Category Archives: Advice & Counseling

‘What was your most unusual sex act?’ Cincy police, fire recruits asked about sex

reprinted: , Cincinnati Enquirer Published 12:01 p.m. ET Sept. 13, 2018 | Updated 3:53 p.m. ET Sept. 13, 2018

Cincinnati police and firefighter recruits are asked to describe their “most unusual sex act” in a questionnaire that can later become accessible to the public.

The questions are part of the Fire and Police departments’ pre-employment process. They raise concerns for some that new recruits are being asked to divulge private, probing details about their sexual history.

“This certainly raises eyebrows,” said Mary Turocy, director of public affairs for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

“Have you participated in a sexual act in a public place?” Cincinnati police and fire applicants are asked. “Location(s) and number of times. … Explain each circumstance.”

Another asks: “Not counting self-masturbation or legal sexual activity with a willing partner, what was your most unusual sex act?”

Cincinnati isn’t the only jurisdiction in the region asking such questions. West Chester, Delhi and Colerain townships all ask recruits about legal sexual acts or urges, including one about arousal by fire.

Staff at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission reviewed the questions obtained by The Enquirer via several records requests. Turocy said no discrimination lawsuits have been filed in the state pertaining to these types of questions.

Cincinnati police and firefighter recruits are asked to describe their “most unusual sex act” in a questionnaire that can later become accessible to the public.

“However, if someone made an allegation related to any question, especially a question that is somewhat unusual like those, we’d be looking at whether it is relevant to the duties of the job,” she said.

Sgt. Dan Hils, the Cincinnati police union president, said he supports the question about sex in a public place, as it is an “indication of law-breaking exposure.”

But the question about unusual sex, a version of which he recalled being asked as an applicant, could “possibly be out of bounds,” he said.

Questions about illegal sexual activity — sex with minors, sexual assault or possession of child pornography — appear in all of the pre-employment questionnaires obtained by The Enquirer.

“What we should be asking about are things that are criminal in nature,” Hils said. “…Stuff geared more to people’s private, behind-closed-doors lives, I do not see as having a bearing on the work we do.”

Lori Adelson, a Florida-based labor and employment attorney who represents employers, said that while she doesn’t specialize in Ohio law, she generally advises against posing questions that are “irrelevant to the functioning of the business and could possibly be deemed inappropriate.”

“If I was that employer’s attorney,” she said, “I would recommend they don’t have those questions in there.”

The city of Cincinnati said in a statement that “the specific questions mentioned are a small component of a comprehensive questionnaire used during a polygraph exam for prospective recruits. The polygraph is used to help gauge a respondent’s reactions and responses to difficult questions.”

Asking about sexual history is not uncommon for the region’s first responder recruits.

“Ever sexually aroused by fire?” West Chester police recruits are asked during a polygraph background test.

They’re also asked if they’ve ever been married to more than one person at the same time, if they’re experiencing “marital problems” and if they “ever (had) sexual relations/contact with a corpse (dead person or animal)?”

Barb Wilson, a West Chester spokeswoman, said the Police Department is looking to “determine the character, moral standards and ethical decision making” of its applicants.

“The questions asked as part of the polygraph examination should be considered as a collective of questions and not individually,” she wrote by email. “They are designed to gauge reactions and determine truthfulness in the broad range of topics covered.”

The city of Norwood asks police and fire applicants if they’ve ever watched others having sex.

Emma Schmidt, a Cincinnati sex therapist, said by email that “the way that the questions are asked could present the material in a way that suggests that the behavior would be deemed as a negative and thus stigmatize the behavior.”

The Colerain Township Department of Fire and EMS asks applicants about infidelity.

“Have you ever had sex, or a sexual relationship with a married co-worker?” says a pre-employment questionnaire.

If you’ve ever been really close to losing it on your boss and potentially getting fired, or arrested, you’re not alone. Susana Victoria Perez has more. Buzz60

Colerain Police Chief Mark Denney said such questions aren’t lewd but can be revealing.

“The questions we ask that deal with sexual activity are generally limited to illegal activities. We do, however, ask more pointed questions that tend to reveal poor-decision making and lack of character in an applicant,” he said. “Our responsibility to the community is to learn everything about someone before handing them our badge and asking the community to trust them.”

