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Competitor lawsuit: Uber's contractor model is unfair competition

Using contract labor to perform core business functions is still controversial, even as companies like Uber, Grubhub and Amazon take advantage of this "gig economy" business model. Traditionally, employers have been required to provide at least some benefits, such as workers' compensation, unemployment insurance and payroll tax payments. Contractors receive none of these and are not protected by some labor laws.

There has been litigation around the country to determine whether it is legal to use contract workers instead of employees to handle primary business operations. It has centered around whether the workers can legally be considered contractors under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. So far, several trial-level courts have ruled that these workers can indeed be considered independent contractors, not employees, under the FLSA.

Could you lose a promotion due to religious discrimination?

If you have been working at the same company with room for upward movement for several years, you may feel you are due for a promotion. Some people who find themselves waiting for years or longer for a promotion which they feel they deserve may start to wonder if there is a specific reason why the offer never seems to come.

Employees who have strong religious beliefs could even start wondering if religious bias is a factor behind their lack of promotion. If you suspect such a situation, how should you handle this issue?

CBS's Moonves out after new claims of sexual misconduct surface

CBS's chief executive Les Moonves has resigned after six more women brought forward allegations of past sexual misconduct against the veteran television executive. Previously, six other women made allegations, resulting in an investigation at CBS.

Unlike in many instances at other employers in which alleged sexual harassers were protected by so-called "golden parachutes," however, these allegations may result in Moonves losing out on a substantial severance package. According to Reuters, Moonves was expected to receive $100 million in severance. Additionally, Moonves promised to make a $20-million donation to groups supporting the #MeToo movement and gender equality in the workplace.

Survey: Workplace harassment often committed by senior colleagues

According to a survey of 250 men and 250 women employed full time in the U.S., more than a third of all respondents -- 35 percent -- said they had experienced some form of harassment in the workplace. Among women, the number was 41 percent. About half of those who had experienced harassment said it was gender-based.

Among the interesting findings of the survey, which was completed recently by the specialty insurer Hiscox, were details about the alleged harassers. Of those experiencing harassment, 78 percent said the harasser was male -- although harassment was reported by women against men and by persons of the same gender. Seventy-three percent of those experiencing harassment said the harasser was someone in a senior position. And, some harassers were third parties such as customers and vendors.

Barnes & Noble: Former CEO was fired over sexual harassment claim

When bookseller Barnes & Noble fired its CEO Demos Parneros last month, the only explanation was that he had been let go for violating company policy. Now, Parneros has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of defamation and breach of contract. That led B&N to publicly clarify that the firing was partly in response to a sexual harassment complaint. Parneros claims the alleged sexual harassment complaint was pretextual, and that he had really been fired without warning after a deal to sell the bookseller fell through. He is seeking $4 million in severance, along with equity and damages.

Parneros's lawsuit revealed details that had not been disclosed by Barnes & Noble's board, although the sexual harassment complaint was played down, according to the New York Times. In one conversation with an executive assistant, he allegedly described a Quebec hotel he had visited as a place where "you would put out." He claims he merely described the hotel as charming and romantic.

Can employers legally target online job ads to younger workers?

After a layoff, one 45-year-old woman pored over online job ads every day searching for something equivalent to what she had been doing before. Strangely, there seemed to be no job openings despite a strong economy. Finally, someone from her old union clued her in on the fact that job recruiters are known to target online ads exclusively to younger people. Someone her age might not be given a chance to see the available opportunities.

She's now a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against T-Mobile, Amazon, Facebook and other similarly situated employers and employment agencies by the Communications Workers of America. The suit alleges that, when companies make some job ads invisible to people 40 and over, they violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Study: Men who advocate for others may be seen as less competent

After the #MeToo movement began, there came a new hashtag: #AskMoreofHim. The idea was to urge men in positions of power to take a more active role in preventing gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Will they? Or might it cost them to do so?

A recent study by researchers at Dublin City University suggests that men who advocate on behalf of others are perceived less positively, although women who do so are not. The issue seems to be that men who stand up for their peers are seen as behaving counter to an established gender stereotype.

What to do if you are suffering workplace discrimination

Workplace harassment and discrimination is all too common, and many workers do not take any action against this behavior. Some workers fear retaliation from their employers, such as termination. Others are unsure where to turn to speak up.

If you are suffering workplace discrimination, you should know that you have anti-discrimination protection under federal and state law. But to exercise those rights, you must take action. Here are three tips to help you understand the first steps if you want to take action against workplace discrimination:

DOL issues new guidance on classifying independent contractors

With the rise of the "gig economy," new companies have sometimes opted to classify their workers as independent contractors vs. employees. This immediately cuts their overhead, as contractors are not eligible for overtime or many job-based benefits like workers' compensation and unemployment insurance. They are responsible for paying 100 percent of their payroll taxes, while employees receive half paid by their employer. Hiring independent contractors can save a lot of money for the company by shifting the cost of even basic benefits to the worker.

The question of whether a worker is a contractor, however, is a legal one. Companies are not free to simply label their workers as contractors. Instead, they must demonstrate that the employer-independent contractor relationship is legitimate.

Jury awards $1.25 million for retaliation by professor, Columbia

When Enrichetta R. filed a sexual harassment complaint against a senior colleague at Columbia University business school, she may have expected some push-back. Although retaliation if illegal, it's unfortunately not uncommon for some form of retaliation to occur after a discrimination complaint.

According to a recent lawsuit, her colleague did not respond well to the complaint. She claims that he intentionally stalled her research and tried to keep her from getting tenure. Then, she says, he went much farther and tried to get her blacklisted in the field. He wrote at least 30 emails telling industry leaders at the Federal Reserve Bank, economic journals and other top-tier universities that Enrichetta was "evil" and "crazy." He often sent these emails from his Columbia account.

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