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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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07 Nov 2017 (Informal) Survey Says: Most Employers Not Waiting for Courts to Decide Whether Title VII Covers Sexual Orientation

  As we have discussed here and here at Currents, one of the hotly contested employment litigation issues of our decade is whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Sex discrimination was an afterthought when Title VII was passed in 1964, added late in the Congressional process (reportedly added by opponents who thought it would cause Title VII to fail), and it is unquestioned that Congress was not thinking about sexual orientation at the time. Since that…

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03 Oct 2017 Will Ohio Pass a Law to Protect LGBTQ Rights?

  There has been widespread activity in the U.S. Courts of Appeals in 2017 regarding whether Title VII includes sexual orientation as one of its protected classes, but the answer is still unresolved on a national level. In an effort to provide protections where federal law does not necessarily do so, 20 states and the District of Columbia have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment settings. However, Ohio is not one of those 20 states, and past efforts to amend Ohio’s…

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30 Sep 2017 Ohio ‘Reverse’ Racial Discrimination Ruling Reinforces Employers’ Advantage in Constructive Discharge Cases

  Our clients are typically employers, but this decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (the appellate court for Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee) on Sept. 28 illustrates one piece of advice we would give an aggrieved employee if asked: Don’t quit! (We’re not changing sides, by the way.)   Steve Fletcher, a white registered nurse, sued his employer alleging racial discrimination, and his story has many hallmarks of discrimination cases we see every day:   A new supervisor who, it…

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29 Sep 2017 The Gradual But Decided Shift to a Much More Complex World of Employment Law

  On Oct. 4, my colleagues (and fellow Currents bloggers) Jeanine Gozdecki and Doug Oldham will be presenting a program focused on increasing complexity in the employment law arena. Employment law accelerated in the 1960s when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, as well as many similar state discrimination laws. At that time, things seemed pretty cut and dried – treat people equally to avoid liability. Many factors have made the world of employment law far more complicated since then:   The number of protected…

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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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20 Sep 2017 Pregnancy Discrimination Act Requires Employers to Accommodate Breastfeeding Employees

  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed a district court decision in favor of a police officer who argued that her employer failed to accommodate her so she could breastfeed.   In Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, officer Hicks requested an alternative duty upon her return from maternity leave. Normally, she was required to wear a bulletproof vest, but her doctor said that wearing the vest could cause infection and prevent her from breastfeeding. Hicks requested a duty that would…

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11 Sep 2017 U.S. Supreme Court is Asked to Answer the Question: What Do You Mean by ‘Sex’?

  We knew this question would be asked. On Sept. 7, a petition was filed in this country’s highest court, asking it to settle the ongoing debate of whether Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.   The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit case, Jameka K. Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, et al., involves a gay female security guard at a Georgia hospital who was allegedly harassed and not promoted because of her sexual orientation. She sued the hospital…

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21 Aug 2017 Don’t Get Caught in the Weeds: Hiring Issues and Medical Marijuana

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have “comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs” and 16 states have more limited programs that allow for the use of “low THC, high cannabidiol” products for certain medical reasons. This legalization of medical marijuana has created challenges for employers and their hiring practices when many companies desire to have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol in the workplace, especially for safety-sensitive positions.   The courts also have weighed in regarding employers’ decisions not…

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08 Aug 2017 Sexual Orientation: DOJ and EEOC Take Opposite Positions in Amicus Briefs Filed in Same Case

  In a bizarre twist, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have each filed amicus briefs on opposite sides of a sexual orientation discrimination case involving Title VII. Since 2013, the EEOC has consistently taken the position that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.   As we have covered in past posts, there have been a number of recent decisions regarding whether Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In particular, the…

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18 Jul 2017 Sticks and Stones: When Texts and Emails Will Hurt You

  Sticks and stones may break my bones But words will never hurt me   Recent legal decisions painfully remind us that words, specifically words in a text, instant message or email, can derail an employer’s position or defense.  The informality of these electronic communications tends to create the mindset that they are less subject to exposure or scrutiny than a formal written letter or memorandum.   In a recent case, Martin v. Tall Brown Dog, LLC, the plaintiff was a recently hired leadership/business development…

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