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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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07 Nov 2014 Recent Case In Michigan Highlights Increased Focus On Transgender Discrimination

As we previously reported, the EEOC recently made history when it filed two lawsuits seeking to protect transgender workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The lawsuits – filed separately in federal courts in Michigan and Florida – allege that the employers engaged in unlawful gender-identity discrimination after they terminated two employees who were transitioning to the opposite sex. Rather than explicitly allege gender-identity discrimination – which is not actionable – the EEOC carefully crafted both judicial complaints to…

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30 Oct 2014 Remember the Basics

A new case from the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals serves as a nice reminder of how prompt and diligent HR work can stamp out an employment litigation claim. The case, Lennox v. Mondelez Global, Inc., involved an employee who filed claims against her employer for sex and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Specifically, the employee claimed that during her employment, her co-workers engaged in racially derogatory and sexually offensive comments and actions. These included telling a racially offensive joke in her presence (although…

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13 Oct 2014 Don’t Mess With Texas…Roadhouse

Being directly in the cross-hairs of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) can be a daunting experience for any employer. In response to what to what it believes to be overreaching litigation tactics by the EEOC, however, Texas Roadhouse is swinging back. According to Texas Roadhouse, the EEOC – on its own accord and without a single complaint from a job applicant or employee – initiated an investigation of the restaurant’s hiring practices of “front of the house positions,” such as hostesses. The Restaurant asserts…

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07 Oct 2014 Supreme Court Lets Gay Marriage Stand In Five States

Supporters of gay marriage won another victory this week as the Supreme Court let stand lower court rulings that struck same-sex marriage bans in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. The decision upholds a decision from the Seventh Circuit, which intensely scrutinized Indiana and Wisconsin representatives who argued in favor of maintaining those states’ gay marriage bans, as well as rulings from the Fourth and Tenth Circuits that struck gay marriage bans in Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah.   The Supreme Court’s decision not to review…

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30 Sep 2014 EEOC SUES TWO EMPLOYERS FOR TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION

  In June, we wrote about a landmark decision where the EEOC found that discrimination against transgender individuals constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. Because it has been a while, here is a recap.   The administrative decision stems from a case where Mia Macy, a transgender individual, was denied a job as a ballistics technician by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The facts are straightforward:  Macy previously was a police detective in Phoenix, Arizona. In December 2010, she decided…

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22 Sep 2014 CAUTIONARY TALE FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYERS – REMEMBER THE FIRST AMENDMENT

  When a public employee makes unpopular public statements, the employer must remember that the employee’s statements could be protected by the First Amendment. On September 15, 2014, the Firth Circuit Court of Appeals in Christian Cutler v. Stephen F. Austin State University affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the University and four University officials had no immunity from a First Amendment retaliation claim. Cutler, the University’s Director of Art Galleries, received an invitation from a member of Congress to judge a high school art…

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18 Sep 2014 Reminder: Pregnant Employees are a Protected Class

  This should come as no newsflash: Just because you own a company, an organization, a pro basketball team or a pro baseball team, does not mean that you have a license to do or say whatever you want. At least, not without stirring up some trouble.   Donald Sterling, the former owner of the L.A. Clippers was ousted from the NBA after allegedly racist remarks were made public. Last week, we learned that Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson self-reported that he sent a…

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17 Sep 2014 What’s In Your RIF? Age Discrimination Decision Highlights Documenting Rationale For A RIF, And That Even as Adults, A Plaintiff Should Not Just Copy Someone Else’s Work . . .

  Consistent with the age-old adage that there is no free ride, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an age discrimination claim of a former employee who based his case on comments allegedly made to another employee.   The case involved a long-time employee of a large financial company who began work in 1988 and survived multiple mergers and restructurings. But, in 2010, his performance was rated in the bottom tier of employee rankings in the company. Coincidentally, his employee conducted a reduction in force (RIF)…

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28 Aug 2014 Seventh Circuit Judges Grill State Attorneys on Gay Marriage

  On August 26, state officials from Wisconsin and Indiana faced blistering scrutiny from a panel of Seventh Circuit judges as they argued in favor of reinstating laws in each state banning gay marriage. Judges Posner, Hamilton and Williams pushed them to their limits and asked a number of pointed questions regarding their arguments.   Judge Posner took the attorneys to task regarding the interests of children, quickly interrupting Indiana’s Solicitor General Thomas Fisher and asking if children wouldn’t want their parents to be married…

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25 Aug 2014 The Interactive Process Under the ADA – Are you engaging in it?

  We’ve been seeing a lot of cases lately where employers are finding it difficult to dispose of ADA claims before trial. It’s not what it used to be where you could often show an employee was not disabled under the ADA and likely prevail on summary judgment. With the broader scope (or interpretation of) a disability under the ADA, employers often find themselves arguing over whether an employee with a disability is qualified for a position, or whether an accommodation is truly reasonable.  …

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