Category Archives: Discrimination

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Trick or Treat? Employee Claims Discrimination After Attending Office Halloween Party

Before you send out that next office-wide invite to a “holiday” party, think twice. Carmelite Lofton has sued her employer, BSN Sports, LLC—a Texas uniform and equipment retailer—when things turned sour after she was forced to attend an office Halloween party. Lofton—an African American and a Christian, says the party was contrary to her religious … Continue Reading

Alabama Employers Take Note – Birmingham Joins Ranks of Cities with an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Last month, the Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance criminalizing discrimination in education, housing, employment, and public accommodations. The ordinance not only prohibits discrimination based on the federally protected categories of race, sex, national origin, and disability, but it also recognizes familial status (i.e., having minor children), sexual orientation, and gender identity as protected categories. Additionally, … Continue Reading

The Case of the Breastfeeding Narc: 11th Circuit Confirms Lactating Employee is Covered Under Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Does an employee’s protection under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) stop when the employee ceases to be pregnant?  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was confronted with this question in Stephanie Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, in which Ms. Hicks, a police officer who returned from maternity leave and unsuccessfully sought some accommodation related to … Continue Reading

Blocked Shot? Employer Runs into Religious Issues with Mandatory Flu Vaccines

If you require your employees to get a flu shot, what do you do with the ones who refuse on religious grounds? As with so much in employment law, it depends. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Mission Hospital, a federal district court in North Carolina denied the hospital’s motion for summary judgment, finding that … Continue Reading

“I Got the Power!” – EEOC’s Investigatory Power Trumps Dismissal of Discrimination Claim in Federal Court

Can the EEOC keep investigating a claim after it has issued a right to sue letter? What about after the charging party has already filed a lawsuit and lost at the summary judgment stage? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit says it can. Adding to the circuit split already created by the … Continue Reading

The NLRB/EEOC Landmine – When Does Offensive Speech Amount to Protected Activity?

Employers need to be on the lookout for instances of offensive employee speech, which may put them between a rock and a hard place as they navigate potential claims under either anti-discrimination laws or federal labor laws. You have probably heard that Google terminated an employee earlier this month for saying (among other things) that … Continue Reading

EEOC To Employers: Requiring Employees to Return to Work with “No Restrictions” Could Get You Sued

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act (and there was a time before the ADA), it was not uncommon to require employees to have a doctor’s note returning them to work “with no restrictions.” That won’t work in today’s ADA world, and the EEOC’s recent complaint against M&T Bank Corporation in New York provides a clear reminder. … Continue Reading

Are Transgender Employees Disabled under the ADA?

There has been a lot of discussion over the last year about whether transgender employees are protected against sex discrimination under Title VII—but what about against disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Maybe. In Kate Lynn Blatt v. Cabela’s Retails, Inc., a federal district court in Pennsylvania has ruled that a transgender … Continue Reading

Back to Wedding Cakes and DJs—5th Circuit Overturns Injunction against Mississippi Religious Freedom Law

Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction of the enactment of Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523). As written about in a blog post from July 2016 and one from April 2016, this law was touted as only dealing with state action against individuals … Continue Reading

EEOC Pulls the Hood Off of Employer’s Attempt to Retaliate against Its Employee

Can an employer force an employee to agree that his complaints have been adequately addressed? On April 26, the EEOC announced that Downhole Technology LLC will pay a former employee $120,000 and provide other relief after it terminated an employee who refused to do just that. In Equal Opportunity Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Downhole … Continue Reading

With N Word, Once is Enough. Second Circuit Rules on Hostile Environment Case

Is a single incident enough for a hostile work environment claim? It is in the Second Circuit. In Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc., the court held that one racial epithet was sufficiently severe, by itself, to create a hostile work environment under Title VII.  The Facts Otis Daniel, a 34-year-old black male from St. Vincent … Continue Reading

