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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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26 Jun 2012 U.S. Supreme Court to consider definition of “supervisor” for purposes of vicarious liability in hostile work environment case

While all eyes are on the United States Supreme Court this week as we await the release of its decision on the health care reform law as it concludes the 2011-2012 term, we also are looking ahead to cases of importance to employers on the Court’s docket this fall. The Supreme Court on Monday decided to add an interesting racial harassment case to its docket for the 2012-2013 term that will begin in October. The question the Court is expected to answer is whether the…

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26 Jun 2012 Employee Social Networking Password Protection May Soon Become Law in Illinois

Employers in Illinois who are interested in the Internet activities of their employees and job applicants, including activities on social networking sites, will need to be more cautious if Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signs a bill on his desk that the Illinois Legislature recently passed. The legislation, House Bill 3782, would amend the state’s Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act at 820 ILCS 55/10, a section that currently prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their prior history of worker’s compensation claims. The amended Act would prohibit Illinois employers from requiring employees or…

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25 Jun 2012 What Managers Can Learn from Lilly Ledbetter

At first blush the autobiography of famed Equal Pay Act plaintiff Lilly Ledbetter might not seem all that much of a draw for those whose work involves defense against employment discrimination claims.  Yet the recently published book, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, (Crown Archtype 2012) has much to offer for employment lawyers, human resource executives, and front-line managers who are involved in employment law compliance. We all know how the story ends – with the enactment…

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22 Jun 2012 Court Rules Participation in Post-Lawsuit Internal Investigation is Protected Activity

Although not particularly surprising, the Northern District of Illinois recently held that an employee who participated in an “internal investigation” regarding a former co-worker who had recently filed a race discrimination lawsuit was engaging in protected activity under Title VII.  The employee was therefore allowed to move forward with his retaliation claim after he himself was terminated several months later.  The opinion, Gomez v. Restaurant One Limited Partnership, may be found here. The case is noteworthy because the Seventh Circuit has previously held that participating…

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18 Jun 2012 Supreme Court Issues Long-Awaited Decision in Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision in Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., holding in a 5-4 decision that pharmaceutical sales employees are exempt outside salespeople. The decision may be read here. The case is significant for several reasons.  The most obvious reason is that it represents our highest court interpreting the outside sales exemption, so any business relying on (or thinking of relying on) this exemption should review the decision with counsel to ensure ongoing compliance. The central issue in Christopher was whether the…

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18 Jun 2012 Obama Directive Offers Relief to Certain Unauthorized Immigrants

Under a new directive from President Obama, unauthorized immigrants who meet specific criteria will not be subject to deportation, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization immediately. To be eligible for relief, individuals must show, on a case-by-case basis, that they: – came to the United States under the age of 16; – have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least five years (before June 15) and are now present in the U.S.; – are currently in school, have graduated from high…

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18 Jun 2012 DOL Decision Supports Expansion of SOX Whistleblower Protections To Contractors of Publicly Traded Companies

The Administrative Review Board (Board) for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued a decision, expanding the scope of the whistleblower protections under Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). In Spinner v. David Landau and Associates, LLC., the Board specifically rejected an earlier decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and, instead, found that SOX’s whistleblower protections extend to the employees of contractors and subcontractors of publicly traded companies. In the Spinner case, Thomas Spinner was a Certified Public Accountant,…

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13 Jun 2012 Plaintiff’s Efforts to Preclude Her Deposition in Discrimination/Retaliation Suit Rejected by U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina recently rejected a pro se plaintiff’s efforts to evade being deposed in her suit filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, after suing her former employer North Carolina Department of Administration/North Carolina Human Rights Commission (“NCDOA”), plaintiff Linda Huggins sought a protective order precluding NCDOA from deposing her in relation to her claims of discrimination and retaliation. The opinion, which can be found here, rejected such efforts and…

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11 Jun 2012 Business Groups Join In Request For EEOC To Pay For Title VII Case

In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Peoplemark, Inc., Case No. 11-2582, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Equal Employment Advisory Council and the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center recently joined Peoplemark, Inc., in its request that Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals uphold the lower court’s award of $752,000 in attorney’s fees and costs awarded to the temporary employment agency after a voluntarily dismissed discrimination action by the U.S. Equal Employment Commission. The lower court’s award of fees and costs to Peoplemark…

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06 Jun 2012 Are Your Summer Interns Covered By Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws?

Several months ago the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an informal discussion letter addressing whether interns (paid and unpaid) are covered by the anti-discrimination laws enforced by the agency (e.g. Title VII, GINA).  The Commission’s letter can be found here. With the summer months upon us, we thought it would be helpful to revisit the issue. The analysis for paid and unpaid interns will differ.  For unpaid interns, coverage likely will turn on whether the intern receives “significant remuneration” for his or her services (e.g. workers’ compensation benefits or access…

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