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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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21 Aug 2013 Sixth Circuit Counts Paid Volunteers As Employees Under the FMLA

A divided Sixth Circuit recently came to a surprising decision regarding the definition of “employee” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In Mendel v. City of Gilbraltar, No. 12-1231 (6th Cir. Aug. 15, 2013), the Court determined that paid volunteer firefighters were “employees” for purposes of the FMLA and FLSA. The plaintiff police dispatcher brought suit against the city alleging a violation of his rights under the FMLA. The city moved for summary judgment on the basis that it…

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13 Aug 2013 EEOC Not Faring Well in Background Check Disparate Impact Cases

The EEOC’s crackdown on the use of background checks has taken another body blow, this time delivered by federal Judge Roger Titus out of the District of Maryland. After a recent spate of adverse decisions in such cases (including cases against BMW Group and Kaplan Higher Education Corp.), national event planning company Freeman found itself in the agency’s cross-hairs. The opinion, granting Freeman summary judgment, can be found here.  While acknowledging that it is possible to prove a discriminatory disparate impact (here, against African-Americans and…

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09 Aug 2013 EEOC Hit With $4.7 Million in Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

On Aug. 1, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was ordered to pay $4.7 million in attorneys’ fees and costs in the litigation it brought against CRST Van Expedited (CRST) in 2007. In that litigation, the EEOC alleged that female workers had been sexually harassed by male employees and trainers. CRST challenged the sweeping sexual harassment claims brought by the EEOC and U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Readle agreed, describing the EEOC’s tactics in identifying the class of female workers as a “moving…

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05 Aug 2013 Pardon the Interruption: The 2013 ABA Blawg 100 List

Once a year, the ABA Journal publishes a list of the 100 best legal blogs. This year, the call for nominations is due no later than Aug. 9, 2013. Not to toot our own horn, but we here at BT Currents think we’ve carved a nice little niche in the employment blog world and wouldn’t argue with the editors of the ABA Journal if BT Labor Relations made this year’s list.  There’s just one little problem: We can’t nominate ourselves for this year’s list. Bummer. Fortunately, that’s where you, our regular readers come in….

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24 Jul 2013 Minnesota Employers Required To Provide Expanded Sick Leave Benefits Effective August 1, 2013

Effective August 1, 2013, Minnesota employers must allow an employee to use any sick leave benefits for “absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee’s child, … adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent, for reasonable periods of time as the employee’s attendance may be necessary, on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.” See Minn.Stat. 181.9413(a). This is a significant change from the prior statute, which only…

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17 Jul 2013 Be Careful What You Say

A recent case demonstrates the frustrating quandaries that employers can find themselves in if they do not choose their words carefully.  In Gulden v. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc., Case No. BC468909, a 76-year-old engineer sued his employer for age discrimination after he was laid off.  His employer had what would seem to be a good multi-faceted defense: The engineer was just one of 81 employees who were laid off (most of whom were significantly younger than him), he was the only part-time employee in…

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03 Jul 2013 Obamacare Employer Mandate Delayed A Year

Late Tuesday the Treasury Department provided the business community welcome relief by announcing that employers would not be penalized in 2014 under the insurance coverage mandate. Enforcement of the significant penalties that businesses with over 50 full-time employees could be assessed for not providing health insurance coverage to at least 95 percent of full-time workers will instead begin in 2015. Those penalties would currently amount to $2000/year for every full-time employee, not counting the first 30 employees. The Affordable Care Act (better known as “Obamacare”) has drawn…

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26 Jun 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Directs 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to Re-Examine University of Texas’ Race-Conscious Admissions Policies

On Monday, June 24, 2013, the U.S Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling in the first affirmative-action case since the 2003 landmark decisions of Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.  However,  Monday’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin did not reach the merits of the school’s policy, holding that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals applied the incorrect standard of review. For academic institutions that have race-conscious admissions policies, this case does not alter the current legal requirement that such polices be “narrowly…

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25 Jun 2013 Supreme Court Requires But-For Causation in Title VII Retaliation Claims

On June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 570 U.S. ____ (June 24, 2013) (Nassar), that a plaintiff bringing a retaliation claim under Title VII must demonstrate “but for” causation, not merely that retaliation was a “motivating factor.”   Writing for the majority and relying on the plain language, structure, and history of Title VII, Justice Kennedy explained that the “motivating factor” standard applies only to claims of “status-based discrimination,” i.e. claims of discrimination…

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06 Jun 2013 What Judges Really Want: Reasonable Litigants

Recently, a paralegal sued the law firm that she had been working for in New York City.  She alleged that the firm’s named partner had sexually harassed her in violation of New York’s anti-discrimination laws by implying that she should engage in a sexual relationship with him, by demanding that she feed him with chopsticks at an Asian restaurant, by chasing after her when she left the restaurant, and by eventually firing her for rebutting his advances. She also alleged that the firm failed to…

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