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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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20 Jul 2016 Classic Conundrum: Protecting Employees from Themselves

Last week, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against a furniture company in North Carolina for firing a pregnant employee, allegedly because her job involved using potentially dangerous chemicals.   According to the EEOC’s regional attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina, “pregnant women have the right to make their own decisions about working while pregnant, including the risks they are willing to assume. Companies must not impose paternalistic notions on pregnant women, as doing so can result in unlawful discrimination.”   In the case filed against RTG…

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03 Jun 2016 EEOC Plows Ahead on Obama’s Initiatives. Next Up: National Origin Discrimination

As President Obama’s second term heads toward the finish line, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) unveiled its latest initiative on June 2 – this time focusing on employment protections for victims of national origin discrimination.   According to the EEOC, national origin discrimination, more than any other protected class, overlaps with other forms of discrimination, particularly race, color and religion. These intertwined factors create sticky legal issues for employers where, for example, Title VII requires employers to accommodate certain religious practices but there is…

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18 May 2016 Applications Are Welcome; Drugs Are Not

It’s an oft-heard refrain from many of our clients: “We need good employees.” Not just any employees, but employees who know how to show up for work – consistently and on time. Employees who do good work. And, by the way, who also can pass a drug test.   Maybe it’s the lag effects of legalizing marijuana, or the crippling epidemic of opioids invading our workforce. Regardless, communities and business are seeking (with mixed success) drug-free employees. These challenges are outlined, in small part, in an…

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19 Apr 2016 11th Hour Questions about DOL’s Overtime Rules

As the DOL’s final proposal nears reality, the expected economic impact is making some members of Congress very nervous.   Even supporters of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) upcoming overtime regulations (anticipated to be released in final form sometime soon)  are raising last-minute concerns about the regulations’ potentially adverse impact on businesses– small businesses in particular.   The expected revised DOL regulations on overtime will affect the exempt status of an estimated five million white-collar employees.  The DOL has proposed a salary threshold of $970 per…

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14 Aug 2015 Clarity from the 9th Circuit: The ADA Does Not Require Employer to Keep a Potentially Violent Employee

A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms our faith in the federal courts on issues of workplace violence. In the case of Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc., the plaintiff/employee argued that he was a victim of disability discrimination under Oregon law after he was fired for threatening his co-workers. (The court notes Oregon’s disability law is similar to and similarly analyzed as the Americans with Disabilities Act.)   The employee had a history of major depressive disorder, and after making threats…

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02 Jun 2015 Abercrombie Decision: What’s next for employers?

The Supreme Court scored a victory for the EEOC yesterday, and, notably, for religion. The court’s majority decision emphasized that religion is a protected class that requires “favored treatment.” The decision also underscores that religious practices are equivalent to one’s religious beliefs, and are accorded the same protection.   Although the court could have limited its decision to the facts of this particular case (as did Justice Alito in his concurring opinion), it rejected the employer’s view that disparate treatment requires an employee to prove…

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01 Jun 2015 EEOC Wins Big at Supreme Court on Religious Accommodation Case

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the EEOC a victory over national retailer Abercrombie & Fitch on a question of religious accommodation.   The court addressed whether an employer must have actual knowledge of an applicant’s need for a religious accommodation to violate Title VII. By a vote of 8-1, the high court said, “no.”   It started when Abercrombie did not hire a woman who appeared for her interview wearing a headscarf, which would have violated the clothing store’s strict dress code. The…

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30 Apr 2015 Paradigm Shift: Triple Standard of Reasonable Accommodations

The old reliable rules seem less reliable these days. It is no longer enough to treat all employees the same. We have entered an era of interactive processes, individualized assessments and reasonable accommodation.   The term “reasonable accommodation” flows most easily in connection with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as we note its 25th anniversary.  But, as a reminder, it also applies to the religion clause of Title VII and now, thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, we need to consider it in…

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29 Apr 2015 Unanimity and Clarity: U.S. Supreme Court Outlines Standards for Judicial Review of EEOC Conciliation

In a unanimous decision this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court held that courts have limited authority to second-guess the EEOC’s conciliation efforts in enforcing Title VII – ending a circuit court split, and clarifying the “proper scope of review.”   In Mach Mining LLC v. EEOC, the parties battled over the EEOC’s conciliation tactics after the federal agency found probable cause that Mach Mining had discriminated against a group of female employees based on sex. The employer accused the EEOC of failing to bargain in…

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14 Apr 2015 Caveat to the FMLA Final Rule on Same-Sex Spouses: Not Yet

Put an asterisk on my February blog entry that “spouse means spouse” under the FMLA.   In late March, a federal judge in Wichita Falls, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction against the Department of Labor – to keep it from enforcing its new and expanded definition of “spouse” after being challenged by the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska. Those four states object to the Department of Labor’s revised definition of “spouse” to include same-sex spouses because they claim the agency’s new rule would…

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