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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.