Occupational health and safety laws coupled with human resources laws ensure that the workplace is ideal for the modern-day worker. Such laws guarantee a safe environment that is devoid of any discrimination, which is a shift from the traditional workplace where labour laws did not consider the plight of employees. In this essay, five articles relating to the laws will be discussed with the aim of examining the legal issues raised therein.
Discrimination in the workplace
Discrimination at the workplace is a serious offence under the aforementioned laws and offenders face strict penalties and imprisonment. In this section, an example of an article detailing discrimination at the workplace is discussed. The article published in the New York Amsterdam News explores a case in which the US Supreme Court was to decide on the extent to which an employer could be held liable for discrimination (Jamie, 2013).
In the case, Vance v. Ball State University, Maetta Vance complains of being discriminated by a supervisor in the institution. The cause of disagreement is in the definition of the term ‘supervisor’ with Vance claiming that the university employee who discriminated her was her supervisor in the Banquet and Catering Department where she worked (Jamie, 2013).
The case was filed in the year 2006 after Vance accused the institution of not reacting and carrying out any disciplinary action against the supervisor who racially and ethnically discriminated her. Discrimination could take place at the workplace on racial grounds as seen in Griggs v. Duke Power Co and in this case, the discrimination was rather direct (Larkin, Pierce, & Gino, 2012)..
According to Vance, the supervisor by the name Sandra Davis “created and fostered a hostile work environment by frequently making discriminatory remarks about her race and ethnicity” (Jamie, 2013, p.40).
The case took the nature of other discrimination at the work place, such as Bradley v. Pizzaco of Nebraska, Inc. Ricci v. DeStefano, and EEOC v. Peoplemark, Inc. that had the basis of racial discrimination based on grooming policies, the requirement in tests and criminal reports respectively (Heather, Kevin, & Jitendra, 2013).
The issue brought into light the legal provisions for the case and according to Title VII, “employers aren’t liable for non-supervisors’ discriminatory conduct of the majority non-supervisors as long as they act reasonably enough to prevent discrimination from occurring and for any issues of discrimination brought to their attention” (Jamie, 2013, p. 40).
The university tried to shield itself from the suit by filing a motion for summary judgment to confirm, and this was an apt thing to do in its defence based on the available level of evidence (Wood, Braeken, & Niven, 2013). The courts had previously discussed whether Vance was in order to state that Davis was her supervisor, with the various definitions of a supervisor being sought.
The paper claims that the only evidence available as to Davis being Vance’s supervisor is that she “had the authority to direct Vance’s day to day activities” (Jamie, 2013, p. 40).The issue brought into sharp focus the description of the term ‘supervisor’. Under the Supreme Court, the definition of the term is rather broad and the court’s ruling was deemed a landmark ruling for trials cases that would follow on the same.
This assertion holds as the litigation cases against employers would increase or decrease depending on the definition that the court would provide. Adoption of the broader definition of the term would mean employees make more suits against their employers based on the Title VII claims (Jamie, 2013).
On the contrary, adoption of the narrower definition of the term as stated in the 7th Circuit would see a decline in the claims under Title VII (Jamie, 2013, p. 40). The 7th Circuit states, “Supervisors are individuals who have the power to ‘hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline’ employees” (Jamie, 2013, p. 40).
An institution is responsible for any discrimination that employees undergo in the same institution (Wood, Braeken, & Niven, 2013). The employer should thus try to solve any discriminatory issues affecting the employees, with those responsible for the same facing strict punishment and legal action as per the legislation.
Since the application of Title VII, plaintiffs have regularly used it as a means to pursue charges against the employers for alleged racial discrimination at the workplace (Heather, Kevin, & Jitendra, 2013). The article details the definition of a supervisor under Title VII, and a broader and narrower definition for the same are explored.
The author gives both definitions of the term, with the various consequences that applying each may have on future discrimination suits. Discrimination is a major source of legal battles, and employees constantly take their employers to court based on the same (Heather, Kevin, & Jitendra, 2013). The definition of the term supervisor is thus of importance and the outcome of these cases could be determined by the same.
The relationship between an employer and employees is a significant legal issue with different employees raising concern over their employers (Heather, Kevin, & Jitendra, 2013). One such issue is evident in the rule that was meant to display the difference between employers and employee pay.
In an article by The Hill newspaper, the inclusion of one of the laws that require company CEOs to declare the difference between the salary of the average employees and theirs in a reform had brought chaos in the industry. The law is said to predate the Occupy Wall Street movement and most of the opponents state, “Salary data are difficult to collect and of no interest to investors” (Schroeder, 2012, p. 12).