Delhi Township police recruits are asked if they’ve “ever posted or transmitted naked/sexual images of yourself over the internet or cell phone app.”

Jack Cameron, the township administrator of Delhi, said it’s become increasingly difficult to find a recruit among the younger generation who hasn’t shared a picture of a “body part” with a partner, invoking changing values between generations.

He stressed the importance of sexual-based questions in screening applicants.

“Being in the business of public trust, I think this is the least we can do to vet prospective employees who will be afforded the public’s trust simply by being a Delhi representative,” he said, adding Delhi’s questions have been reviewed by the township’s employment attorney to ensure they don’t violate applicants’ rights.

In 2015, Gov. John Kasich signed a law barring public employers from including on job applications questions concerning an applicant’s criminal background.

The “ban the box” law, however, has provisions that allow a background check and consideration of prior convictions based on the nature of the job, according to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.

Turocy, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission spokeswoman, said questions about sexual activity may be problematic in different contexts, but for employers, one factor is key: “Is it necessary for the employer to know that about the employee?”

The Enquirer’s Kevin Grasha contributed to this story.

Employment Discrimination Claims: How to Protect Your Business

Employment discrimination claims have the potential to permanently damage the reputation of a business. These claims are expensive to fight, and may bring unwanted publicity to the business. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of having an employee file a discrimination claim, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of employment discrimination claims in Palm Beach, Florida.

Conduct Regular Employee Trainings

Conducting mandatory training sessions for all of the employees in your business will demonstrate intolerance for discrimination. Trainings that focus on the significance of diversity, respect in the workplace, types of harassment, and prohibited behaviors will sensitize your employees to the effects of workplace discrimination. This training will also make your expectations clear to your employees. They will know that discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated. Should a discrimination claim arise, you will be able to demonstrate that you took these preventive measures.

Enforce Zero Tolerance Policies

A zero tolerance policy in your business will establish the principle that all employees who violate workplace rules will be disciplined in the same manner. When an employer is able to prove that there is uniform punishment across the board, it is more difficult for an employee to claim that some sort of discrimination has occurred. Of course, these policies must be regularly enforced to be effective.

Keep Detailed Records

Written warnings and thorough employee review records make a major difference when an employee claims that he or she was discriminated against. Every time an employee commits a violation of workplace rules, make a note of the date and the violation that occurred. By showing that there were legitimate reasons to reprimand or terminate an employee, such as lateness, a lack of professionalism, or failing to perform job duties, the discrimination claim becomes weaker.

Parting of Ways Documentation

The Parting of the Ways: Documentation

No matter how carefully an employer screens employees during the hiring process, and no matter how well they train and treat their employees, the time may eventually come when they have to terminate an employee.  This process is never an easy one; it often involves emotional responses, especially when the employee is well-liked on a personal level.

Termination of employment can become even worse, however, if it is not handled properly, leaving the employer open to litigation for wrongful termination.  Wrongful termination is defined as any employment termination that violates an employee’s rights:

  • If the termination is based on unlawful reasons, such as racial discrimination or revenge for private actions of the employee;
  • If the termination violates a contractual agreement with the employee;
  • If the termination involves the violation of public laws or policies (for example, termination for absences as the result of jury duty or other public responsibility).

Backing Up a Termination

Even when an employee voluntarily resigns or quits, the employee may claim “wrongful termination” alleging that the employer created a hostile work environment causing them to no longer be able to work for that employer and “forcing” the employee to quit (known as a Constructive Termination).

Proper documentation is critical for an employer to avoid or defend against a wrongful termination claim. Employers should be able to demonstrate cause for termination of employment with proper documentation, possibly including:

  • Performance evaluations
  • Disciplinary action forms
  • Attendance sheets

Indeed, simply having documentation may not be enough; the documentation must be consistent with the reasons given for terminating the employee.

The Final Word

Finally, when holding the exit interview or other meeting where the employee is informed of their termination, it may be prudent to provide them with the reasoning and all documentation.  This simple step may help deter possible litigation related to the termination.