Guess Who You Should Never Invite to Dinner? What We Can Learn From Sexual Harassment Claims in the News

Sexual harassment—we have policies against it, we train people on how to prevent and report it, and yet still we have big news stories about it. In the last year, Fox News hit the headlines on this front multiple times–not only did the Chairman and CEO leave following a sexual harassment lawsuit, but now Bill … Continue Reading

And NYC Makes Three: Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and New York City Ban Salary Inquiries

New York City will soon become the third jurisdiction to enact laws barring employers from asking a job applicant about former salaries. The goal? To eliminate one of the alleged sources of wage disparities between men and women in the workforce. NYC’s actions come on the heels of legislation in Massachusetts and Philadelphia. The new … Continue Reading

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII: Seventh Circuit Takes Clear Stand

On Tuesday, the Seventh Circuit jumped into the Title VII sexual orientation discussion with both feet. In Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, a full-court reversed an earlier three judge panel decision, finding that discrimination based solely upon the employee’s sexual orientation is sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. As the opinion recognizes, this finding … Continue Reading

Muscle Beach Party and Theories of Sex Discrimination: Second Circuit Tries To Clarify Sexual Orientation vs. Gender-Stereotyping

Is there a difference between being discriminated against because of your sexual orientation versus being discriminated against for not conforming to a gender stereotype? In most areas of the country, there most certainly is according to the Second Circuit in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc., et al. Matthew Christiansen, an openly gay man and creative director at … Continue Reading

You Don’t Look Like You Are From Around Here: EEOC Guidance on National Origin Discrimination

If you weren’t sure what it meant to discriminate against someone because of their national origin, the EEOC wants to help. The newly revised Section 13 of the EEOC Field Manual provides guidance on how the EEOC defines national origin (which is more than just what nation in which you originated) and gives examples of … Continue Reading

Power of the Subpoena: Will Nominee Gorsuch Limit Scope of EEOC Reach?

Just how broad is the EEOC’s subpoena power and are we likely to get some guidance soon? We’ve said before that the McLane v. EEOC case (which is about the EEOC’s subpoena power and is currently before the Supreme Court) is uncertain given President Trump’s election. Since then, we have had two developments: first, President … Continue Reading

Hug It Out at Work? Maybe Not in the Ninth Circuit

When does workplace hugging go too far? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently weighed in with an opinion. Victoria Zetwick, a county correctional officer, based her Title VII hostile work environment suit almost entirely upon her supervisor’s practice of hugging her and the rest of the female staff. Just How Much Hugging? By her count, … Continue Reading

Consistently Inconsistent? Fifth Circuit Appears to Have Conflicting Approaches to Damages Under the ADEA and FLSA

Can a plaintiff get pain and suffering or punitive damages in a retaliation claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)? In Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center, the Fifth Circuit, denying both an interlocutory appeal and a petition for rehearing, says “no”. Legal Framework. As we all know, the ADEA explicitly limits a … Continue Reading

Anxiety, Absenteeism, and the ADA

As accommodating and flexible as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compels employers to be, the harsh reality is that there are some jobs that a person with certain disabilities simply cannot do. When an employee suffering from a disability can no longer perform the essential functions of her job with or without a reasonable … Continue Reading

Don’t Go Changing: White House Keeping Obama LGBTQ Order in Place

Over the weekend several media outlets reported that a draft executive order was being circulated that overturned President Obama’s 2014 directive prohibiting federal employers and contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal workforce and by federal contractors.  Executive Order 13672, which was signed on July 21, 2014, … Continue Reading

Why Not Ask About Prior Pay? It’s Against the Law in Some Places and Dangerous Everywhere

Setting a new employee’s pay based on what he or she made at a prior job is a fairly common practice—but now an illegal one in Philadelphia, PA. You heard right, Philadelphia has banned questions about salary history. This local law follows a Massachusetts law (similar but not identical) aimed at closing the pay gap … Continue Reading
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