Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This... June 2017 Issue Number 203

Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Upcoming Events  

Firewomen Colorado is holding a conference June 7-10 in Westminster, just north of Denver. The event will include training and networking opportunities, including hands-on training.

Now available! On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.


In the News

Reverse Discrimination

A recent lawsuit filed in New Jersey by a deputy fire chief is being characterized as "reverse discrimination" because the plaintiff is white and the defendant fire chief is black.

It is not the first time this term has been used to describe litigation filed by white male plaintiffs, and it certainly won't be the last. But every time I hear it, my blood pressure rises.

Why? Because from a legal standpoint, there is no such thing as reverse discrimination. Under Title VII employment law, you are either discriminated against or you're not. There is no special category for so-called reverse discrimination. Title VII says if you are experiencing employment discrimination because of race or gender, you have the right to file a complaint. The law does not say, "race other than white" or "sex other than male."

This is an important point because the use of the term "reverse discrimination" implies that there are two different legal systems out there-- one for minorities and women, and some other system for aggrieved white men. The implication is that Title VII is a law to benefit women and minorities only.

It's not true and it never has been. Since the beginning, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act has protected everyone in the workplace, because everyone is a member of a listed protected class. These categories currently include, at the federal level: race, sex, ethnicity or national origin, religion, color, age, and disability.

It's true that EEO claims for race or sex discrimination by white men are less common than other types of complaints. But they do exist, and when they are litigated, the law that determines the outcome is exactly the same as for anyone else.

Source: May 11, 2017


News Brief

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently ruled that anti-gay attacks cannot be prosecuted under the state’s hate crime law, a decision that activists said diverged from recent outcomes in gay and transgender rights cases. Federal hate crime law explicitly protects against crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but state law is not consistent in this area.

Source: The New York Times, May 12, 2017


Sexual Harassment Update

Extended Family Leave

"Harry" was an employee of a credit union who had been raised for ten years by his grandfather. When his grandfather became ill, Harry requested FMLA leave to take care of him.

His employer denied his request, saying that FMLA does not apply to grandparent relationships. Harry took the time off anyway and was subsequently fired. He later sued his employer for FMLA interference.

The district court upheld the employer's position: FMLA technically does not cover such extended family relationships. However, there is a large exception to this rule written into the law, and that is when an extended family member serves in loco parentis, as Harry said his grandfather had for him when he was a child. Then such family members are included in granting leave.

The employer did not ask about Harry's relationship to his grandfather and Harry did not offer the information. The district court ruled that it was Harry's responsibility to clarify the nature of the relationship prior to being granted leave.

On appeal, the 2nd Circuit Court disagreed. That court stated that Harry's only obligation was to provide information to his employer that indicates that FMLA "may" apply. Since extended family members are included under some circumstances, the circuit court felt that Harry had met his obligation and it was then the employer's duty to ask for details to determine applicability of leave in his case.

This case highlights the fact that FMLA may apply beyond just nuclear family relationships, and that the employee and employer share responsibility in making sure leave is fairly granted under such circumstances.

Source: HR Daily Advisor, March 8, 2017



© Linda F. Willing, 2017