Judge_Gorsuch_official_portraitA colleague recently brought to my attention a 2014 employment case written by then-Circuit Judge Gorsuch for a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit – a particularly interesting opinion that may give us hints as to how Justice Gorsuch may rule in future employment cases before the Supreme Court.

In Hwang v. Kansas State University, an assistant professor was diagnosed with cancer and received a six-month leave of absence. (In the opinion, Judge Gorsuch specifically noted it was a “(paid) leave.” Whether or not it was paid is irrelevant to the legal analysis, but his express mention of payment suggests approval of the employer’s actions as exceeding the norm). Towards the end of the six months, she requested additional leave of apparently another few months. The University, however, had an inflexible policy limiting leave to six months, and it denied her request. The professor then sued, claiming that the University’s inflexible leave policy violated the Rehabilitation Act. Continue Reading Justice Gorsuch and the ADA?

transgender1600The issue of transgender rights has been the recent focus of much media attention, and Senior Circuit Judge Andre Davis has added an elegant and eloquent contribution to the conversation through his concurring opinion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s order vacating the preliminary injunction it had previously issued in the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board.

A transgender high school student, G.G. (Gavin Grimm), sued the Gloucester County School Board and asked for a preliminary injunction to allow him to use the bathroom consistent with his transgender status. The federal district court denied the request for preliminary injunction, but on appeal, the Fourth Circuit disagreed and ordered that the injunction be issued. Continue Reading Judge Davis’ Paean to G.G. and Other Brave Individuals Who Opposed Discrimination

moneyAs you may have heard, the Maryland General Assembly has passed a bill that requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 5 days of paid sick leave and smaller employers to provide unpaid sick leave. The bill, known as the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, now heads to the Governor’s desk. Governor Hogan has promised to veto it and the lawmakers state that they will override the veto. But politics aside, what is the actual status of this bill?

There are a number of possible scenarios regarding this bill, which we will discuss in order of likelihood. Continue Reading Maryland’s General Assembly Just Passed Paid Sick Leave – Now What?

Rook with scarfI have previously blogged about the fact that the Family and Medical Leave Act and state counterparts don’t allow employees to take time off to care for an ill or dying pet (see my Pet Bereavement Leave? post here). Recently, however, I heard about a sick leave ordinance – in Emeryville, California – that allows employees to take time off to care for certain animals! So in addition to taking sick leave because of the illness or injury of the employee or the employee’s family member, the employee may also take this leave “to aid or care for a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog”!!! And the dog doesn’t even have to belong to the employee – it can be the family member’s dog! Continue Reading Sick Leave for Your Dog?

transgender1600As I discussed in a blog last month, the Trump Administration rescinded joint Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE) guidance (a “Dear Colleague” letter) that had been issued under the Obama Administration on how the agencies interpret Title IX (the non-discrimination law that applies to schools and students) in the context of bathroom use by transgender students. The guidance had stated that transgender students should be allowed to use the gender-specific bathroom consistent with their stated gender identity.  The rescission of this guidance occurred just weeks before the Supreme Court of the United States was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. (Gavin Grimm) case this month. Continue Reading Supreme Court Kicks Transgender Case Back – What Does This Mean for Employers?

transgender1600Yesterday, February 22, 2017, the Trump Administration rescinded Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE) guidance that had been issued to schools on May 13, 2016 in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter.  The letter stated that it was the DOJ’s and DOE’s interpretation of Title IX (the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education) that schools must allow transgender students to use the gender-specific bathroom with which they identify and that schools could not force students to use bathrooms based on their biological sex.  The DOJ and DOE stated that schools that did not follow the guidance could risk losing federal funding. Continue Reading Trump Administration Rescinds Transgender Student Guidance – What Does This Mean for Employers?

healthFollowing up on my recent post, “Employer May Change Essential Functions of the Job,” I thought we’d discuss another little-mentioned aspect of essential job functions under the Americans with Disabilities Act – job functions that are rarely performed can still be essential!

As we’ve previously discussed, the ADA protects employees with disabilities who, with or without reasonable accommodations, are able to perform the essential functions of his/her job. The ADA regulations define “essential function” as “a fundamental job duty of a position.” But how do you determine what are the essential functions of a particular job? According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which is the federal agency charged with enforcing the ADA) and the regulations, the following factors should be taken into account in determining whether a job function is essential: Continue Reading Rarely Performed Job Functions May Still Be “Essential” Under ADA

transgender1600A few recent events provide employers a peek behind the curtain of the Trump administration’s position on whether Title VII provides protection to LGBT individuals.

First, some background. Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” among other things. In the past, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the federal agency enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws) acknowledged that Title VII did not cover sexual orientation discrimination, although it did prohibit discrimination based on sex/gender stereotyping (which could overlap with sexual orientation claims to the extent the gay or lesbian employee did not conform to male or female stereotypes). Continue Reading What is the Future of Sexual Orientation and Transgender Status Under the Trump Administration?

Gold-Rolex-Watch-3-psd86394As a company’s workforce ages, some thoughtful managers may be concerned about business continuity and planning. And it seems pretty obvious that much of that planning will depend on when certain older workers plan to retire. Or a manager may see an older worker becoming less productive, and begin thinking that the person should retire. But, asking about an employee’s retirement plans – or even requiring an employee to retire – can be very problematic. I thought it might be helpful to review the rules on retirement under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Generally, ADEA prohibits employers from forcing employees to retire because of their age. The only exception to this prohibition for private employers is certain bona fide executives or high policymakers. For those individuals, ADEA allows employers to require mandatory retirement at age 65 if the individual has been:

  • Employed in that capacity for at least two years prior to retirement; and
  • Is entitled to immediate and non-forfeitable annual retirement benefits from the employer that total at least $44,000.

Continue Reading Asking About Retirement Can Be Dangerous

Burlesque 2So as an employment defense attorney, I am constantly amazed by the creative arguments put forth by plaintiffs and their attorneys. I am certain that the creators of certain laws would never, in their wildest dreams, have anticipated how they could be applied. A recent example of this can be found in Stevens v. Oval Office, LLC dba Oval Office Gentlemen’s Club.

As you may know, a recent hot topic for federal and state agencies is the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s newly created webpage, misclassification hurts employees by denying them: minimum wage and overtime pay, the protection of federal and state employment laws, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, workplace health and safety protections, and employer-provided benefits. It also hurts non-compliant employers who may be subject to fines and unpaid taxes and wages, as well compliant employers who face unfair competition from those who reduce their costs by being non-compliant. And it hurts government agencies who do not receive the appropriate employment tax revenues. Continue Reading Exotic Dancer Improperly Fined for “Faulty Workmanship”?