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.
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In an ironic twist, a manager’s alleged attempt to protect an employee from racism resulted in a discrimination claim by that employee.

In Ikome v. CSRA, LLCthe employee hailed from Cameroon and had very dark skin. He helped his employer, an information technology services company, win a contract in North Carolina with the Environmental Protection Agency and became project manager on the contract. Within weeks, however, he was replaced as project manager by a lighter-skinned African-American coworker. In his lawsuit for color and national origin discrimination, he alleges that his manager told him that people in North Carolina are “rednecks” (The manager denied using the term, but the employee’s allegations are assumed to be true at this point in the litigation, before it goes to a jury). The employee interpreted this to mean that rednecks are racist, and a lighter-skinned person would be more acceptable to them.
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The National Labor Relations Board has now addressed the use of mandatory arbitration agreements following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis, which upheld the enforceability of arbitration agreements containing waivers of the right to bring class or collective actions over employment-related disputes, rejecting the NLRB’s then-position that such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as discussed in our prior E-lert.
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A recent case caused me significant concern on behalf of employers. As you may know, before an employee may file a federal discrimination lawsuit against their employer, they must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (And, on a related note, just recently, the U.S. Supreme Court held that this charge-filing requirement was a procedural one that could be waived by the employer, as we discussed in our E-lert). But what happens if the EEOC never notifies the employer of the charge?
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Just in time for Father’s Day, JPMorgan has agreed to pay $5 million dollars to settle a class action lawsuit based on a discriminatory parental leave policy. We previously blogged about this case when the ACLU announced that it was filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a JPMorgan dad. (and you can check out that blog post for a deeper explanation of the legal underpinnings of this issue, if you’re really interested). But this settlement provides an emphatic (and timely!) reminder to employers to take a look at their maternity/paternity or parental leave policies to make sure they don’t run afoul of the law.
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A more conservative Supreme Court than we’ve seen in recent history is poised to consider whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a trio of cases in the 2019-2020 term, which begins in October. We previously wrote on this topic here as the Circuit split was developing.

Not even the federal government tasked with enforcing employment discrimination laws agrees on whether Title VII covers sexual orientation. The Department of Justice reversed course during the Trump administration and now takes the position that sexual orientation is not covered, whereas the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is holding firm to its position, first adopted in 2015, that sexual orientation is covered, as is gender identity. Additionally, under an Executive Order signed by President Obama (not yet rescinded by President Trump) and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, federal contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to (and separate from) sex.
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$3.8 million dollars. That’s what a Tucson, Arizona jury awarded to a former fire paramedic denied workplace accommodations required under the Fair Labor Standards Act for women who want to pump breast milk for their infants. Under the law, for the first year after the birth of a child, employers must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable breaks to pump. Employers also must provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from the view of others and that is free from intrusion by coworkers or others.
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I found a recent case to be a peculiar example of how Title VII is not a “general civility code” in the workplace. In Butto v. CJKant Resource Group, LLC, a male executive was terminated after complaining about being required to arrange female escorts for his married supervisor and perform other activities to facilitate his supervisor’s infidelity. It seems like a reasonable complaint, right? But does that mean it was protected under Title VII?
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I often tell my crazy teenagers that it doesn’t matter what you mean to say – it matters what the other person actually hears. (I’m not sure they actually hear me when I say that…) And a recent Family and Medical Leave Act case proves my point and provides a lesson for employers. Curlee v. Lewis Bros. Bakeries Inc. of Tennessee highlights the need for employers to be very careful and very clear in their verbal communications with employees about Family and Medical Leave Act obligations.
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As you may know, I am a die-hard management-side lawyer. I usually cheer judicial opinions that uphold the rights of employers, which I feel are too often constrained by well-meaning but easily-abused employment laws. But every now and then, even my management-side soul can be a little surprised by a judge’s pro-employer ruling. This was the situation in the recent case of Dawson v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

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