The inclusion of the regulation in the provisions means that if this element becomes law, the executive officers would have to bear with the knowledge of their remuneration being widely available in the public domain.
The opponents and proponents of the requirements have varying views of the same, with those supporting it doing so based on the campaign agenda by the president, with the year of publishing being an election year (Schroeder, 2012). The proponents argue that the issue is a rather political one finding itself in the public domain and thus it requires further and sober evaluation without the political pressures (Schroeder, 2012).
Some of the groups that supported the move according to the article include the various labour groups that are major players in the country and other Wall Street members (Allen, Ericksen, & Collins, 2013).The major argument against the requirement is that it poses greater trouble than it would actually solve.
The people concerned stated that the executive officers in the various industries would feel embarrassed and even cause some disturbance between employers and their employees (Allen, Ericksen, & Collins, 2013).
In the assessment of a company’s performance, investors use a number of parameters to evaluate the health of a company. The opponents of the requirement stated in the article that the requirement to have the average pay for the employees compared to the executive pay might not be one of the measures.
According to them, the performance of a company is not indicated by the difference between the pay for executives and the average worker (Schroeder, 2012).
The article focuses on the legislation with various people interviewed stating points for their support or lack thereof for the requirement. Some of the proponents state that the requirement was not dated with any deadline for implementation and would thus not be difficult to debate and apply (Schroeder, 2012).
However, the opponents are said to be bent on using the senate to counter any political attempts to make the regulation apply (Schroeder, 2012).
Labour laws are specific on the privileges that an employer and the employees enjoy, which should be respected by both parties, as well as other concerned parties. The steps that the employees may take if dissatisfied with their employer include lawsuits such as the one above, and these cover mainly the remuneration or the working conditions (Isolani, 2011).
The major concern that the article portrays and describes is the advent of regulation in the industry, with the change cited to have an implication on the relationship between the employer and employee. The assumption and likely effect is the public display of executive’s remuneration, with the above likely to affect their work ethics and performance (Larkin, Pierce, & Gino, 2012).
The legislation that requiring secrecy of remuneration details of officers in the organisations will be turned inside out and this aspect will be a departure from the current held secrecy (Isolani, 2011).
In the making of regulations affecting employees, the consideration of their relative pay is not important and so is the ratio of their pay to the executive officers. The article displays some of the major flaws in the labour laws and specifically in remuneration. However, it is not right that employers and the CEOs get their salaries exposed in public in the name of comparing this to that of their subordinate or average employees.
The human resource law is particularly strict when it comes to the recruitment of employees in companies and their remuneration issues (Ehrhardt, Miller, Freeman, & Hom, 2011). It provides for the respect of the basic rights and freedoms in the workplace (Park, Yang, & McLean, 2008).
The attempt to have the CEOs have their salaries compared to their average employees in the companies has no basis and is likely to embarrass them as suggested in the article. It is imperative that employers can force employees to state their salaries publicly.
The acts of an organisation or of its employees may be punishable to the origination on behalf of those committing them by either commission or omission (Meredith, 2012, p. 11).
Various laws and legislations around the world ensure that there is taking of responsibility for any action in the professional practice and one of the ways is the vicarious liability that allows people to make organisations accountable for the acts of their employees.
In an article detailing the application of vicarious liability, a stage man is stated to have sued his mother company in the United States for allegedly being forced to inject controlled performance enhancing drugs in the clients in the belief that they would prolong their erections (Meredith, 2012, p. 11).
The employee Ronald Baker sued the company after he allegedly pierced his finger while administering the drug to one of the clients, thus suffering the effects of the drug that were not known to him (Meredith, 2012, p. 11). The employers were not sure of what to do after the incident and the employee claimed that he feared to have contracted HIV, which was the main reason for him contacting them (Meredith, 2012, p. 11).
He later realised that the drugs that they were giving were not appropriately prescribed, and immediately stopped giving them, which prompted the employer to withhold the employment benefits (Meredith, 2012, p. 11).
In the suit, the employee states some of the reason for the suing as being the manner in which the managers handled the matter, the way in which they terminated his employment contract, and the violation that they had for the labour law (Meredith, 2012, p. 11). He also sued for the emotional distress that the event caused him, as well as the health effects that clients may have had without knowledge (Meredith, 2012, p. 11).
The suit also included the suing of other employees who are also involved in the same activity and lawyers in the case stated that nurses did not give the injections, as the Californian law requires (Meredith, 2012, p. 11). The clients also do not know the effects of the injection and potential effects had not been investigated before administration of the drugs.
