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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Five Things Every Employee Should Know

Five Things Every Employee Should Know

1) Men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform substantially the same work under the Equal Pay Act.  

"Equal pay" refers to more than just your paycheck. Under this law, all employers must provide "equal pay" including: equal salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit-sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses and benefits.

2) Your employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your race, color, religion, sex or national origin in any terms or conditions of your employment, including compensation hours and benefits. 

 Under title VII of the civil rights act of 1964, any employer with at least 15 workers is required to provide equal employment opportunity. This means employers are prohibited from offering different pay for individuals doing the same or similar job or from employing other practices which would result in discrimination on the basis of a protected class such as denying promotions or taking other actions which would unfairly impacted employees' pay, work conditions or job security.

Under New Hampshire's discrimination law, RSA 354 – A the list of employees covered under the law is expanded to include a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation and pregnancy.

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New Hampshire jury awards over $31 million to former Walmart employee claiming discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation

New Hampshire jury awards over $31 million to former Walmart employee claiming discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation
A New Hampshire jury has awarded more than $31 million in damages to a former Walmart pharmacist who claimed she was wrongfully terminated on the basis of her gender and after reporting concerns about unsafe pharmacy conditions.  Maureen McPadden had been been employed by Walmart for 13 years when she was fired in 2012, supposedly for losing a key.  Walmart claimed neither her gender nor the concerns which she had raised about her store's pharmacy played a role in McPadden's dismissal.  According to Randy Hargrove, director of media relations out of the box store giant's headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas, McPadden was allegedly fired as a result of her performance including an incident in which she lost her pharmacy key. Despite Walmart's retail prowess, the jury didn't buy the story it was selling and awarded McPadden back wages, future Pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages in amount over $31 million dollars.   The jury found that Walmart had wrongfully terminated McPadden and discriminated against her on the basis of her gender.  In support of McPadden's claim, she presented evidence that the lost key was just an excuse to fire her after she blew the whistle on unsay pharmacy conditions. Her lawyers presented evidence to the jury that a male pharmacist at a Walmart nearby in Plaistow, New Hampshire had lost his pharmacy key not long after McPadden, but unlike the female whistle blower McPadden, he was not fired. Of the victory McPadden said "the conditions in the pharmacy were not safe. It was really in my soul to do something about it." Certainly Walmart which claims it does not tolerate discrimination of any type will challenge the jury's decision. Indeed Hargrove has indicated that Walmart will ask the court to set aside the verdict or reduce the damages. At a minimum it's likely that the punitive damages under the federal gender discrimination law, Title VII will be reduced from the 15 million awarded by the jury. Title VII has a cap on punitive damages in the amount of $300,000. Still, the jury's message was loud and clear and Mcpadden's victory is a victory for employees everywhere who are treated unfairly and intimidated by powerful employers.  By all counts this battle was hard fought and there must have been moments of doubt, but McPadden and her team never gave up and the results will hopefully transform not just McPadden's life, but all the others who will now dare to speak up to discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.  Photo courtesy of MikeMozartJeepersMedia under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION INFORMATION

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION INFORMATION

These frequently asked questions are drawn from the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights. Visit their website for more information.

Is a pregnant woman entitled to maternity leave?

Yes, an employer must grant a female employee leave for the period of time she is physically disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

 

Is there a set period of time for maternity leave?

No, there is no set period of time for maternity leave. It is based on the period she is disabled as determined by a physician, usually the employee's personal doctor.

 

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Sexuality, Relationships, and Workplace Discrimination

Sexuality, Relationships, and Workplace Discrimination

A recent decision by the first circuit court of appeals found that a bisexual employee of Bank of America was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated based upon her sexual orientation. While the past decade has seen real advances on the debate around sexual orientation and gender identity, including strengthened legal protections in the workplace, there is still progress to be made. Shelly Flood’s story highlights how non-heterosexual workplace relationships can lead to employment discrimination.

Shelly Flood, a Bank of America call center employee in Maine, began a relationship with a female member of the janitorial staff while employed by Bank of America. After her supervisor saw a photo of the couple, Ms. Flood began to notice hostile treatment, including declining work performance reviews and warnings against fraternization with her significant other in the work place.

These warnings came despite the fact that heterosexual employees regularly discussed their relationships, marriages, and sexual activities in the workplace. The final blow came after she was forced to attend a work meeting in which other employees discussed plans for an upcoming bridal shower, including graphic details regarding sexually explicit party favors and lingerie. Ms. Flood failed to report to work the next day.

After that, Ms. Flood maintained that she was too distraught to return to work due to the hostile work environment. Her supervisor recommended that Bank of America follow the procedures for job abandonment, which resulted in Ms. Flood’s firing from Bank of America. 

The first circuit court ultimately found that Ms. Flood was harassed and wrongfully discharged on the basis of her sexuality under the Maine Human Rights Act. The higher court reversed the district court’s decision. Although this case was specific to Maine law, New Hampshire state law also provides protection for afforded its employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under RSA 354-A.

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