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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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22 Nov 2017 Employers Take Note: Sexual Harassment is Not OK … Finally

  Before becoming a lawyer, I was a Captain in the U.S. Army. I was stationed overseas for much of my career, and served a remote tour in a faraway land. During that tour of duty, I learned many things. But the most important lesson I learned — as one of two female officers on the base — was to speak up (and out) against sexual harassment.   I have always been thankful that I was in a position where speaking up (and out) was…

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16 Oct 2017 The Government Seal on EEOC Anti-Harassment Training: Is It Worth It?

  Does putting the U.S. government seal on workplace training make it more or less appealing? The EEOC’s recent announcement that it is offering workplace training modules on Respect in the Workplace has colleagues on the employment and human resources circuit asking each other, “At its core, is this a really a good idea for us?”   After all, there appear to be some immediate advantages: Pre-packaged. The EEOC is offering turn-key, ready-to-deliver training for employees. Let’s face it, who has enough time to develop and…

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06 Oct 2017 R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the Workplace? The EEOC Becomes Trainer-in-Chief

  The EEOC announced this week that it is launching training programs to help employers foster respectful, inclusive work environments.   The EEOC Training Institute is offering to send trainers into your workplace and lead separate modules for supervisors and employees. Supervisor training titled “Leading for Respect” is a four-hour program; the one for all employees, “Respect in the Workplace,” is a three-hour program.   This week’s announcement culminates a long inquiry into workplace harassment. In January 2015, the EEOC formed the Select Task Force…

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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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15 Aug 2017 Single Use of Racial Slur Sufficient to Assert Harassment Claim

  In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a single use of a derogatory term can sustain a workplace harassment claim. In Castleberry v. STI Group and Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the parties disputed whether or not a single use of a racial slur could be “severe” enough to support the plaintiff’s claim of harassment and survive a motion to dismiss.   The plaintiffs, two African-American employees, brought claims for harassment, discrimination, and retaliation after they were terminated…

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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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Settlement
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05 May 2017 Avoiding the Danegeld: Discouraging Me-Too Claims Following a Settlement

  A thousand years ago, Viking warriors would invade a town and threaten to destroy it if the townsfolk did not pay a tax called a “Danegeld” (meaning to pay the Dane gold). Of course, once the town paid the Danegeld tax, the Vikings saw the town as an easy mark – one to which they would return to and demand payment all over again. Essentially, this was the Middle Ages equivalent of a mobster shakedown: promising to “protect” your property to make sure nothing…

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17 Mar 2017 Does Same-Sex Harassment Support Gender Discrimination Claims? Texas Supreme Court to Decide

  The Texas Supreme Court agreed to determine whether a school teacher’s allegations of a hostile work environment by her same-sex superiors can support a claim of gender discrimination in violation of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA). The court will also decide whether the circumstantial evidence presented to prove the teacher’s retaliation claim is sufficient to support a violation of the TCHRA.   The teacher alleged that a fellow coach began to sexually harass by allegedly making comments about the teacher’s body…

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21 Feb 2017 A Charge-d Atmosphere: A Few Pointers When a Current Employee Files a Charge

  Most employers have had to respond to a discrimination charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or a corresponding state agency. A large percentage of such charges are brought by terminated employees, claiming that a termination was discriminatory. When that happens, employers gather documentation, provide requested information and prepare a position statement. A significant amount of the time, the charge is dismissed and the employer prevails.   But some charges are brought by current employees, alleging discrimination in the form of:…

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23 Nov 2016 EEOC Issues New Guidelines on National Origin Discrimination

  Earlier this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidelines on national origin discrimination. These extensive guidelines, which update those issued in 2002, define what constitutes national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and provide more than 30 examples as well as “promising practices” that can help employers avoid such discrimination. Title VII is wide-reaching, applying to employers with 15 or more full- or part-time employees.   The new guidelines offer the following definition of national origin discrimination:…

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