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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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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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20 Dec 2012 The Top 10 Ways To Reduce Discovery Costs: Nos. 5-1

Yesterday we posted Part I of the article, “The Top 10 Ways to Reduce Discovery Costs: Nos. 10-6.” You can read the article by clicking here. Today, we complete our list by featuring the top 5 ways to reduce discovery costs. 5. Don’t Destroy Evidence. No responsible employer would intentionally destroy evidence. The problem, however, is that responsible employers can have irresponsible and/or negligent employees. Accordingly, all employers should have procedures for advising their employees of reasonably anticipated litigation so that the company properly preserves…

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19 Dec 2012 When Numbers Count

Normally, numerosity is something a plaintiff needs to establish in order to maintain a class claim. Turning that factor neatly on its head, JPMorgan successfully defeated conditional certification of an FLSA collection action through the overwhelming support of its workforce in a recent decision out of the Middle District of Florida. The case, Hart v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., involved a debt collector who claimed that he worked about 3-4 hours a week for which he was not paid. Among other things, he claimed…

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19 Dec 2012 The Top 10 Ways To Reduce Discovery Costs: Nos. 10-6

It should come as no surprise to most employers that employment litigation is on the rise. It also should come as no surprise that discovery is seen as the biggest single driver of litigation expenses. Recent studies have shown that discovery can consume up to 68 percent of the costs in a case. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of attorneys – both plaintiff and defense attorneys alike – agree that the costs of litigation and particularly discovery are not proportional to the value of a case….

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17 Dec 2012 Federal Court Finds Employee Handbook Provision May Constitute an Agreement

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently held that an employee handbook provision may constitute an enforceable agreement under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), even if it does not create an enforceable contract between the employer and employee. In Wharton v. Comcast Corp., N.D. Ill., No. 12-cv-1157 (Dec. 6, 2012), the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant violated the IWCPA by failing to pay them for pre-shift work, post-shift work, and work during meal breaks, in addition to certain…

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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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10 Dec 2012 “Employee” Status Not Necessarily Dependent on Compensation

While Title VII discrimination claims apply only to “employees” and “employers,” the statute’s definitions of those terms are spectacularly unhelpful. An employee is someone who is employed by an employer. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b) & (f). Thanks, Congress! In light of this thoroughly circular definition, courts use agency principles to determine employment status when such is not clear. An illustrative opinion was recently issued by the Northern District of Illinois in Volling v. Antioch Rescue Squad. In Volling, one of the main questions was whether the members…

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05 Dec 2012 Census Bureau Release Workforce EEO Numbers

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2006-2010 American Community Survey EEO tabulation that examines the diversity in the U.S. labor force. In the past, the Census Bureau has produced the tabulation after every 10-year census. However, for the first time, the bureau used the 2006-2010 American Community Survey estimates in its report.  The actual tables produced by the tabulation can be generated at the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder page available here. Federal agencies use the numerous tabulations as a monitoring device while employers…

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