The company is said to be in the adult entertainment industry, thus involved in the making of pornographic movies for the clients (Meredith, 2012, p. 11). The participants were described as getting many hours of erections, with this being regarded as beneficial for the company since they could make more movies for longer (Meredith, 2012, p. 11).
The employee and his colleagues are directly responsible for the effects of the drugs, since they are involved in its administration. However, the managers are also responsible, despite showing little interest when contacted by the employee (Meredith, 2012, p. 11). The company was sued due to the matter by indicating the vicarious responsibility that it had over its employees.
The occupational health and safety law and the human resource law are some of the laws that recognise vicarious liability. The crafting of the regulation in these laws allow the taking of responsibility for actions that employees of a company may take that may adversely affect the rights of other individuals.
Before the regulation, employers could not be sued for the wrongs done by their employees, and this was unheard of as the various crimes committed before the regulation came into effect were enough to warrant its effect (Anselmi, 2012).
Some of the cases of vicarious liability that have been reported in the past have ended with the plaintiff getting less of the sentence that they had anticipated. In the Lynch v. Binnacle Ltd. t/a Cavan Co-op Mart case, the employee displayed the same vicarious liability as described above, though the employer was not directly involved in the injuries that the employee stated to have occurred at the workplace.
The cases citing vicarious liability have often been ruled in favour of the defendant, and there is often little evidence or basis for the defendant to be fined or accused. The above-mentioned news article, for example, the employee was directly involved in the administration of the drug distributed in the company’s sets, but this exercise was without prior knowledge of the effects that it may have on people having it.
The ideal process for the case to one of vicarious liability is where the participants’ in the pornographic videos would have sued the company for the action of the employees. In this case, the employees would have been the people behind the acts with the company being sued instead.
The application of the law in its entirety means that companies can no longer pose to be safe with the actions of their employees (Giliker, 2011). To avoid these cases, the organisations need to have workforce that is adequately trained and well supervised.
Statutory duty of care and OHS
Statutory duty of care and occupational health safety are some of the most important factors to consider in occupational health and safety law and human resource law. In this section, an article will be discussed based on the above component of the laws and their application will be examined.
The article applies to Western Australia, and it was published in The Australian in the year 2012. It is about a juvenile jail in Western Australia that had been rocked by problems in its workforce. The guards in the jail were reported in the article to be traumatised by their work at the juvenile prison with many of them seeking stress leave, compensation, and other forms of leave (Paige, 2012, p. 9).
They claimed that the working conditions at the prison were suboptimal with their work being stressful. The actions by the guards described in the paper as threatening to cause the closure of the institution handling many teenagers who are yet to be sentenced for the crimes they committed (Paige, 2012, p. 9).
The labourers reported increased stress levels compared to their counterparts in other institutions, with this causing the teenagers to be locked in their cells for long hours and to miss most of their classes (Paige, 2012, p. 9). The paper includes a report by the West Australian Department of Corrective Services confirming an increase in the number of guards who have taken leave due to job related stress (Paige, 2012, p. 9).
The stress that the guards reported is due to mistreatment from the detainees with a number of guards being involved in incidents where the detainees caused harm to them. The incidences to some of the staff led to their absence from the workplace with some quitting the job and others seeking compensation on the same.
The paper also reports that the effects were also influencing the detainees negatively with the time they are allowed out of their cells reducing markedly. The result of this aspect is a vicious behaviour from the detainees and some are described as flooding their cells with others trying to escape from the facility violently (Paige, 2012, p. 9).
These activities are described as further worsening the situation with the guards as most of them reported being injured at least once during these incidences. The majority of the guards, thus opted for personal leaves, stress leaves, or even sued the facility for compensation. According to the article, 20 guards were absent from the facility at the time of reporting due to the above problem.
Some of the teenagers in the facility included some of those known for notorious acts such as throwing petrol bombs to the police. The root of the problem is described as being a result of the merger of “two juvenile detention facilities at banksias Hill in the Perth suburb of Canning Vale” (Paige, 2012, p. 9).
The merger was driven by a shortage in the number of staff with an escalation in the number of detainees (Paige, 2012, p. 9). However, the guards were unprepared to handle the large number of students in the facility with some being inexperienced with the cases in the facility.
The article presents a valid occupational health and safety problem with the guards involved being harmed in their line of duty. The occupational health and safety law provides for the safety of workers at their workplace (Paige, 2012, p. 9).
The human resource law is also clear on occupational health and safety issues by providing appropriate measure to be taken in the case that the law is violated such as in the article above (Parrott, & Wiatrowski, 2013).
In the juvenile prison discussed, the people in-charge and the governing authority should have first evaluated the safety of the guards and their capacity to handle the new population of detainees before the merger.
