Discrimination & Harassment



Workforce management in a stagnant economy has been particularly challenging for employers as they try to manage their expenses and their bottom line. Business decisions, such as conducting layoffs and reductions in force, have contributed to an increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims by former employees following the loss of their jobs. While employers often implement explicit codes of conduct for their workplace, discrimination and harassment behaviors can sometimes still linger. We are also seeing more and more class actions and collective claims filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys whose aggressive tactics have made the defense of these cases significantly more expensive. In this landscape, where emotions often run high and the potential financial exposure to companies is great, employers turn to Nixon Peabody Labor & Employment Litigation attorneys for a comprehensive, cost-effective winning strategy.

Discrimination and harassment litigation

Members of Nixon Peabody’s Labor & Employment Litigation practice are talented, skilled attorneys who have decades of experience defending complex and sometime-hostile discrimination and harassment litigation matters. From the outset, the team leverages their trial and investigative skills to win cases early by assessing their client’s risk and then developing a calculated litigation strategy geared toward saving our client from years of discovery and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees, often avoiding a costly trial. Whether defending against hundreds of claimants or a single plaintiff case, our team has a proven track record of achieving the results our clients are seeking while containing litigation costs. Our attorneys also excel at blocking or containing class certification and executing offensive strategies, such as counterclaims and early dispositive motions.

We have represented clients in federal trial and appellate courts; state courts; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); and related federal, state, and local governmental agencies. These cases involve disparate treatment and impact claims and span the full range of protected categories, including race, sex, age, disability, veteran status, national origin, and religion, as well as issues arising from statutes such as the Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. Our experience before the EEOC includes individual discrimination charges and class claims, as well as related investigations of compensation discrimination, failure to hire or promote, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, retaliation, and disability discrimination.

Prevention

Although an employer cannot insulate itself entirely from litigation, it can take steps to decrease its chances of being sued and maximize its ability to obtain a quick resolution at a relatively small cost. Our philosophy is to minimize the risk of workplace discrimination claims through proactive planning. We work collaboratively with our clients to conduct audits that include detailed compensation and data analyses to identify hidden statistical vulnerabilities, interviews of company personnel to gauge employee morale and satisfaction with diversity efforts, and recommendations to address areas of vulnerability.

We routinely assist our clients in identifying potential issues and minimizing the possibilities for liability by:

  • Reviewing policies and procedures and identifying issues that might support a disparate impact or “pattern and practice” claim of discrimination;
  • Revising and/or creating alternative policies and procedures, pay practices, or hiring/promotion/firing practices to minimize the risk of any discrimination claims;
  • Advising on diversity “best practices” and conducting diversity training; and
  • Providing harassment and discrimination prevention training.

Poorly pleaded discrimination case leaves court, defendants peeved

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | February 12, 2019

Chicago Complex Commercial Disputes associate Laura Bacon wrote this contributed article analyzing a recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss with prejudice an employment discrimination suit in which the plaintiffs repeatedly failed to amend flaws in their filings.

EEOC's Costco case sheds light on Title VII liability

Law360 | November 14, 2018

Chicago Complex Commercial Disputes associate Laura Bacon and Labor & Employment associate Brittany Bogaerts, co-wrote this contributed article analyzing a Seventh Circuit ruling that held Costco responsible for a hostile work environment created by a customer harassing an employee.

New sexual harassment rules now in effect

The Daily Record | October 17, 2018

Rochester Labor & Employment associate Kim Harding is quoted extensively in this article about New York state’s new rules to curb workplace sexual harassment and how employers are taking a more proactive approach.

Ex-Indiana University professor loses race discrimination case

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | October 10, 2018

Chicago Labor & Employment partner Frank Saibert wrote this contributed article analyzing a lawsuit filed by an Indiana University professor who blamed racial discrimination for the university’s decision to deny him tenure.

When the national discourse of sexual abuse seeps into the office

Long Island Business News | October 04, 2018

Long Island Labor & Employment associate Tony Dulgerian is quoted in this story about how employers can respond to the current national dialogue by having conversations with employees about workplace harassment.

Be cautious with settlement releases

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | July 01, 2018

Chicago Complex Commercial Disputes associate Laura Bacon wrote this contributed article on a California employment discrimination matter that offers important lessons for employers entering into settlement agreements.

