Federal Minimum Wage Update: House Combines Minimum Wage Increase to War Spending Bill

So when will the minimum wage bill finally be passed? The answer unfortunately remains uncertain but the House of Representatives is trying a new approach. This week, the House will discuss an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war. The emergency spending bill would pay for the war until October, but require U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of August, 2008.

What does all this have to do with minimum wage? Well, in an attempt to gather the votes necessary to pass the emergency spending bill, the House has been adding lots of extras to the bill, including an amendment to increase the federal minimum wage. The amendment would increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 over two years and grant $1.3 billion in tax breaks for restaurants and other affected businesses.

This approach has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, and is not likely to succeed. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, stated that, regardless of what happens to the Iraq spending bill, Congress would give final approval to the minimum wage increase bill before the spring is out.

Workplace Harassment or Compliment?

A colleague of mine was recently presented with a hypothetical situation on her group message board:

A woman walks into work and a male mid-level manager, from another department, smiles and says "good morning." She later gets a voice mail message from him saying "you know, I hope this doesn't offend you, but i just wanted to say you have a nice smile and it really started my day off on a positive note."

I've always thought that in order for a comment to be considered harassment,
a) the receiver has to say "no" in some way - no response constitutes acceptance of the comment.
b) the commentor must continue to make such comments.
c) as long as the comment is not job-related and commentor has been asked to stop, this could be construed as harassment.

Would this exchange constitute harassment?

The quick response is no, it does not.

The reason is not so quick:

This exchange, alone, does not amount to illegal workplace harassment. For workplace harassment to be illegal under federal law, the person who has been offended must prove three things:

1) The harassment must be based on a characteristic protected by law (e.g., gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age or disability). A comment that is sexual in nature usually satisfies this requirement.

2) The harassment must be "unwelcome." "Unwelcome" means the person regarded the conduct as undesirable and did not solicit or incite the conduct. A person is not required to complain or say anything at all to satisfy this requirement, but the reaction will be examined as evidence of whether it was welcomed or not. (As a separate issue, a company can escape liability for a manager's harassment in some cases if the company has a policy in place encouraging employees to report harassment and an employee fails to do so.)

3) The harassment was sufficiently "severe or pervasive" to create a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment, to unreasonably interfere with a person’s work performance, or to otherwise adversely affect the terms, conditions or opportunities of a person’s employment.

In this scenario, the conduct is not sufficiently "severe or pervasive" to meet the third part of the test. The EEOC maintains that anti-discrimination statutes are not a "general civility code." Federal law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious. This type of conduct may be inappropriate and should be discouraged by the employer's zero-tolerance harassment policy, but it is not illegal.

How would you have handled it, if the person had complained to you?

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