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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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13 Nov 2015 Casual Friday: Make Sure Your Employees Keep it Classy

Casual Friday.  It’s a day of the week many employees are allowed to “dress down” a bit in anticipation for the weekend.  And many employees like to get a bit “festive” during the holiday season.   Well, the Internet is slightly annoyed right now.  A large national retailer has decided to start selling a sweater bearing the slogan:  “OCD:  Obsessive Christmas Disorder.”  While probably well intentioned, some people don’t think it’s funny to make light of obsessive compulsive disorder.  And if people are taking to…

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02 Nov 2015 Lessons Learned: Watch What You Say: It can and will be used against you

As employment litigators, we frequently remind our clients that extreme caution must be exercised with email communications. A recent decision by the Seventh Circuit, Arroyo v. Volvo Group North America, LLC, found here, serves as a powerful reminder.   Luz Maria Arroyo was an Army reservist who, between 2005 and 2011, deployed twice to Iraq and Kuwait for periods in excess of one year each and also regularly attended weekend drills, as well as annual and other military training. Although her supervisor and others expressed…

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22 Oct 2015 EEOC Defends “Mark of The Beast” Ruling – Religious Beliefs Don’t Have To Make Sense To Be Protected

In August 2015, the EEOC prevailed in a religious discrimination lawsuit against Consol Energy and was awarded in excess of $500,000.00.  Former Consol mine worker Beverly Butcher, who had been with the company for over 35 years, refused to use Consol’s new biometric hand scanners that were installed to track employee time and attendance.  He explained that he believed that scanners would leave the “mark of the beast” and would be a sign for the antichrist.  Consol required Butcher to use the scanners and refused…

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16 Oct 2015 Tenth Circuit Finds Secretly Recorded Age-based Remarks To Be Double-Edged Sword That Can Be Used as Evidence of Plaintiff’s Own Wrongdoing

In Housley v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals discussed the significance of the parties’ objections and requests for limiting instructions at trial, which serves as a reminder to plaintiffs and defendants alike. In this case, the plaintiff (a long-time employee of The Boeing Company (Boeing)) sued Spirit and Boeing, alleging that she had been discriminated based on her age (56) after Boeing sold its Wichita facility to Spirit, and Spirit did not hire her based upon the recommendations of Boeing management. Specifically,…

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15 Oct 2015 California Employee Arbitration Bill Vetoed

In a move that has left employers relieved, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill (AB 465) that would have prohibited employers from implementing arbitration agreements with its employees unless those employees had counsel and negotiated the arbitration agreement. The bill also would impose a $10,000 fine on employers for each violation.   In his veto message earlier this week, Governor Brown explained that the bill imposed a “blanket ban on mandatory arbitration agreements” and this ban “has been consistently struck down in other states…

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12 Oct 2015 Employee Who Threatened to Shoot His Colleagues with a Shotgun Not a “Qualified Individual” For the Purposes of Oregon’s Disability Statute, Says Ninth Circuit

The inherent tension between employee mental illness and workplace disability discrimination laws has become a hot topic over the last few years. Yet, legal opinions addressing this issue have often led to more questions than answers. For instance, what happens if an employee’s mental illness causes him or her to violate company rules? Can the employer discipline such an employee without running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Or, in the most extreme situation, what disciplinary actions may an employer take against an…

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11 Sep 2015 Teacher’s Online Rants About Students Are Not Protected By First Amendment

In Munroe v. Central Bucks School District, the Third Circuit recently upheld summary judgment for a school district, high school and superintendent in a First Amendment retaliation case filed by a former teacher. Natalie Munroe, a former English teacher at Central Bucks East High School near Philadelphia, maintained a personal blog. Although most of her posts focused on uncontroversial topics such as recipes and vacations, several of her posts were highly critical of her students and coworkers.   Munroe opined that she wished she could…

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04 Sep 2015 Second Circuit Clarifies Viability of Retaliation Claim Under Section 1983 For Having Complained of Discrimination

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, resolved confusion surrounding the viability of retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, clarifying that a plaintiff can bring an action under Section 1983 for retaliation based on complaints of discrimination. In the case at issue, Vega v. Hempstead Union Free School District, plaintiff was a bilingual high school teacher with many years of service, who alleged discrimination based on his “Hispanic ethnicity” and retaliation under Title VII and Section 1983 against the school district,…

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03 Sep 2015 Choose Your Words Wisely

In Figueroa v. Village of Melrose Park, a former female probationary officer filed a lawsuit alleging gender and race discrimination. Of relevance to this post, the plaintiff’s police chief expressed concern that she would be a liability because the plaintiff would be unable to defend herself in a confrontation with a “200-pound man.” In denying summary judgment, the district court held that this remark amounted to direct evidence of gender discrimination. While some may argue that the remark was nothing more than a “real world”…

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02 Sep 2015 Man Bites Dog: Court Vacates Arbitration Award Against Sexual Harasser

It is the rare occasion when a court throws out an arbitration award. Typically the court’s ability to do so is quite limited by statute and/or the collective bargaining agreement under which the arbitration award. But a New York appellate court recently vacated an arbitrator’s award that put a bus driver (and union official) back to work even though he did not even show up to a hearing to contest sexual harassment charges against him. Recognizing its limited ability to vacate an arbitration award, the court…

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