Drug testing in the workplace

Bloomberg Radio | June 18, 2018

Boston labor and employment partner Jeff Gilbreth spoke to the hosts of Bloomberg Radio on the challenges of drug testing in the workplace in Massachusetts.

Adding relevance to anti-harassment training

Long Island Business News | June 10, 2018

Long Island labor and employment associate David Tauster is quoted in this article analyzing the impact of legislation signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo requiring all employers to adopt sexual harassment prevention policies.

Outlawing sexual harassment

HR Executive.com | May 15, 2018

Boston partner and labor and employment practice group leader David Rosenthal is quoted in this story on the possibility of states passing tougher laws against workplace sexual harassment as a result of the #MeToo movement.

East County gym sued over transgender locker access

Fox 5 San Diego | May 01, 2018

Los Angeles labor and employment associate Erin Holyoke is quoted in this article about a discrimination lawsuit filed by Nixon Peabody and the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties on behalf of their client Christynne Wood, a transgender woman, against a Crunch Fitness gym in San Diego county.

New Washington employment laws focus on privacy and #MeToo

Law360 | April 22, 2018

Long Island labor and employment partner Chris Gegwich and associate Chris Moro co-wrote this article analyzing new laws recently passed in Washington state that will directly impact employer-employee relationships when they take effect in June.

Some work environments, hostile as advertised, are not actionable

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | April 18, 2018

Chicago commercial litigation associate Laura Bacon wrote this article analyzing a recent claim of hostile work environment brought by an employee of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The rise of retaliation rates

HR Executive | April 17, 2018

Los Angeles labor and employment associate Alicia Anderson is quoted in this article discussing the results of the latest Global Business Ethics Survey, which found record numbers of employees reporting misconduct within their organizations and a sharp rise in reports of retaliation against whistleblowers.

Higher Education Should Note Recent Title VII Rulings

Law360 | April 04, 2018

This expert analysis of recent circuit court decisions involving claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at colleges and universities was co-written by Albany government investigations and white-collar defense partner Tina Sciocchetti, Boston government investigations and white-collar defense associate Julianna Malogolowkin and Rochester commercial litigation associate Zachary Osinski.

Review Your Company Dating Policy in Light of #MeToo Movement

SHRM | January 30, 2018

In this article on company dating policies, Rochester Labor & Employment associate Kim Harding is quoted on ways companies can avoid possible #MeToo experiences when employees date one another.

Department of Education withdraws Obama-era Title IX Guidance

Rochester Business Journal | October 19, 2017

Rochester private equity and investment funds partner Jeremy Wolk authored this column about the Department of Education’s recent decision to withdraw of Obama-era Title IX guidance.

Preventative discrimination training should be ongoing

Rochester Business Journal | October 19, 2017

Rochester labor and employment partner Stephanie Caffera and manager of diversity and inclusion Rekha Chiruvolu were quoted in this special report regarding why employers should provide preventative discrimination training in the workplace.

Revisiting Title IX process could benefit all lawyers say

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly | October 04, 2017

Providence commercial litigation counsel Steven Richard provides commentary in this article about the Trump administration’s Title IX guidance document.

Federal courts grind up gender bias charges against sausage company

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | September 17, 2017

Chicago labor and employment partner Frank Saibert contributed this article analyzing a case surrounding a former employee’s sexual discrimination claims.

Medical marijuana decision seen as complicating life for employers

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly | May 31, 2017

Providence labor and employment partner Andrew Prescott provides commentary in this article about Rhode Island’s Hawkins-Slater Medical Marijuana Act, which bars employers from refusing to hire someone if he or she uses medical marijuana.

Making harassment hotlines work

Human Resources Executive | May 07, 2017

Boston labor and employment partner David Rosenthal is quoted in this article about considerations human resources executives should make regarding harassment hotlines for employees.

NLRB 1964 Civil Rights Act bump heads

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin | December 14, 2016

Chicago labor and employment partner Frank Saibert authored this column that discusses an ongoing litigation between Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and the National Labor Relations Board. The dispute is over whether Cooper violated the National Labor Relations Act by firing an employee who yelled racist comments at a temporary worker who crossed the union’s picket line during a lockout.

Experts: Even tiny firms need sexual harassment policies

Newsday | October 01, 2016

Long Island Labor & Employment partner Chris Gegwich provides commentary in this piece that discusses the need for all companies—no matter how small—to have polices in place to prevent sexual harassment.

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