninth Circuit reversed the ruling, stating that the meaning of the statute is unambiguous, and that it applies to all state employers, no matter how many employees they have. Other federal courts of appeals have interpreted the language differently, resulting in the Supreme Court agreeing to review the Fire District’s appeal.
Potential Impact of the Ruling
This increases the risk of liability faced by government agencies as it may inspire a greater number of age discrimination cases to be filed. However, in politically divisive times, there may be many developments that will yield far more polarizing results.
MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser has a broad range of experience successfully resolving complex situations like the above ADEA ruling, and we can help to advocate for and protect your rights. For help and guidance toward making the best decisions, please call 484-318-7106 or contact us online today for an evaluation of your case. Our office is conveniently located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients throughout the Commonwealth.
How to Properly Break Up with Your Business Partner
The numbers speak for themselves; the odds are not in a partnership’s favor. The partnership breakup rate can even be 20-30 percent higher than that of divorce rates.
As important as it is to create a partnership agreement, dedicating time to creating a dissolution strategy can be a lifesaver. This strategy will come in handy in the event of death, a life-changing injury, or personal differences.
It is important to know what you are to do, should that situation ever arise, instead of trying to make decisions in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high.
There are certain warning signs to look for that may indicate that your business partnership may be on the brink of failure:
Partners Have Vastly Different Working Styles
When partners have different working styles, the unity they once felt to accomplish a common goal can easily diminish. When it comes to things such as whether to maintain strict schedules or work when the mood strikes, it is important to be on the same page as your partner.
If partners have very different working styles it can make tough situations even tougher.
One of the Partners is Not Carrying Their Weight
As with any relationship, when responsibilities are not evenly distributed, it can create stress, and in many cases resentment. If one partner is taking on the brunt of operational management while the other is simply enjoying the perks of the business, this can cause a strain in the relationship.
Also, as in any relationship, communication is imperative to maintain a healthy balance. The most important thing is for a partner to speak up and work out issues.
When a partner feels as though they are unable to express themselves, the damage may be irreparable. As such, it is imperative to keep the lines of communication open.
Partners Greatly Disagree on Pertinent Issues
It would be difficult for any relationship to work if all parties involved do not take the steps to effectively collaborate; compromise is key. When partners find that compromise has become very difficult to obtain, simple disagreements can lead to major operational issues.
Disagreements involving finances, customer service, and personnel can cause the partnership to further fracture.
If you recognize that a partnership is beginning to fail, it is extremely important to ensure that you end the relationship in a manner that will not prove detrimental to any parties or to the business, should it remain open.
If you and/or your partner reach the point of no return, these tips can help you to keep your split as professional as possible:
Communicate When You Feel Calm
It is perfectly human to feel hurt, betrayed, or angry in the midst of a business breakup. While you have every right to feel as you feel, it is important to avoid communicating with anyone related to the business until the pure emotional reaction has blown over and you are capable of separating emotions from business decisions.
Evaluate the outcome that will make you happiest five or ten years from now. Keeping tax liabilities, personal finances, and professional goals in mind, it is important to consider how you may be impacted by a buyout or other solution. This must be done prior to considering any terms not already in your dissolution plan.
Certain situations in life are cause for seeking professional help. The dissolution of a partnership may just be one of them. The complexities associated with creating a partnership are as apparent when dissolving one.
By securing the right help, you will receive advice on things such as what to look for and when to finalize decisions.
It is necessary to protect your interests prior to acting on any exit strategy. This may require a revisit of the partnership agreement, as understanding is key. For help in making the right decisions for you, call the Pennsylvania employment attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106 or contact us online today. With our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania, our attorneys serve clients throughout Chester County and Philadelphia.