Employment Discrimination

And with that obvious (and rather snarky) statement, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made the obvious point that an employee who was asleep or unconscious on the job was unable to perform the essential functions of his job and therefore not qualified for the position under the Americans with Disabilities Act! Now, as my regular readers know, I enjoy a good snark and my blog posts about various court decisions often contain snide comments. But in this case, the (usually quite proper) Fifth Circuit took care of that all on its own…

Continue Reading “[M]aintaining consciousness is a basic element of any job.”

On January 30, 2020, the Maryland General Assembly voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the “Ban the Box” bill that was passed in the last legislative session, just as we predicted in our veto E-lert. The law will prohibit employers in Maryland from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until later in the application process. It takes effect on February 29, 2020, and Maryland employers should prepare now to comply with the new requirements.

Continue Reading Maryland’s General Assembly Overrides “Ban the Box” Veto – What’s Next for Employers

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an employee unable to perform the essential functions of his/her job must be in want of a transfer. And it is also quite clear under the Americans with Disabilities Act that the employer must consider a transfer or reassignment to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. What is less clear is whether the employee automatically gets the position (i.e. an arranged marriage) or whether the employer can require the employee to compete for the position (see, e.g. “The Bachelor”).

Continue Reading A Marriage of Convenience? EEOC Continues To Push Non-Competitive Transfer as Reasonable Accommodation

In Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar cried out “Et Tu Brute?” – translated “Even you Brutus?” – as he lay dying from the assassin’s sword that had been plunged into his chest by his friend and confidant, Marcus Brutus.  These words came to mind as I read an article about a sordid tale of rampant sexual misconduct by SEIU officials. Even them???

Continue Reading #MeToo (Et Tu SEIU?)

This is a new entry in our occasional series on extremely bad behavior by employees. I am constantly amazed by the lack of awareness and judgment exhibited by employees in the workplace. I was baffled when I read Hennessey v. Dollar Bank, FSB, a case in which a Caucasian employee at Dollar Bank was terminated when, over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, he hung a brown monkey from the ceiling of a workspace utilized by African American employees.

Continue Reading Extraordinary Employee Misconduct: Monkeying Around in the Workplace!

In a study published in 2000, two professors – one from Princeton, the other from Harvard –concluded that blind auditions exponentially increased the probability of female musicians being selected for seats on major symphony orchestras. In blind auditions, musicians play from behind screens, thus removing the distraction of the person, including the person’s race, age or (the focus of the study) gender. The study collected data from eight symphony orchestras over four decades. The problem is, according to a Wall Street Journal article, the data presented a “tangle of contradictory trends” that did not support the unequivocal bottom line presented by the authors. Indeed, “[t]he paper includes multiple warnings about small sample sizes, contradictory results and failures to pass standard tests of statistical significance. But few readers seem to have noticed. What caught everyone’s attention was a big claim in the final paragraph.”

Continue Reading Behind the Blind Selection Screen

Last week, Montgomery County, Maryland became the first jurisdiction in the Mid-Atlantic area to ban discrimination—including in the workplace—based on natural hairstyle. The bill expands the definition of race to include “traits historically associated with race,” which includes “hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Specific hairstyles articulated in the legislation include braids, locs, Afros, curls and twists, which are often associated with African American or Latino individuals.

Continue Reading A new protected class in Montgomery County: Natural Hairstyle

My interest is piqued by laws with unusual twists, like the Emeryville, California ordinance that permits the use of sick leave to care for a family member’s service animal (about which I blogged previously). Here’s another one – Pittsburgh recently passed a pregnancy accommodations ordinance that extends protections to the partners of pregnant employees!

Continue Reading Pregnancy Protections for Partners?

The story in Collins v. Koch Foods, Inc. begins with an office romance. A female HR manager began privately dating the plant manager in 2014. Because neither was a subordinate of the other, their relationship did not violate the original iteration of the company’s anti-fraternization policy. In 2016, the HR manager’s supervisor resigned for – wait for it – having an office romance with a subordinate! The female HR manager applied for the vacated position, at which time the HR manager and plant manager admitted to their relationship. The HR manager was ultimately passed over for the promotion (not by her boyfriend plant manager) and transferred to a different facility so that she and her paramour would not be working together.
Continue Reading Female Employee Marries Coworker, Gets Fired; Husband Keeps Job, Gets Raise

As I was perusing a recently-released volume of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s quarterly Digest of EEO Law (as I am sadly wont to do – really, I need some new hobbies!), I came across an interesting article, “An Overview of Common Remedies Available in Disparate Treatment Claims of Discrimination.” (Of particular note, while the Digest, as well as the article, covers only federal sector employees, we’d expect the EEOC to take the same position with regard to private sector employees.) The article sets forth the types of remedies sought by the EEOC when it finds that an federal employee or applicant has been subjected to disparate treatment discrimination (meaning that they have been individually targeted). Although the majority of the list is rather routine, it does highlight some rather interesting remedies sought by the EEOC, of which employers should be aware.
Continue Reading The EEOC’s Approach to Remedies for Discrimination