Employee Handbook Basics

Every employer in the State of Florida is advised to have a set of written policies and procedures collected in what’s commonly called an “Employee Handbook” that is distributed to new hires.  While some very small businesses (with fewer than two or three employees) may feel safe going without this formality, the fact is when you hire an employee, you open yourself to liability, and having written policies can help defend you against claims.

The question of what should be contained in your employee handbook is best directed to a qualified employment law attorney in Florida, who can help analyze your specific business culture, but there are some basics that should always be included.

Basic Background

Your handbook should include a short history of your business, a statement about its goals and culture, and a statement declaring you are an at-will employer.  Your employment law attorney in Florida can help you with the precise wording of these statements.

Office Policies

The handbook should also clearly state your policies regarding harassment, discrimination, and other office behaviors, as well as clearly set out the procedures employees can follow if they find themselves victims of these or any other negative situations.

Employment Mechanics

Your handbook should make clear how employment works, from dress code and performance reviews to pay frequency and procedure, vacation and sick day policies, attendance requirements, bonus structure (if any), and holiday schedule.

Benefits

Your handbook should also include all benefits offered standard to all employees, with clearly-worded language (crafted by a Florida employment law attorney if possible) detailing when employees are eligible for benefits and what those benefits are.

Your employee handbook should be written in simple, clear language and be confined to statements of fact.  The more detailed it is, the more beneficial it is.

Start Defending Against Wage & Hour Lawsuits before They’re Filed

If you own a business that employs people, chances are you will someday be hit with a wage and hour claim by an employee or former employee.  It’s not necessarily because people are mean-spirited or greedy – it’s simply very easy for an employee, especially one whose relationship with their job has soured, to convince themselves that they’ve been wronged.  After all, many employees have a “David and Goliath” attitude towards their employers – you have all the money and power, and they have none.

Defending against these claims is more complicated than other legal problems.  In fact, the best way to defend against such wage and hour claims is to start defending against them before they even begin.

Step One: Hire an Employment Law Attorney in Ft. Lauderdale

Your first step is to consult with an experienced and qualified employment law attorney in Ft. Lauderdale so you can fully understand the policies and the law that you are required to follow.  The worst mistake you can make is violating the law unwittingly.  A qualified attorney can help you set up the policies and record-keeping that establishes your good faith and builds a defense against wage and hour claims long before it becomes necessary.

Step Two: Keep Records

Your next step is to ensure that you have very accurate records of all employee compensation, including

  • all hours worked
  • lunch hours and other breaks
  • vacation days
  • sick days
  • holidays

This information won’t necessarily stop employees from filing claims, but it will be crucial to your defense against them.  Your employment law attorney in Ft. Lauderdale will assist you in investigating the facts of any claim, and establish your good faith and your compliance with all laws.

Employers: Avoiding Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Begins with Training

Almost no employer opens their office or shop with the intention of harassing its employees in any way.  Most wish nothing but the best for their employees and work diligently to improve conditions, opportunities, and compensation so their employees are happy in their work and eager to go the extra mile.

As a result, many employers are surprised when they find themselves facing a sexual harassment lawsuit.  Luckily, it is relatively easy to avoid such scenarios.

Step One: Don’t Take It Personally

The biggest mistake an employer can make regarding sexual harassment in the workplace is to be offended that they must consider it.  Sexual harassment can be subtle, and it does not require the employers’ direct involvement.  If the employer allows harassment in their workplace, they are liable.

Step Two: Clear Policies

The most powerful weapon an employer has against sexual harassment lawsuits is a clear policy regarding harassment and employee safety.  Work with your Human Resources or other advisors to craft a clear policy of behavior.

Step Three: Training

Most importantly, both you as the employer and your employees should be given training in recognizing harassing behavior and how to stop it.  Sexual harassment often seems like harmless pranking or friendly behavior to those standing outside of the situation.  Training can ensure that employees monitor each other and stop situations before they go too far.

Step Four: Monitoring and Communication

Finally, employers have to establish clear lines of communication for their employees to communicate problems or perceived harassment, and respond quickly and effectively to any complaint.

Don’t be blindsided by sexual harassment claims and litigation.  A strong defense is a strong offense – create a workplace that resists harassment scenarios and you won’t have to worry about lawsuits.

