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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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23 Oct 2013 A Quick Reminder Regarding Complaints in the Workplace

Last year we reported on a landmark EEOC decision where the Agency concluded that discrimination against transgender individuals is actionable under Title VII. In that case, the EEOC held that Title VII prohibits an employer from taking adverse action based on the fact an employee/applicant fails to “adhere” to gender-based expectations or norms. It remains to be seen whether courts will agree with the EEOC’s position, but the decision appears to suggest that the argument may be viable in some jurisdictions. There’s another angle to…

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16 Oct 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Age Case Without Reaching Disputed Question

The United States Supreme Court will not be providing an answer – at least for now – to the question of whether state and local government employees can bypass the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and instead head straight to court with age claims under 42 USC 1983. The Court this week dismissed the appeal in Madigan v. Levin, as “improvidently granted.” While the Court did not provide an explanation, it appears from summaries of the oral argument on Oct. 7, 2013 that the justices determined…

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14 Oct 2013 Employment Law Legislative Agenda in Ohio Mirrors National Scene

As the Ohio General Assembly swings back into action this fall, there are several pieces of employment related legislation that mirror areas getting attention nationally: 1. Ohio passed a concealed carry law in 2006, but the law specifically allows employers to prohibit weapons on the employer’s premises.  The most controversial aspect of this law with gun rights advocates is that employees may be prohibited from storing weapons in their vehicles.  There is some legislative support to taking away the employer’s ability to impose this restriction. …

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02 Oct 2013 U.S. Supreme Court to Kick Off New Term With Age Discrimination Issue

When the Supreme Court holds its first day of arguments of the new term (traditionally, the first Monday in October), it will hear an Illinois case that raises the issue of whether public employees who claim age discrimination can bypass the requirements of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and head straight to court under the Equal Protection Clause and 42 U.S.C. 1983. Barring any delays associated with the government shutdown, the Court is expected to hear arguments on Oct. 7, 2013 in Madigan v….

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25 Sep 2013 Social Media Policy Provides Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Reason for Termination

Much has been written recently about how employers can avoid findings of unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act by having well-written social media policies. It turns out that a good social media policy also can act as a winning defense in discrimination actions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently upheld a victory for Sam’s Club on an employee’s discrimination claim. Former employee Virginia Rodriguez sued under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act claiming that…

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06 Sep 2013 Court Finds Employer’s ADA Direct Threat Evidence Insufficient

On Aug. 30, 2013, a federal district court in Wisconsin denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment in a case where the plaintiff asserted a ADA claim for discriminatory discharge. (EEOC v. Rexnord Industries, LLC).  This was despite the fact that the employer asserted that the employee’s seizure disorder made her a “direct threat” to the safety of herself and those around her. Even under the expansive scope of the ADA Amendments Act, an individual is not a “qualified” individual with a disability if she…

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05 Sep 2013 Code of Silence is a Challenge When Employers Address Workplace Bullying

While a certain amount of levity in the workplace can promote collegiality and teamwork, if employees’ playful banter crosses the line into relentless taunting and bullying, morale can suffer and the risk of lawsuits can increase. Yet employers may find it difficult to uncover and eradicate bullying because employees are afraid to speak up. The immense pressure for victims to remain silent is illustrated in a recent Chicago Tribune article that gave prominent attention to the subject of workplace bullying. The news report described in detail how employees of…

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05 Sep 2013 New Final Rules Require Federal Contractors to Increase Efforts to Hire Veterans and Disabled Individuals

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently issued much-anticipated Final Rules that will require federal contractors to engage in specific and measurable recruitment efforts to hire veterans and persons with disabilities. These Final Rules formally take effect 180 days after being published in the Federal Register. The new regulations make significant changes to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment and Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For additional information on the Final Rules and…

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03 Sep 2013 Reason for Separation? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Reason! (Or, do we?)

Client: “I want to fire my employee.”Attorney: “Why?”Client: “Because I’ve had it. I can’t deal with this employee anymore.”Attorney: “I understand, but why?” Client: “Why? Why?! Because I’ve had it. I’ve just had it. Besides, this is an at-will state and I can fire someone at my will…” (Client’s voice rises) “I don’t need a reason!” The lessons embedded in this dialogue amount to a full-day seminar, but for purposes of this blog, let’s focus on the “reasons” for firing employees. First, in general, we…

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26 Aug 2013 You May Have More Employees Than You Think (Part II)

Following on last week’s post about a Sixth Circuit case counting certain volunteers as employees for purposes of determining whether an employer has the requisite number of employees to be covered by the FMLA, recent guidance from the EEOC cautions employers that individuals designated as “partners” or other owner-type positions may in fact be employees for purposes of determining eligibility under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). These two involve different laws and different groups of potential employees, but share the important takeaway for employers –…

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