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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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13 Jul 2018 Binary Bathrooms? Schools Emerge As Fulcrum On This Issue

Deliberations over the adoption of policies regarding bathroom access can be tricky, especially when the disputes involve young children and concerned parents.  Within the last year, profound disagreement has arisen among what schools should do regarding transgender students and bathroom policies.    In February, President Donald Trump’s Education Department confirmed that it is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students barred from school bathrooms that match their gender identity. The Education Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill in response to questions from The Washington Post…

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31 May 2018 Simple Reminders For Developing Healthy Workplace Culture

All work environments develop their own workplace cultures, regardless of company size or industry. The role of culture, when consciously shaped and reinforced, is to bring consistency to the work environment through clear expectations.  Workplace cultures shape, reflect, and sustain business values and ethics, and condemn harassment and discrimination.  This is often accomplished through the physical environment of the office (i.e. open door policy); strong workplace policies prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination; workplace training; and a complaints process that protects employees from retaliation.   Despite…

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20 Apr 2018 En Banc Panel Rules in Favor For Administrator In Pay Disparity Case

The question before the panel was simple: can an employer justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary? Based on the text, history, and purpose of the Equal Pay Act, the panel held that prior salary – whether alone or in combination with other factors – may not justify a difference in pay between male and female workers doing the same job.   The opinion was written by Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt prior to his death in early April…

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05 Mar 2018 Which Side Will Justice Gorsuch Fall On Public Sector Union Fees?

  Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the issue of whether public sector agency shop arrangements violate the First Amendment.   Hearing this issue for a second time, the court will decide whether to overturn a 1977 ruling that held that the service charges used to finance expenditures by the public sector union for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes, are valid, even if the public employee is not a union member.   Just last year, the court examined this very issue in…

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22 Jan 2018 SCOTUS Declines to Consider Whether Tribal Courts Have Jurisdiction to Adjudicate Employment Claims

  The question of tribal jurisdiction arose when a group of current and former employees of two Arizona public school districts filed complaints with the Navajo Nation Labor Commission.   The districts operate schools on land leased from the Navajo Nation and most of the districts’ employees are members of that tribal nation. Among various complaints before the commission, the employees alleged that the districts owed them merit pay under Arizona law and others alleged that the districts violated their rights under the Navajo Preference…

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13 Dec 2017 Can’t Touch This: Seventh Circuit Panel Backs Tenured Teacher Law

  In Elliott v. Board of School Trustees of Madison Consolidated Schools, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously upheld a federal district court’s ruling that the layoff provision of Indiana’s 2011 Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) violated the federal Contract Clause when applied retroactively to a teacher who earned tenure before the new law took effect. The decision was issued on Dec. 4.   For more than 80 years, Indiana’s 1927 teacher tenure law has created contractual…

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30 Nov 2017 School Boards Beware: ‘Control the Clock and Control the Game’ Policy Loses in Court of Appeals

  Comparing the legendary basketball coach Dean Smith’s “control the clock and control the game” strategy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Barrett v. Walker Cty. Sch. Dist., 872 F.3d 1209 (11th Cir. 2017) struck down a Georgia school district’s policy that restricted public comment at school board meetings.   The court’s decision in Barrett, arose from failed efforts of the school’s union president to secure a speaking slot during an upcoming board meeting. Although not mandated by Georgia law, the…

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31 Oct 2017 Attention, Class: Seventh Circuit Finds Preferred Teaching Methods Not Protected Activity Under ADA and Section 504

  A former special education teacher, who claimed to have engaged in a protected activity when she defended her teaching methods following a negative performance evaluation, could not show that the school district discriminated against her when it terminated her. Finding no evidence of discrimination, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the school in Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150.   After receiving an “unsatisfactory” rating based on several deficiencies,…

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22 Sep 2017 Teacher’s ADA, Age Discrimination Claim Given New Life by Sixth Circuit

  A school district’s decision to eliminate a teacher’s position while the teacher was out on Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) leave may have been pretext to disability discrimination, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.   While on approved FMLA leave, a high school economics teacher was notified by the school’s principal that the economics position would be one of several eliminated due to budget cuts. All teachers in the eliminated positions received notices that their contracts would be…

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03 Aug 2017 What’s Mine Is Not Yours! School Districts Reminded of FERPA’s Sole Possession Exception

  Many school districts throughout this upcoming school year will likely be faced with requests for student records from various sources. Student records are protected by one of the strongest privacy protection laws in the nation, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). All educational institutions that are recipients of federal education funds are required to adhere to FERPA’s strict regulations prohibiting the release of student information. While FERPA safeguards the release of student education records, parents essentially have an unhindered right to inspect…

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