Discrimination Laws Sometimes Lag Behind Current Reality

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) February 6, 2015 - President John F. Kennedy passed Title VII into law over 50 years ago in order to deal with employment discrimination. In some ways, it has kept pace with the times, but in other areas of the law, it has not.

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“What many don’t realize is that an employer may be held liable for a customer’s discrimination. Consider the case of an Indiana nursing home resident that insisted that only white aides and nurses assist her. The home allowed that to happen,” outlined principal employment attorney Timothy Coffey of The Coffey Law Office, PC, located in Chicago. The nursing home resident created a hostile working environment for African-American nurses and aides by complying with the woman’s demands.

The facility ultimately fired African-American aide for misconduct unrelated to the discriminatory patient and filed a suit under Title VIII. Her statement of claim alleged that the nursing home permitted a hostile work environment to flourish by acceding to the resident’s racial biases. The federal appeals court agreed and ruled an employer is not permitted to use a resident’s (customer’s) racial preference as a defense for treating workers differently based on their race.[Chaney vs. Plainfield Healthcare Ctr. No. 09-3661 (7th Cir. July 20, 2010)]

Further, Title VII is not up to date with the complex area of sexual orientation, dealing only with gender and sex discrimination. The status of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories under Title VII remains unclear. Nonetheless, there are several states that do consider discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be illegal: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

“Know what your employer’s sexual harassment and discrimination policy is, and find out if it covers customer created discrimination,” said Coffey. “Report any suspected discrimination to the appropriate person in your company and keep a record of any such questionable actions. Seek experienced legal counsel when in doubt about your situation.” People need to be aware of their rights in the workplace and understand how Title VIII may be applicable in their situation if they are having issues.

THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
Call: 312.627.9700

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