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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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04 Jun 2015 In California, You Can’t Pick Your Supervisor

A California appellate court recently held that an employee diagnosed with an adjustment disorder triggered by stress caused by her supervisor’s standard oversight of her job performance is not disabled under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Higgins-Williams v. Sutter Medical Foundation, 2015 Cal.App.LEXIS 455 (May 26, 2015). Coming as quite a surprise and coup to employers, the court rejected the current Californian trend of expanding protection of employees unable to work due to medical conditions.   Employed as a clinical assistant, plaintiff Michaelin…

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02 Jun 2015 Abercrombie Decision: What’s next for employers?

The Supreme Court scored a victory for the EEOC yesterday, and, notably, for religion. The court’s majority decision emphasized that religion is a protected class that requires “favored treatment.” The decision also underscores that religious practices are equivalent to one’s religious beliefs, and are accorded the same protection.   Although the court could have limited its decision to the facts of this particular case (as did Justice Alito in his concurring opinion), it rejected the employer’s view that disparate treatment requires an employee to prove…

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01 Jun 2015 EEOC Wins Big at Supreme Court on Religious Accommodation Case

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the EEOC a victory over national retailer Abercrombie & Fitch on a question of religious accommodation.   The court addressed whether an employer must have actual knowledge of an applicant’s need for a religious accommodation to violate Title VII. By a vote of 8-1, the high court said, “no.”   It started when Abercrombie did not hire a woman who appeared for her interview wearing a headscarf, which would have violated the clothing store’s strict dress code. The…

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01 Jun 2015 Colorado ACLU Posts Settlement Agreement Providing for Place to Breastfeed

We have written here before about the still relatively new Department of Labor rules providing that breastfeeding women must be provided with a private place – not a bathroom – to express milk for up to one year after childbirth.  Because of the relative newness of these rules, and the fact that in small workplaces it can take some rearranging to comply, these obligations are not yet intuitive for some employers.   Last week a settlement between a former employee and a beauty salon was…

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29 May 2015 Are You Ready for OSHA’s Revised Hazard Communication Deadline – June 1, 2015?

  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) compliance deadline of Monday, June 1, 2015, is fast approaching. The revised standard was effective in 2012, but it has staggered compliance deadlines for various aspects of the regulations over the years.   Employers were required to train their employees on the new labeling elements as well as the new standardized safety data sheets by Dec. 1, 2013. The deadline for chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors to comply with new hazard classifications…

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28 May 2015 Transgender Status in the Workplace – First an EEOC Issue and Now an OSHA Issue?

Transgender status has been all over the news lately. As many of you saw on 20/20, Bruce Jenner publicly announced his gender transition to a woman in late April. We have also covered the various cases that have addressed transgender discrimination in lawsuits brought by the EEOC as well as individuals since late 2014. Most recently Saks & Company settled a controversial transgender discrimination case back in March. We are aware of EEOC’s position on this issue – that gender identity discrimination is covered by…

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27 May 2015 Getting What You Don’t Ask For – The Perils Of ADA Accommodation By Inference

A case out of the federal court of Maine provides a useful reminder that employers cannot put blinders on when it comes to the ADA and requests for accommodation. The case, Heath v. Brennan (Case No. 2:13-cv-386-JDL), involved a long-time postal employee who developed tendinitis in the early 1990s, forcing him to wear arm braces at work. His co-workers teased him about the arm braces, which ranged from the mild (“gave him a hard time”) to the salacious (“he needed the braces because he had…

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26 May 2015 This Should Go Without Saying: Replacing an Older Worker with Two Younger Workers is Not Consistent with a Reduction in Force Defense

A recent case from a Chicago federal court is a good reminder that just because you can make a particular argument in defense of a lawsuit doesn’t mean that you should. In Summers v. Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc., Case No 13C1312 (N.D. Ill. May 19, 2015), an employee who had worked for her employer for 40 years was fired, along with a number of other employees. The employee sued for age discrimination. As a reminder, employees must meet the high standard that “but for” their age,…

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26 May 2015 A Reminder from the NLRB to Scrutinize Your &!^@$) Policies

We have written often at BT Currents, including here and here, about the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) intense focus on employer policies that assertedly might be viewed by an employee as restricting employees’ – in union and non-union workplaces alike – to communicate with each other about the terms and conditions of their employment, i.e. engaged in “concerted activity.”  This past week I was part of a panel on various labor law topics including a union-side lawyer and representatives from Regions 8 and 9…

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21 May 2015 Constructive discharge case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court

While the U.S. Supreme Court is sprinting to the finish line of its current 2014-2015 term at the end of June, the court already is starting to fill its docket of cases for the October 2015 term and a constructive discharge case will be among those heard and decided in the next year.   In a nutshell, a constructive discharge claim arises when an employee asserts that an employer made working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would feel forced…

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