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5 labor and employment issues to watch in 2013

From workplace safety to gay rights, some of the most intriguing and important issues shaping the labor and employment landscape

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) kept active last year, investigating issues including social media passwords, domestic violence, and LGBT rights. With the onset of health care reform and an impending Supreme Court decision on the federal benefits afforded to same-sex couples, the coming months will likely bring more changes in the labor sector. Here, InsideCounsel takes a look at some of the most important—and interesting—employment trends to keep an eye on in 2013.

Overall Outlook

As 2012 came to a close, the EEOC approved a new Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), in which it laid out its six top national enforcement priorities for the foreseeable future. The SEP gives corporate counsel a broad overview of the EEOC’s main areas of concern, and could help companies to avoid any messy labor and employment lawsuits.

Domestic Discrimination

Unfortunately, mass shootings are a reality of American life, with more than a dozen occurring in 2012 alone. Two of those shootings occurred within one week of each other, when gunmen opened fire at the workplaces of their estranged wives. The tragedies show how domestic violence can enter into the workplace, causing security concerns for employers. But those safety concerns do not give companies the right to discriminate against employees who are the victims of abuse or stalking, the EEOC warns.

Ensuring Equality

Last year, the EEOC announced that discrimination against transgender employees constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Fortunately, more companies are already extending benefits to transgender employees, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC report shows that 207 companies offered those benefits to transgender employees in 2012, up from 85 one year earlier. Still, companies that haven’t yet adjusted to EEOC’s stance should take extra care—and consult with counsel—when drafting new health care policies.

Teen Troubles

Accommodating Accents

The next problem likely doesn’t apply to all employers, but it is an interesting and troubling side effect of our global economy: discrimination complaints based on national origin. According to the EEOC, such complaints have increased by 76 percent between 1997 and 2011.

Alanna Byrne

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