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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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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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07 Jul 2017 Firing an Employee? Avoid Litigation by Carefully Reviewing the Issues

Many times before proceeding with a termination, an employer will call on its counsel and explain the rationale for the decision to avoid potential legal issues if it should follow through on firing an employee. As labor and employment attorneys, this is what we would call “best practices”: Having a third-party neutral review the decision for the termination, play devil’s advocate, and determine if there may be some other reason for the decision that could lead to a claim of discrimination or retaliation.   Other…

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28 Jun 2017 Content of Doctors’ Notes May Help Plaintiffs Establish Evidence of Disability Discrimination

  How often do you scrutinize doctors’ notes turned in by employees for signs of a claimed disability? A recent California case, Parker v. Comcast Cable Commc’ns Mgmt., LLC, serves as a reminder that the content of doctor’s notes can serve as strong evidence that an employer has constructive knowledge of one’s disability. Such a showing can therefore make it easier to establish and bring claims of disability discrimination against employers.   In order to be liable for a disability discrimination claim under California’s Fair…

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22 Jun 2017 Fourth Circuit Upholds ‘Mark of the Beast’ Jury Verdict

  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously upheld a West Virginia’s jury verdict of nearly $600,000 in favor of the EEOC on behalf of an employee who alleged the company failed to accommodate his religious belief. The employee believed that using the company’s biometric hand-scanning time clock would affix the “Mark of the Beast” as described in the book of Revelation in the Bible. By using the hand scanner, the employee believed he would be marked as a follower of the…

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08 Jun 2017 The Age Discrimination in Employment Act Turns 50

  Put 50 candles on the cake. In 1967, the U.S. Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) with the stated purpose “to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; (and) to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.”   Now 50 years later, as baby boomers are moving through the workforce and reaching retirement, the ADEA retains its relevance even…

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05 Jun 2017 Court Invites EEOC’s Opinion on Whether Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

  We recently updated you on the Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit granted en banc review of the plaintiff’s claim to consider whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Now the court has taken an additional step of inviting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to give its two cents.   The EEOC is already on record in other courts arguing that Title VII covers sexual orientation…

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30 May 2017 Another Review of the EEOC’s Subpoena for ‘Pedigree Information’

  In a prolonged battle over the issue of whether an employer must respond to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) subpoena for “pedigree information” in connection with its investigation of a sex discrimination charge, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the District Court in Arizona to review the matter again.   In 2013, former employee Damiana Ocho filed a charge of discrimination against McLane Company, alleging that the company discriminated on the basis of sex when it fired her…

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