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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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08 Feb 2013 Breaking – Mixed Bag Ruling In California Mixed Motive Case

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court issued its widely anticipated ruling in Harris v. City of Santa Monica regarding the burdens in so-called mixed motive discrimination cases. Our Alert on the decision can be found here. This particular case had been pending before the court for three years, and should provide some guidance in cases where both legitimate and unlawful factors affect an employment decision. Scott WitlinScott J. Witlin is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Barnes & Thornburg and a member of the firm’s…

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04 Feb 2013 The More Things Change…

When you do something for a long time, you start to see patterns. In employment law, one pattern is that the possible sources of employee-related liability only increase. For example, as our recent article from InsideCounsel discusses, employment law is continually adding “protected classes,” groups of people who are protected by a discrimination law. But the other pattern that goes along with that trend is that the advice to employers about how to handle performance, discipline, and termination situations rarely changes – make mission-related business…

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28 Jan 2013 Paid Leave Can Be a Lawful Option When an Employee Is Facing Criminal Charges

Paid administrative leave for an employee who is charged with a crime is not a materially adverse employment action for purposes of proving an employment discrimination case, according to a recent federal appellate court order. The 10th Circuit’s decision in Benavides v. City of Oklahoma City, is a useful reminder for employers that thorny legal issues may arise when an employee is accused of criminal wrongdoing. The Benavides case illustrates that while an employer cannot prevent an employee from filing a charge of discrimination or lawsuit…

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23 Jan 2013 High Court to Decide Whether “but-for” Standard Applies to Retaliation Claims Under Title VII

The United States Supreme Court has added yet another interesting employment law issue to its docket, agreeing to take up the question of whether Title VII’s retaliation provision and similarly worded statutes require a plaintiff to prove “but-for” causation or instead require only proof that the employer had a mixed motive for the employment decision in question. The Supreme Court granted a petition by the employer to hear its appeal in the case of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, Docket No. 12-00484. The…

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03 Jan 2013 The EEOC’s Plan of Attack

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently approved its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) to establish national enforcement priorities. The SEP is an outgrowth of the EEOC’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2016. The purpose of the SEP is to coordinate the EEOC’s resources to have a “sustainable impact” on reducing discriminatory practices in the workplace. To that end, the SEP identifies six national enforcement priorities, which include: ·         Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring:  The EEOC will target class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against…

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28 Dec 2012 Iowa Supreme Court Rules that Employer Lawfully Terminated “Irresistible” Employee

Can an employer lawfully terminate a female employee because the employer’s wife is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee?  You bet (at least in Iowa). Dr. James Knight hired Melissa Nelson in 1999 to work as an assistant in his dental office. In the months leading up to Nelson’s termination, Dr. Knight and Nelson began texting each other regarding both work related and personal matters. While most of the texts were innocuous, Dr. Knight did send several messages that were…

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21 Dec 2012 Employees’ Requested Religious Accommodations Must Be Reasonable

An employee whose religion prohibits or prevents him from performing certain job duties may ask his employer to provide an accommodation. So says Title VII. However, simply because an employee makes a particular request does not mean that the employer must grant it. The request must be reasonable. This important proviso was recently demonstrated in EEOC v. Thompson Contracting, Grading, Paving & Utilities, No. 11-1897, 2012 WL 6217612 (4th Cir. Dec. 14, 2012).  There, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a construction contractor on behalf a Hebrew Israelite…

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20 Dec 2012 All I Want For Christmas Are Some Stats

The following chart graphically depicts the total number of EEOC charges filed with the agency from 1997-2011.  http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges.cfm  What is immediately apparent from this chart is the relationship between the overall economy and the number of filings. The chart begins in the prosperous 90’s (this is how far back the EEOC’s historical online information goes). As the country continued with the dot-com boom, you can see the number of filings going down. The filings, however, tick up again beginning in 2000 as the economy worsened into recession and…

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20 Dec 2012 Businesses Brace for Another Round of EEOC Challenges

On Dec. 17, 2012, the EEOC revealed its “priorities and goals,” giving businesses some forecast of the EEOC climate and danger zones during next four years. In technical terms, the Commission approved (by a 3-1 vote) its formal Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which identified the following six (6) national priorities: – Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring – Protecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers – Addressing emerging and developing employment discrimination issues – Enforcing Equal Pay Laws – Preserving Access to the Legal System – Preventing Harassment through Systemic Enforcement and Outreach In other words,…

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12 Dec 2012 Outreach Agreement May Signal EEOC Focus on National Origin Discrimination

The EEOC recently announced that its Phoenix District Office entered a Memorandum of Understanding with several consulates of Mexico in Arizona. The Agreement establishes a collaborative relationship between the EEOC and the Mexican consulates with the purpose of addressing issues and providing resources aimed at preventing employment discrimination involving Mexican nationals in the workplace. As part of the Agreement, the EEOC will provide the Mexican consulates with Spanish-language materials “explaining the laws enforced by the EEOC.” Further, the EEOC will supply representatives to meet with Mexican nationals in Arizona for…

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