WETHERSFIELD — The state Department of Labor’s initial estimates for June regarding the state workforce show that the unemployment rate rose slightly, to 8.1 percent, even amid a net gain in job growth. “June’s mixed results are a mirror of the strengths and weaknesses of the current job market,” said Andy Condon, director of DOL’s Office of Research, in a written summary of the data. “Overall job growth is slow, though the private sector continues to show a decent recovery. Unfortunately, the jump in our unemployment rate indicates we are not growing jobs fast enough to satisfy the need in our economy.”
The number of nonfarm jobs grew by 1,400 (0.1 percent) to 1,629,600. Employment “supersector” gains included education and health services (3,800 positions), leisure and hospitality (2,000), and construction and mining (500). The supersector showing the greatest job loss was government (a net loss of 3,600 positions). The national unemployment rate for June was 8.2 percent.
Inadequately addressing an employee’s sexual-harassment claims could make a company legally liable for monetary damages.
One Connecticut manufacturer found that out last month when the state Supreme Court ruled the company must compensate a former employee more than $90,000 for failing to halt coworkers’ ongoing taunts and hostility regarding the employee’s sexual orientation.
Upholding a prior jury decision, the court ordered Birken Manufacturing Co. to pay Luis Patino $94,500 in damages for failing to take “reasonable steps” to stop harassment. Patino said he had been subjected to homophobic verbal abuse and claimed the situation created a hostile work environment.
The ruling shows that Connecticut’s legal system is serious about enforcing workplace sexual harassment laws, and companies that do not proactively comply risk being subjected to legal action, says Quinnipiac University School of Law faculty member Emanuel Psarakis.
“You’ve got to have a clear and unambiguous policy to specify that you forbid harassment,” says Psarakis, a distinguished practitioner in residence at the law school, who specializes in employment law. “You should have a policy and have a procedure for people making complaints. If you find harassment, you must engage in prompt, effective remedial action.”
Psarakis says company procedures and subsequent action might vary depending on a business’ size and particular situation. For example, while human resources departments routinely field complaints, having an outside entity investigate a grievance might be appropriate in some cases.
“You must respect the privacy of the individual — not only the individual making the complaint, but the individual(s) accused,” notes Psarakis. “They all have rights.”
“Wise employers in this day and age have a policy in place on the bulletin board so people can see it,” he adds. “They have it in employee manuals.”
Laws against sexual harassment are not new; indeed, some have been on the books for as long as four decades, says Psarakis. The fact that this case involved harassment because of sexual orientation does not place it outside the law’s purview, he adds.
In a 1998 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the case Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services Inc., the court recognized that any action of a sexual nature creating a hostile work environment is subject to legal action. That includes, states the court decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, “sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment.”
Founded in 1943, Birken Manufacturing Co. is headquartered in Bloomfield. Its principal products are aerospace jet engine components. Patino began working there as a machinist in 1977. He said that in 1991 coworkers began harassing him with pejorative terms meant to insult homosexuals.
Patino said the harassment began to affect him physically to the point where he became noticeably shaken and had trouble sleeping. The quality of his work also was affected, he said. He claimed that although he complained to supervisors and to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities about the harassment, it persisted. Patino’s employment with Birken ended in 2004.
“What’s placed before a jury is the intensity of the harassment, if it goes way beyond ordinary socializing,” explains Psarakis. “The next question placed before a jury is frequency — how often does it happen?”
When a situation gets out of hand, “If it’s conduct the employer knows about, the employer becomes liable,” says Psarakis.
Once an employer is aware of alleged sexual harassment, “You’ve got to take action that’s appropriate,” Psarakis says. That could be reassuring the alleged victim, written warnings to alleged offenders, training of supervisors, or other means of addressing the problem. Psarakis adds that appropriate action “does not mean a transfer for the complainant,” which could be viewed as an attempt to conveniently get rid of the problem rather than confront it head-on.
To help avoid an accusation of sexual-harassment culpability, says Psarakis, “An employer should be able to show it has a system for processing complaints and acts on that system.”
HARTFORD — The state of Connecticut is hiring. A number of summer and seasonal positions are available at state agencies. Jobs categories include clerical/administrative, drivers, greeters/hosts/tour guides, lifeguards/boating classes, recreational/educational/camp programs, food prep/kitchen support, information technology support, and landscape/grounds and park maintenance, among others. To learn more or to apply online, visit ctdol.state.ct.us/Seasonal%20State%20Positions.html.
HAMDEN — Certified teachers and education administrators seeking employment are invited to attend the ACES Minority Teacher Recruiting Career Fair on Saturday, June 9. On-site interviews will take place during the event, held at the ACES SDA Building, 205 Skiff St. from 9 a.m. noon. Workshops on interview skills and résumé writing also will be held. ACES has identified the following areas in which educators are especially needed: administration, bilingual education, English, library media, math, science, special education, speech & language, and world languages. Interested job candidates should bring copies of their résumé, certification and recommendations. To learn more phone 203-498-6837; to register call 203-498-6810.
NEW HAVEN — Future dieticians receiving education and training at Gateway Community College’s (GCC) new downtown campus will have access to state-of-the-art equipment in its Dietetic Technology Laboratory, thanks to a $150,000 gift from Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut. “The college plays a key role in educating tomorrow’s workforce, including those who seek careers in health care,” said Anthem President David R. Fusco in a statement. In recognition of the gift, given through GCC’s “Your College. Your Future” building campaign, the new lab will carry the Anthem name. GCC’s Dietetic Technology Program currently has 60 enrolled students; 344 have graduated with an associate of science degree since the program’s inception. “The teaching technology in our new laboratory will provide many more dietetic technology students the opportunity to bridge what they’re learning in class with instructional demonstrations and hands-on practice,” said Elaine Lickteig, coordinator of the Dietetic Technology Program.
HARTFORD — Not all public-transportation commuters fared equally in the state budget approved by legislators in May. While a planned bus-fare increase was excised before final legislative approval, Metro North riders were not so lucky. Employees who commute to work via Metro North will be subject to a four-percent rise in the cost of their tickets come next January 1.