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Honolulu Hawaii Employment Law Blog

3 things employers should learn from Adams v. CDM Media

Searching for a job is one of the most stressful processes to go through. As you write cover letters, update your resume and embark on interviews, it can easily become an arduous pursuit. The resultant anxiety would only worsen if you suspect that prospective employers were discriminating against you based on your age. This is exactly what happened in the case of Adams v. CDM Media.

The case consisted a 59-year-old woman’s allegation that the company denied her employment on the basis of her age. The dispute eventually made its way to the Hawaii Supreme Court, and there are a few things that employers — and employees — can learn from the events of the case.

Harassment is a leading worker complaint

There have been a few common themes in the 2017 news cycle. In recent weeks, stories about sexual harassment in Hollywood have sparked larger conversations about harassment in the workplace. It may be in the news right now, but it’s been a significant problem for a long time.

What is wrongful termination in Hawaii?

Losing a job is difficult under any circumstances. When it’s unexpected, the employee may feel as if the act was wrongful termination. Like most US states, Hawaii is an “at will employment” state. Broadly speaking, at will means that an employee can be terminated at any time for any reason.

While that sounds foreboding, at will is not that open and shut. Workers have protection against wrongful termination, especially in cases of discrimination or retaliation for whistleblowers (sexual harassment, OSHA violations, FMLA, etc.).

What to do after merger layoffs

Experiencing a job layoff is a traumatic and uncertain time in the lives of many workers. Layoffs can raise questions as to how families will support themselves and how long a household earner could be out of work. Although a layoff can be a trying time, there are steps workers can take to ensure that the cuts are conducted legally and potentially increase their chances of future employment and household stability.

A round of layoffs could be coming to Hawaii soon as Cincinnati Bell Inc. announced its plan to buy Honolulu-based Hawaiian Telecom Inc. and Toronto-based OnX Enterprise Solutions. It is unclear how many workers will be affected by the merger, but two Hawaiian Telecom executives will remain on the board to "ensure that Hawaiian interests are taken into account," according to Zacks, an investment research firm.

Video: Focusing on the future if you are fired

Losing your job for any reason can be devastating for employees across Hawaii and their families. It can be easy to focus on what went wrong, or what mistakes you or your employer made. However, rather than concentrate on the past, it can be far more valuable to assess your options for the future.

VIDEO: The Law Offices of David F. Simons represents whistleblowers

No one wants to put their job in danger, even if an employer engages in unsafe or illegal workplace activities. This explains the rationale of various whistleblower protection laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. These laws make it illegal to fire an employee who comes forward and blows the whistle.

Video: Age discrimination is real | The Law Offices of David F. Simons

Despite protections against age discrimination offered by federal and state employment laws, the job security of many skilled workers in their 50s and 60s is still threatened in many workplaces across the country.

Video: Sexual harassment is an abuse of power | David F. Simmons Law Office

Claims of sexual harassment may coincide with an adverse event, such as being denied a promotion or even wrongful termination. However, this is not a precondition.

A worker who is facing unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, pictures, touching or advances may also have a valid claim for sexual harassment. This type of behavior is termed a hostile workplace, and both state and federal laws offer protections.

The impact of a landmark Hawaii employment case

The 2015 Hawaii Supreme Court case Adams vs. CDM Media dramatically altered the employment landscape in Hawaii. This case is important as it clarified two key factors when employers make hiring decisions. In the last two years, this case has had a major impact on job applicants, employees and employers. Upon closer examination of the case, employees and job seekers can have a better understanding of how employers in Hawaii make hiring decisions.

The facts of the case

A 59-year old woman who had been out of the workplace for the past five years to care for an ill parent applied for an inside sales position with a media company. She earned an interview with an HR manager, but was denied the job based on the company president's decision. Instead of hiring the 59-year old woman who had past sales experience, the company hired four applicants between the ages of 24 and 38.

Video: David F. Simons came to Hawaii to help people like you

Our law firm has represented employees of all levels and backgrounds, from CEOs or health care professionals to office workers. Although job duties may vary, the right to work in a lawful workplace is constant. Unfortunately, employees don't always receive fair treatment.

For many workers, one of the biggest hurdles to protecting their employment rights is psychological. A setback, such as a termination, can be emotionally devastating and require time to process. Yet it would be a mistake not to take immediate action.


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