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December 11, 2018
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Seattle Teamsters At Mt. View Cemetery Ratify Three-Year Contract
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Hoffa: Legislature is Ditching Workers
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Allied Waste Daly City Unanimously Ratifies New Contract
Hoffa: China Needs to Make Real Changes to Fix Trade Inequities With U.S.
 
     
HARRASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
Updated On: Dec 17, 2008

   New Jersey has some of the most stringent laws in the country regarding workplace harrassment. Generally speaking, however, to be illegal, harrassment in the workplace must be based on a particular "protected characterstic" of the indivdual being harrassed. The most obvious classifications are gender, age, ethnicity, martial status or sexual preferences. It is illegal to discriminate, harrass or retaliate against someone based upon such characteristics. Recent decisions of the New Jersey Supreme Court have made clear that words alone, even if uttered in a joking manner, can constitute discrimination in certain circumstances. In Cutler v. Dorn, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that police officers in Haddonfield violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("LAD") through frequent and pervasive comments which were directed at a Jewish police officer. The Court concluded that a hostile work environment claim can be sustained under the LAD if a reasonable person of plaintiff's religion or ancestry would consider the workplace acts or comments made to, or in the presence of, plaintiff to be sufficiently severe or pervasive.

   In this case, the plaintiff police officer observed that his supervisor would makes negative and demeaning comments or "jokes" about Jews in his presence. For example, the Chief of Police would comment on his ancestry a couple of times a month, often referring to him as "the Jew" when he was present. The Chief also asked the plaintiff on one occasion "where [his] big Jew... nose was", and the Lieutenant also made derogatory comments directed at plaintiff's ancestry. Stickers were also placed on the officer's locker including a German flag which was placed above an Israeli sticker. On one occasion, fellow officers referred to "dirty Jews" when speaking to the plaintiff.

   At trial, the trial court denied the employer's motion for a dismissal and allowed the claims to be decided by a jury. The jury found in the plaintiff's favor on the hostile work environment claim but awarded him no damages. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed the verdict and dismissed plaintiff's complaint. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

   In its decision, the Court found that the comments directed at the plaintiff constituted a hostile work environment based upon its prior decisions. Specifically, the Court concluded that plaintiff succeeded in establishing a hostile work environment claim because the conduct at issue would not have occurred but for his religion and ancestry, and because it was "severe and pervasive" enough to make a reasonable person believe that the working environment was hostile and abusive.

   The Cutler opinion follows similar previous decisions addressing hostile work environment claims of sexual or racial harassment, and accordingly rejects the theory that these comments were "just teasing". The Court noted that stereotypical ethnic references made in the presence of an individual could in the aggregate create an objectively humiliating and painful environment. While each comment, in and of itself, might not be considered harrassment, the Court emphasized that one must look at the comments as a whole, particularly if comments are uttered by one's supervisors.

   In Kwiatkowski v. Merrill Lynch, a recent Appellate Division case, the court made it clear that even a single insult can result in an LAD violation if it is sufficiently egregious. That case involved a claim by an employee that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.He claimed that his supervisor called him a "stupid fag", and that this demonstrated bias and the real reason for his termination. While the trial court dismissed the contention that this single comment could trigger LAD liability, the Appellate Division disagreed and reinstated the case. It held that a jury could find that the single statement "stupid fag" created a hostle work environment, even if it was made by a different supervisor than the one who actually fired plaintiff.

   In short, the courts have been very active in addressing hostile work environment claims. It is important to understand that even workplace comments made in a teasing or joking manner in certain instances can support hostile work environment claims. Those comments could be made about a person's gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. And while it is usually the cumulative impact of these incidents which may constitute a hostile work envirnment, in some instances even a single outrageous comment may be sufficient and trigger liability. We caution that these decisions certainly do not mean that all workplace jokes and teasing are unlawful. But if the remarks are numerous, made by supervisors directed towards subordinates, or outrageous and egrerious when made by a co-worker, the courts are more likely to find LAD vioaltions.


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  • This Web page provides the latest updates for the national contract, riders and supplements that cover about 3,500 Teamsters at DHL Express.

  • We Are eXPOsing XPO’s Global Greed

    XPO Logistics is a top ten global logistics and transportation company with annual revenue of $15 billion and 89,000 employees, another 10,000 workers classified as independent contractors, and thousands more working for firms that subcontract with XPO. We are the REAL workers at XPO Logistics worldwide exposing the truth about the company’s global greed, illegal wage theft, unsafe conditions, and abhorrent and vicious anti-worker, anti-union tactics. 

    This greed includes mistreating former Con-way Freight workers in the United States who are being kept in the dark about terminal closures and layoffs, and the company’s illegal refusal to bargain contracts and denying their workers’ federally protected right to organize. It also includes port, rail and last-mile drivers around the country and in Southern California fighting wage theft in excess of $200 million because they are misclassified as independent contractors and denied the right to form their union. This greed has caused numerous lawsuits and strikes.  Greed also means an unsafe workplace and mistreating its warehouse employees.

    XPO’s greed extends to Europe beginning with breaking its promise to not layoff any workers for at least 18 months. French workers and the unions have been fighting back against XPO’s disrespect, lies and attempts to slash jobs. Similar struggles are taking place in Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and across Europe.

    Join the worldwide struggle now! Get involved with this campaign by joining the Facebook group “XPO Exposed.”

    Together, we can eXPOse the company’s global greed and win fairness, respect and dignity for tens of thousands of XPO employees around the world!

  • This page provides the latest contract information to the 7,500 Teamsters—drivers, dockworkers and office staff—employed by ABF Freight System, Inc.

  • Workers’ pensions are being endangered by both Congress and those charged with overseeing them. The Teamsters and our members are standing united to say “No!” to cuts and “Yes!” to greater retirement security!

  • The ‘Let’s Get America Working!’ campaign seeks to restore a dynamic and prosperous middle class to drive economic growth by helping to advance policy decisions that create and maintain good middle-income jobs, guarantee retirement security, expand access to the American Dream, and ensure that the benefits of the ongoing economic recovery are felt by the many, not just the few.

  • This webpage provides information on the Teamsters Union’s legislative advocacy at both the federal and state level as well as our field activity to support those policy positions and to get strong labor candidates elected to office.  Among other resources, you will find our federal legislative scorecard, formal statements of policy position and communications to Capitol Hill,  a weekly update on federal legislative happenings, an overview of bills we are tracking at the state level, and quick links to take action on priority issues.

  • This web page provides information on the ongoing effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since 1994, NAFTA has devastated working families, putting corporate profits ahead of people.  What’s worse is that NAFTA has become the blueprint for all other trade agreements, from the way that it was negotiated in secret, to the bad provisions that have made their way into every agreement that has been signed since then.  Now, NAFTA is being renegotiated and we demand that it be reframed to work for workers instead of corporate interests.

  • The Teamsters have stood in solidarity with worker struggles in other countries since our founding. With economic globalization, our ability to organize increasingly depends on our ability to build alliances with workers on a global scale.
    More than ever, Teamsters are organizing and bargaining with multi-national companies. A key objective of our Global Strategies Campaign is to build strong alliances with unions around the globe who organize and bargain with common employers. Our focus is on workers in the emerging global supply chains – the infrastructure of globalization.
    Globalization creates new opportunities for international worker solidarity. We seek common cause with workers around the world to build social justice for all workers and the communities in which they live.

  • The contributions of black members to the success of the Teamsters Union are numerous, varied and as old as the union itself. This month, the Teamsters Union spotlights some of those contributions.

 
 
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