Police Body Camera Facts/Policy Watch/Safe Work Environment Act Report

This column appears in the February 12 – 19 edition of the Hartford News…

Trayvon Martin Act Update

During the Hartford City Council meeting Tuesday night on purchasing body cameras for Hartford Police officers, HPD apologist Hyacinth Yennie spoke against the plan. Facts trump Yennie’s tired rhetoric. Every 28 hours a Black person in the U.S. is killed by police, security guards and vigilantes. https://mxgm.org/we-charge-genocide-again-new-curriculum-on-every-28-hours-report/ Last week Philadelphia station WPIV TV reported surveillance video revealed that two city officers lied about their brutal attack on a Latino man. The officers now face criminal charges and will be fired. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/02/philadelphia-cops-will-face-charges-after-surveillance-video-shows-they-lied-about-brutal-attack/

A study by Cambridge University found that the use of body cameras reduced police use of force by 59% and citizen complaints against police officers by 88%. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unKwsam7vIc Body cameras are just a start, however. NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on video using an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner, yet he is a free man today and Eric is dead. The rigged grand jury process that protects killer cops must be dismantled. Stay tuned for updates on the city council body cameras proposal and the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act. Rep. Matt Ritter’s racial profiling bill includes CP’s Trayvon Martin Act traffic stop receipt amendment. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/

Snow Removal

Tuesday we received additional reports of poor snow removal on South Whitney Street in the West End of Hartford following Monday’s winter storm. Evelyn Richardson is directing folks to call Jalmar Dedios at Mayor Pedro Segarra’s office (860-757-9500) if you have a complaint about snow removal on your street.

Policy Watch

Last week Gov. Dan Malloy announced a criminal justice reform initiative. Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror reported on the details of Malloy’s urban policy plan. “Malloy, a former prosecutor in New York and urban mayor in Connecticut, said he would seek the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for simple drug possession, which are now primarily imposed on those arrested within 1,200 feet of schools, day cares or public housing — wide swaths of most cities. He also would ask the General Assembly to reclassify some non-violent offenses as misdemeanors, streamline the parole system and ease access to pardons that scrub criminal records and can remove barriers to employment.” Incredibly, Malloy excluded Black/Latino policy makers at the State Capitol from participating in the drafting of his initiative.

Malloy has chosen to introduce the most progressive legislation of his term with a de facto conservative majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats hold an 87-64 edge in seats, but the 12 conservatives among the Democrats could give the Republicans a majority in votes on any issue. House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said that the Republicans gaining 10 seats in the House during the last election, coupled with the 12 right-leaning Democrats, would affect his party’s decisions on which bills they will or won’t support. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/2015-legislative-session-shook-ct-democrats-continue-to-move-toward-right/ The question that looms is why Malloy didn’t introduce this package in 2010, when the Democrats had total control of the General Assembly. Malloy appears to be following the lead of President Barack Obama, who announced his progressive legislative initiative to a Republican controlled Congress during his State of the Union address. The Democrats held the majority in the U.S. House and Senate during Obama’s first two years in office, yet he waited until now to introduce bills such as paid sick days for workers and subsidized community college education. In my opinion this is an attempt by two center-right Democrats to score brownie points with progressives.

Safe Work Environment Act Report

Workers need REAL protection against workplace bullying. The Community Party’s Safe Work Environment Act provides more protection than the Healthy Workplace Bill (also introduced during the 2015 legislative session), while eliminating legal barriers workers face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/real-protection-against-workplace-bullying-safe-work-environment-act/ Sen. Gary Winfield’s workplace bullying bill includes CP’s Safe Work Environment Act advisory board amendment. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABillStatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB432

In the coming months we’ll provide information on the legal aspects of workplace bullying. Employees must educate themselves about the law in order to empower themselves. A study found that 15% of total adult suicides in the U.S. are related to abusive workplace conduct, which the Department of Health and Human Services says is the equivalent of domestic violence. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hhs-workplace-bullying-domestic-violence_764508.html This week we’ll share an article from http://www.nolo.com/ on what workers can do when they face retaliation from their employer.

