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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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29 Sep 2017 The Gradual But Decided Shift to a Much More Complex World of Employment Law

  On Oct. 4, my colleagues (and fellow Currents bloggers) Jeanine Gozdecki and Doug Oldham will be presenting a program focused on increasing complexity in the employment law arena. Employment law accelerated in the 1960s when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, as well as many similar state discrimination laws. At that time, things seemed pretty cut and dried – treat people equally to avoid liability. Many factors have made the world of employment law far more complicated since then:   The number of protected…

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26 Sep 2017 Seventh Circuit Declares ‘The ADA is an Antidiscrimination Statute, Not a Medical Leave Entitlement’

  On September 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit clarified a question that many employers struggle with: Is an employee entitled to additional long-term leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave expires? According to the Seventh Circuit, that answer is no when the leave requested spans multiple months.   In Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., Raymond Severson took a 12-week medical leave under the FMLA to deal with serious back pain. On…

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22 Sep 2017 Teacher’s ADA, Age Discrimination Claim Given New Life by Sixth Circuit

  A school district’s decision to eliminate a teacher’s position while the teacher was out on Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) leave may have been pretext to disability discrimination, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.   While on approved FMLA leave, a high school economics teacher was notified by the school’s principal that the economics position would be one of several eliminated due to budget cuts. All teachers in the eliminated positions received notices that their contracts would be…

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20 Sep 2017 Pregnancy Discrimination Act Requires Employers to Accommodate Breastfeeding Employees

  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed a district court decision in favor of a police officer who argued that her employer failed to accommodate her so she could breastfeed.   In Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, officer Hicks requested an alternative duty upon her return from maternity leave. Normally, she was required to wear a bulletproof vest, but her doctor said that wearing the vest could cause infection and prevent her from breastfeeding. Hicks requested a duty that would…

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31 Aug 2017 Lessons Learned: As Flu Shot Season Approaches, Inflexible Rules Can Cause Accommodation Headaches

  It’s the end of summer. Our children are returning to school, the evenings are turning a bit cool and hospitals are educating their workforces on mandatory flu vaccination programs.   Each year at about this time, we look to recent court decisions for guidance on how best to balance a hospital’s interest in protecting its patients (among other things) with a healthcare worker’s sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with the hospital’s requirement that its employees  get the flu vaccine.   Last summer, I…

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22 May 2017 College Not Required to Alter Academic Program for Reasonable Accommodation

  After his requests for additional accommodations were denied, a student at the Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT) who had medical issues related to a brain injury withdrew from the institution and filed suit. After a recent loss in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the student has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.   The student suffered from an anoxic brain injury that caused him to have memory problems. Similar to the accommodation analysis in an employment setting, the college…

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03 Apr 2017 Employer’s ‘Stirring Up’ Testimony Allows Plaintiff to Pursue Section 504 and ADA Claims

  A case out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee provides a useful reminder that employers must exercise caution when responding to reports of potential protected activities. The case, Hicks v. Benton County Board of Education, involved a special education aide who spoke to special education parents about services their students failed to receive. Upon learning this information, the principal instructed the plaintiff to cease talking directly to parents concerning what was going on in the program and to instead…

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24 Mar 2017 Easy Come, Easy Go: Appeals Court Reverses $2.6 Million Award in ADA Case

    In a helpful case for employers, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a $2.6 million jury verdict in Stevens v. Rite-Aid Corporation (Case No. 15-277), holding that the employer could not reasonably accommodate a pharmacist’s fear of needles.   The case began in 2011, when Rite-Aid started requiring that all of its pharmacists be able to administer immunization injections to customers. But, the new job requirement presented a problem for Rite-Aid pharmacist Christopher Stevens; he suffers from the fear of needles, known…

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14 Dec 2016 A U.S. Supreme Court ADA Showdown Is A-Brewin’: Eleventh Circuit Contradicts Seventh Circuit Regarding Non-Competitive Mandatory Reassignments

  This past week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (encompassing Florida, Georgia, and Alabama) reignited an old-fashioned statutory interpretation duel. Ok, it’s not as exciting as the Earps vs. the Clantons at the O.K. Corral, but it certainly has more far-reaching ramifications for employers and employees alike.   The issue: whether, when an employee with a disability cannot perform the essential functions of his or her current job, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires mandatory reassignment of minimally qualified individuals…

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08 Sep 2016 EEOC Issues Anti-Retaliation Guidance First Guidance in Nearly Two Decades Puts Employers on Notice of EEOC’s Workplace Retaliation View

  On Aug. 29, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) issued its much awaited Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues – its first enforcement guidance on workplace retaliation in more than 18 years. In addition to retaliation, this guidance also addresses the “interference” provision under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits threats, coercion or other actions that inhibit the exercise of ADA rights.   This guidance was highly anticipated as “retaliation is asserted in nearly 45 percent of all charges [received]…

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