Discrimination doesn’t just include refusing to hire someone based on a protected characteristic, such as race or gender. Harassment based on a protected characteristic can also give rise to a discrimination claim, if the harassment is “severe or pervasive enough” to create a hostile work environment.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of employees working from home was skyrocketing. But now, that trend has accelerated even faster. This raises the question: can an employee suffer from a hostile work environment—while working from home?
The coronavirus pandemic has already had a massive impact on businesses. Many companies have announced layoffs, furloughs, or unpaid leaves of absence.
Employers aren’t prohibited from firing employees. Employment relationships are usually at-will, meaning that employees can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Of course, there are still boundaries that apply, such as laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation.
The recent coronavirus outbreak raises a host of employment-law issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to take measures to eliminate or reduce dangerous hazards to their employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates leave for “serious health conditions,” raising questions as to whether an infected employee is legally entitled to leave. And Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on national origin, so an employer can’t tell someone not to come to work just because he or she is from China or Italy.
Many employers strongly prefer arbitration to litigating with their employees in court. Employers often believe—and the Supreme Court has agreed—that arbitration of employment disputes has many benefits, including potential cost savings, more limited discovery, a greater ability to keep the dispute confidential, and speedier resolutions.
Can a news organization avoid a discrimination claim by arguing that it was exercising its First Amendment right to choose who writes the news?
That’s the question that the California courts have been grappling with in Stanley Wilson’s case against CNN. And that question has now been answered in Wilson’s favor.
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