*****

Workplace Retaliation: What Are Your Rights?

Learn about workplace retaliation — and what to do if it happens to you.

Most people know that laws exist to protect employees from discrimination and harassment. However, many don’t know these laws also protect employees from retaliation. That means employers cannot punish employees for making discrimination or harassment complaints or participating in workplace investigations. And punishment doesn’t just mean firing or demotion: It can include other negative employment actions, from being denied a raise or transfer to a more desirable position to missing out on training or mentoring opportunities.

What Is Retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in legally protected activity. Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, or job or shift reassignment. But retaliation can also be more subtle.

Sometimes it’s clear that an employer’s action is negative — for instance, when an employee is fired. But sometimes it’s not. In those cases, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, you must consider the circumstances of the situation. For example, a change in job shift may not be objectionable to a lot of employees, but it could be very detrimental to a parent with young children and a less flexible schedule.

As long as the employer’s adverse action would deter a reasonable person in the situation from making a complaint, it constitutes illegal retaliation.

When Is Retaliation Prohibited?

Federal law protects employees from retaliation when employees complain — either internally or to an outside body like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) — about workplace discrimination or harassment. That’s true even if the claim turns out to be unfounded, as long as it was made in good faith.

The law also protects employees who cooperate in EEOC investigations or serve as witnesses in EEOC investigations or litigation. A recent Supreme Court case confirms that an employee’s participation as a witness in an internal investigation is protected, too. And various federal laws protect other types of “whistleblowers” too, such as those who complain of unsafe working conditions. (For more information, see Nolo’s article Assert Your Safety Rights Without Fear of Retaliation.)

In addition, some state laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees.

How Do You Know if Your Employer is Retaliating Against You?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether your employer is retaliating against you. For example, if you complain about your supervisor’s harassing conduct, his attitude and demeanor may change. But if the change means he acts more professionally towards you, that isn’t retaliation even if he isn’t as friendly as he once was. Only changes that have an adverse effect on your employment are retaliatory.

On the other hand, if something clearly negative happens shortly after you make a complaint — like firing or demotion — you’ll have good reason to be suspicious. And remember, not every retaliatory act is obvious or necessarily means your job is threatened. It may come in the form of an unexpected and unfair poor performance review, the boss micromanaging everything you do, or sudden exclusion from staff meetings on a project you’ve been working on.

What to Do if You Suspect Retaliation

If you suspect your employer is retaliating against you, first talk to your supervisor or a human resources representative about the reasons for these negative acts. It’s fair to ask specific questions. Your employer may have a perfectly reasonable explanation — you’ve been moved to the day shift because there’s an opening, and that’s what you’d said you always wanted, or your poor performance review may be based on documented problems you’d been told of previously.

If your employer can’t give you a legitimate explanation, voice your concern that you are being retaliated against. No doubt your employer will deny it — and in truth, employers can retaliate without realizing it. You should point out that the negative action took place only after you complained, and ask that it stop immediately.

If the employer isn’t willing to admit its wrongdoing or correct the problem, you may have to take your concerns to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s fair employment agency.

Building a Case of Retaliation

If you suspect retaliation and your employer won’t correct the problem, you will need to show a link between your complaint (or other behavior that you believe triggered the retaliation), and the employer’s retaliatory behavior. The more evidence you have in support of your claim, the better.

To do this, document the allegedly retaliatory behavior. Also, keep track of historical information prior to when you made your complaint. For example, if your boss claims your performance is poor after you make a complaint, be sure to dig up any email messages or other documents showing that your boss was pleased with your work performance before the complaint.

To learn more about retaliation and what you can do to fight it, get Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Kate Repa (Nolo).

by: Lisa Guerin, J.D.

*****

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Check out our No Sellout blog (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s for selected columns (http://www.northendagents.com/) . Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

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