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Milwaukee Wisconsin Employment Law Blog

Pregnancy: Your rights on the job

Working while pregnant is a difficult thing. Your body is changing, often in unexpected ways, all while you’re facing one of the biggest transitions of your life. Meanwhile, the duties at your job continue unabated. You may not have come to grips with the fact that you can’t quite do everything you used to be able to do before. Maybe you’re having a particularly challenging pregnancy and your doctor has imposed restrictions that actually prevent you from doing some of your job duties. You need this job, however, and you’re worried. What if your employer fires you?

If this is your situation, you’re certainly not alone. Fortunately, there are legal protections in place to prevent employers from discriminating against you just because you’re pregnant. If they do discriminate, you can sue for damages and win.

Is my company protecting my biometric information?

Science fiction becomes reality in fits and starts, and part of it is already here in the form of biometric data. In place of passwords and badges, some companies are starting to use employee fingerprints, voiceprints, retinal scans, and hand or face scans to grant access to certain data and facilities. The security benefits to the company are significant, since it’s hard to replicate biometric markers. Equally significant, however, are the privacy risks to the employees. If someone steals your password, you can just change it. If someone steals your fingerprints, you’re in a lot more trouble. Employees need to know what their rights are as biometric data collection becomes more common.

 

Some people never learn

Wisconsin and Iowa share not only a border, but some cultural struggles as well. In both places, efforts have been made in businesses large and small, as well as in government, to educate people about appropriate behavior in the workplace. Unfortunately, the messages don’t always get through.

We read recently of a former Iowa state director who was fired for sexual harassment in the workplace less than a month after he and his staff completed training on preventing sexual harassment.

A shift in the Wisconsin employment law landscape?

While some Milwaukee employers were undoubtedly cheered by a recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision, some employment law attorneys encourage employers to regardless be cautious. The court held in Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc. that employers can deny a leave of absence as an accommodation for a disability.

Many had long understood the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to allow workers to take those leaves, but the court held that “a long‑term leave of absence cannot be a reasonable accommodation.”

What can you do if you are sexually harassed at work?

You are a hard-working woman. Each morning you go to work with a great attitude, ready for the day ahead. Unfortunately, that peace and joy you feel are destroyed once your male supervisor brushes against your buttocks with his hand. What is going on? Why is he doing that? “That is so inappropriate,” you think.

You may be experiencing sexual harassment at work, and it is against the law.

Part 2: Remembering a landmark Wisconsin sexual harassment case

Regular readers of our Milwaukee employment law blog know that we wrote recently in this space about a landmark Wisconsin sexual harassment case in the late 1970s and early 1980s that helped pave the way for today's powerful #MeToo movement.

Warehouse worker Carol Zabkowicz was enduring sexual harassment at her Oak Creek job, but refused to quit. Her income was crucial to her family’s financial health.

Part 1: Remembering a landmark Wisconsin sexual harassment case

The #MeToo movement surged into the national consciousness in October of last year. Women across the nation have since then made clear on social media that sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive problem that in one way or another affects all of us. But the genesis of the movement happened long before Harvey Weinstein’s misdeeds came to light.

A landmark case here in Wisconsin laid the groundwork for #MeToo, a Milwaukee TV station pointed out recently.

Women coaches are fighting discrimination and winning

Because Wisconsin and Minnesota are neighbors and sometimes friendly rivals, we share natural resources, an upper Midwest culture, industries, weather and more. So we recently read with an interest a story about gender discrimination and retaliation in Minnesota. The issues don’t stop at our shared border, of course.

The article in a Minneapolis newspaper details the struggles women coaches across the country continue to have in male-dominated athletics. A number of female coaches have filed lawsuits to stop discrimination, only to see their careers derailed while the men heading those athletics departments prosper. Some might consider the article depressing, but from our perspective, it offers real hope that change is happening and additional positive advancement is on its way.

Fox News settles race, gender lawsuits for $10 million

The numbers are big: 18 lawsuits settled for $10 million. The numbers are part of news reports detailing settlements Fox News has entered into with former employees.

According to NPR, the cases involve a number of lawsuits that alleged racial discrimination and several that included claims of gender discrimination and retaliation. The suits were apparently settled by 21st Century Fox and plaintiffs' employment law attorneys after mediation and in negotiations.

Police brutality and civil rights violations

Everyone in the United States is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Many people in America are still fighting for their civil rights. Civil rights refer to legal provisions that stem from notions of equality.

A common civil rights violation is law enforcement’s use of force against someone because of that person’s race, sexual orientation, religion or immigration status.

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