Employer’s Rights in a Wrongful Termination Case

It’s never easy to part ways with an employee, but the situation can become more complex when the employee attempts to pursue a wrongful termination case.  In the vast majority of Florida employment situations, employers and employees have an “at will” relationship.  This gives the employer the right to alter the conditions and term of the employment at any time, without notice, and for any reason.

There are certain situations in which the “at will” arrangement does not apply, but they are rare.  A union collective bargaining agreement, an employment contract that outlines other protections and rights, and civil serve regulations that govern the work of public employees are all examples of situations where the employee does not serve at the will of the employer.

There are also several federal and state regulations and laws that prohibit an employer from taking certain actions regardless of whether the employee is classified “at will”.  This refers to workplace discrimination based on a protected class, attempting to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, complaints about sexual harassment, and reacting to an employee who has engaged in whistleblowing activity.

If you have been accused of wrongful termination, collect any documents related to the employee’s performance at work and share them with a wrongful termination defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale.  Planning ahead can be crucial for the success of your case.

Unless you, as the employer, have violated bargaining agreements or discrimination laws regarding a protected class, you have rights when an employee alleges wrongful termination.  Disgruntled employees may want to take to you to court and tarnish your reputation with false allegations, which is why it’s essential to hire your own Fort Lauderdale wrongful termination defense attorney.  Don’t let a legitimate termination destroy you and your business.

Next Steps for an Employer Accused of Sexual Harassment

Being accused of sexual harassment in the workplace should never be taken lightly; even the presence of a case itself can harm your reputation.  If an employee alleges that you have engaged in sexually harassing behavior, your next steps are crucial for a possible legal case but also for your own peace of mind.

If you have been accused, do not joke about the matter.  An employee must be able to demonstrate four things in order for a sexual harassment case in Ft. Lauderdale to be successful: that the employee was subjected to conduct that was sexual in nature, that the conduct was not welcomed by that employee, that the conduct persisted in a pervasive or severe manner, and that the continued sexual harassment altered employment conditions to create a discriminatory abusive working environment.

An employer who has been accused does have rights in a Ft. Lauderdale sexual harassment case.  If you have exercised reasonable care to correct any behavior falling under the category of sexual harassment and/or if you made reasonable efforts in this manner and the employee failed to take advantage of them, you need to provide documentation of such to your sexual harassment defense attorney immediately.

Evidence and protocol are key in a sexual harassment defense case.  A disgruntled employee may believe that he or she will easily be able to accuse you of sexual harassment, but being able to show communication reports about sexual harassment, trainings or other behavior implemented by management to address any sexual harassment, and manuals discussing company management of such an allegation may all be crucial to your case.

A sexual harassment case can impact an employer’s reputation for years to come; contact a sexual harassment defense attorney in Ft. Lauderdale today to protect yourself.

How to Handle Being Accused of Workplace Discrimination

The term workplace discrimination might seem a bit broad, and that’s because the legal cases that fall into this category are known for being complex.  If you have been accused of discriminating against someone in the workplace, you need to protect your interests by hiring a Florida workplace discrimination attorney.

Being accused of workplace discrimination is a serious matter.  The Florida laws about workplace discrimination are quite clear, and if your employee or former employer has exaggerated their claims, you need to protect your rights in court.  Cases where an employee alleges discrimination as a result of work ethic or personality, for example, do not meet the legal guidelines for a workplace discrimination suit.

This is because employers maintain discretion over pay for employees, so unless your pay guidelines discriminate against a protected class, a lawsuit over salary and pay may not have any merit in court.

The law protects individuals from being discriminated against with regard to their sexual preference (although this depends on your exact area), veteran’s status, disability, race, age, sex, national origin, creed, and religion.  Discrimination laws are in place to help reduce the opportunity for employers to deny individuals equal opportunity in the workplace.  An employee must have evidence that discrimination occurred as a result of membership in a protected class.

As a business owner or manager, your reputation is on the line in a workplace discrimination case.  Take any allegations seriously by hiring an experienced Florida workplace discrimination defense attorney.  The law protects certain classes of individuals in the workplace, but the law also protects employers who are wrongfully accused of workplace discrimination.  If you have an employee that has taken a claim too far, contact a Florida workplace discrimination defense attorney as soon as possible.