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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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26 Jun 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Directs 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to Re-Examine University of Texas’ Race-Conscious Admissions Policies

On Monday, June 24, 2013, the U.S Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling in the first affirmative-action case since the 2003 landmark decisions of Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.  However,  Monday’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin did not reach the merits of the school’s policy, holding that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals applied the incorrect standard of review. For academic institutions that have race-conscious admissions policies, this case does not alter the current legal requirement that such polices be “narrowly…

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25 Jun 2013 Supreme Court Endorses Narrow Definition of “Supervisor” in Discrimination Claims

On Monday, June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court provided clarity for lower courts and employers when it ruled that an employer may be vicariously liable for a supervisory employee’s harassment (to the extent that it did not culminate in a tangible adverse employment action) only when the employer has empowered the employee to take tangible employment actions against the alleged victim of the harassment. And in the process, the Court soundly rejected the EEOC’s enforcement guidance as “nebulous” and unpersuasive. While the ruling in Vance…

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25 Jun 2013 Supreme Court Requires But-For Causation in Title VII Retaliation Claims

On June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 570 U.S. ____ (June 24, 2013) (Nassar), that a plaintiff bringing a retaliation claim under Title VII must demonstrate “but for” causation, not merely that retaliation was a “motivating factor.”   Writing for the majority and relying on the plain language, structure, and history of Title VII, Justice Kennedy explained that the “motivating factor” standard applies only to claims of “status-based discrimination,” i.e. claims of discrimination…

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21 Jun 2013 The Witness Files: Deja Vu All Over Again in Workplace Investigations

Over time, as lawyers and HR professionals and others conduct numerous workplace investigations, we find that, while each investigation is unique, we “meet” the same characters over and over. With that in mind, I am writing monthly posts on the i-Sight.com blog about those composite witnesses and strategies for dealing with them. The first post that I’ve authored, entitled “The Clueless, Yet Compliant, Accused,” features the supervisor who really does want to improve his clueless behavior (a relatively easy case in many respects); while the…

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19 Jun 2013 Employers May Come Up, Um, Short Under ADA

A decision last week from the U.S. District Court for Arizona highlights a point made previously in this space – for better or worse, the number of people protected by discrimination laws almost never goes down, rather we just keep adding protected classes and who is covered under them. In this decision, the Court opened the Pandora’s Box of possibly protecting short employees under the ADA. The case involves an allegedly bullying supervisor – accusing the plaintiff of mistakes that turned out to the supervisor’s…

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18 Jun 2013 OSHA’S Revised Hazard Communications Standard Imposes New Training Requirements by Dec. 1, 2013

OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires sweeping mandatory training for most employers across the country on the new requirements for chemical labeling as well as the new Safety Data Sheets by Dec. 1, 2013. It was revised to align it with the internationally accepted Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Any employer that uses hazardous chemicals in its workplace is subject to the communication and training requirements of the HCS. OSHA estimates that this revised standard will affect more than…

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18 Jun 2013 EEOC Makes Good On Its Promise To Rekindle Disparate Impact Claims: Files Lawsuits Against Dollar General and BMW

You can’t say that we didn’t warn you.  Last week, the EEOC made good on its promise to protect those adversely affected because of criminal background checks. The EEOC filed two lawsuits – one in federal court in Chicago against the national small-box retailer, Dollar General; and another in South Carolina against BMW. These lawsuits appear to be the first lawsuits filed by the EEOC since it issued its criminal background check enforcement guidance in April of 2012 – and the first since issuing its…

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12 Jun 2013 Unanimous Supreme Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision to Allow Class Arbitration

On June 10, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter. A copy of the opinion can be found here. The opinion, authored by Justice Elena Kagan, upholds an arbitrator’s decision to allow class arbitration on the grounds that the Federal Arbitration Act bars the Court from substituting its interpretation of the contract for the arbitrator’s interpretation. A Barnes & Thornburg Employment Alert discussing this case in more detail can be found here. Oxford Health and the Court’s…

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07 Jun 2013 Don’t Overlook The Gems In EEOC Files

A recent decision out of a Louisiana federal court demonstrates that all employers who are sued in cases where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handled an administrative charge should promptly send out a FOIA request to obtain the EEOC’s file. In Williams v. Cardinal Health Systems 200, LLC, a female employee reported to her employer that her husband had gotten into a fistfight with one of her co-workers, allegedly because the co-worker was sending her inappropriate text messages. The employee was fired shortly thereafter…

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06 Jun 2013 What Judges Really Want: Reasonable Litigants

Recently, a paralegal sued the law firm that she had been working for in New York City.  She alleged that the firm’s named partner had sexually harassed her in violation of New York’s anti-discrimination laws by implying that she should engage in a sexual relationship with him, by demanding that she feed him with chopsticks at an Asian restaurant, by chasing after her when she left the restaurant, and by eventually firing her for rebutting his advances. She also alleged that the firm failed to…

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