Adequate training and preparation should also have been carried out. Examples of cases with the same implications and structure are Reynolds v. Sheet Metal Workers Local and the case of Gregory v. Litton Systems.
Another requirement in the occupational health and safety law and the human resources law is that the labourers should be adequately equipped with the tool necessary to perform their duties. In the case above, the guards were not necessarily equipped with the right tools to handle the detainees, and hence the injuries and stress suffered.
The compensation that the guards seek in the article is also warranted, since it is evident that the labour laws were violated and harm caused to the employees. In any workplace, employees should ensure that the occupational health and safety law and the human resources law are adhered to in the work process.
Worker compensation is a significant part of everyday workplaces and the laws that have been put in place in business and trade have facilitated the increased number of compensation claims (Amirah et al. 2013; Burkhauser, Schmeiser, & Weathers, 2012).
In recent years, the number of people taking their employers or clients taking the companies to court seeking compensation has increased. In this section, an article that details a case of compensation is discussed with the relevant laws being applied. The article published in the Daily Mail in the year 2012 features a bank assistant who sued the bank she previously worked with.
Susie Sheridan, according to the article, had exceeded her overdraft limit, but requested a computer in the branch she worked in to enable her to pay a direct debit (Martin, 2012, p. 22).The request was declined, but she proceeded to overrule the decision and through her account did the same.
The alert by the computer to the bank managers over the transaction cost her job with the dismissal being due to misappropriation of the banks resources. The boss in the dismissal letter also claimed that the manager illegally used her position to evade some of the costs incurred in the transaction and used her position to falsify details and overrule the previous decision (Martin, 2012, p. 22).
Suzie took the bank to court on claims of unfair dismissal and hearing, and won the case. In her case, she stated that it was true that she accessed the bank account on the said date and that the reports that she instructed an illegal pay were correct (Martin, 2012, p. 22).
She defended herself by stating that her salary would have been paid the next day, and that she had been able to access her finances the same way she intended the previous month through a direct debit (Martin, 2012, p. 22).
The bank manager also stated that she had also accessed the account two weeks before the incidence, with no action being taken by the bank. She also reported a policy in the bank that allowed the staff to access funds even when they exceeded their overdrafts (Martin, 2012, p. 22).The court ruled that her dismissal was wrong and that the money that the manager took could be paid since there was no indication that it would go unpaid.
The judge also made a ruling citing the buffer zone that the bank allowed its employees (Martin, 2012, p. 22).The ruling also included the indication that though Sheridan made the transaction illegally, there was no indication that she falsified the details or even attempted to suppress any record as indicated in her dismissal letter.
The case progressed for a considerable period with the bank fighting to make sure that the employee did not get the compensation that she sought. However, at the end of the case, the former employee was awarded €35,000 in compensation by the judge due to the trouble that she went through (Martin, 2012, p. 22).
There has been many cases of employee compensation, with the bulk of employment cases leading to compensation (Isolani, 2011; Larkin, Pierce, & Gino, 2012).
Most of the cases in court are also in based on employee desire to get compensation for the problems or mistreatment incurred directly or indirectly at the workplace. Lynch v. Binnacle Ltd. t/a Cavan Co-op Mart is an example of cases that the employee sought to be compensated for incidents at the workplace, and though there was no compensation forthcoming, the intent was to have financial compensation in the end.
Courts have recently encountered increased cases where the employee are suing their employers for due compensation for many incidents at the workplace. As stated earlier, the issue of employee compensation is a dominant one in courts, with many people seeking compensation for harm or any kind of injury that they may have suffered under the company that they sued.
The observations of increased cases can be attributed to the changes in the employment law that have taken place in the last few decades. The provision under the many employment laws are responsible for the surge in the number of people seeking compensation in the courts and the occupational health and safety law and human resources law are some of the laws that govern the issues of employee compensation.
In the case above, the bank is signatory to the human resource law base on its line of work and many countries around the world have adopted these laws in their system. The increase in the compensation claims is partly as a result of increased awareness on the side of employees where many employees are aware of the laws that have been formulated (Hong, Chin, & Thomas, 2013; Backes-Gellner, & Pull, 2013).
The other reason for the increase in compensation claims could be the stringent laws that are in the many industries. However, the laws should be more specific on the extent to which employees and other individuals should be awarded, since most suits feature significantly large amounts of money that may not necessarily be equivalent to the suit (Isolani, 2011; Larkin, Pierce & Gino, 2012).
Nevertheless, organisations need to work with the laws in place to ensure that they are not taken to court for any wrongdoing. They should ensure that there is also documentation to act as evidence if such suits emerge.
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