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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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09 Mar 2015 Saks Settles Controversial Transgender Discrimination Case

As a reminder to employers that the threat of transgender discrimination lawsuits is alive and well, Saks & Company recently settled a controversial claim of discrimination where a former salesperson claimed she had been harassed and retaliated against on the basis of her transgender identity.  Saks previously argued in a Motion to Dismiss that transgender individuals were not covered by Title VII, which then sparked outrage from gender rights activists as well as both state and federal regulators.  As we have previously noted in a…

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23 Jan 2015 Man Claiming Hand Scanning Time Clock Causes “Mark of the Beast” Wins Religious Discrimination Suit

Last week, a federal jury in West Virginia found in favor of a plaintiff claiming that his coal mining employer discriminated against him based on his religious beliefs by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for his religious objection to the company’s use of a biometric hand-scanning time clock. The plaintiff was an evangelical Christian who believed that the use of the hand scanner was discussed in the Book of Revelation in the Bible when it described the Antichrist as causing all to have a…

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15 Jan 2015 Hope For Employers: Some Courts Are Requiring The EEOC To Thoroughly Investigate Allegations Before Siding With Employees

The EEOC, in theory, is supposed to be neutral. It is supposed to collect complaints from individuals who believe that their employers have wronged them, provide the employers with an opportunity to respond, investigate the complaints further if the circumstances warrant it, and provide the parties with an opportunity to conciliate their disputes short of litigation. Many employers feel that the EEOC is hardly neutral, however. They say that, rather than acting as an unbiased third party, the EEOC sees itself as a pro-employee agency…

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07 Nov 2014 Recent Case In Michigan Highlights Increased Focus On Transgender Discrimination

As we previously reported, the EEOC recently made history when it filed two lawsuits seeking to protect transgender workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The lawsuits – filed separately in federal courts in Michigan and Florida – allege that the employers engaged in unlawful gender-identity discrimination after they terminated two employees who were transitioning to the opposite sex. Rather than explicitly allege gender-identity discrimination – which is not actionable – the EEOC carefully crafted both judicial complaints to…

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03 Oct 2014 Watch Your Language in the Workplace: Timeless Challenge for Employers LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  Some employment law issues, employers can address or at least manage with the appropriate proactive steps. Just scan through recent BT Currents posts for some examples – lawfully managing an employee’s request for accommodation, whether it be for religious or health reasons, or documenting the reasons for a RIF.  Potentially hard issues to be sure, but ones over which employers and their lawyers have some degree of control.   Much harder to manage, however, are the problems that occasionally arise from (excuse the technical…

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30 Sep 2014 EEOC SUES TWO EMPLOYERS FOR TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION

  In June, we wrote about a landmark decision where the EEOC found that discrimination against transgender individuals constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. Because it has been a while, here is a recap.   The administrative decision stems from a case where Mia Macy, a transgender individual, was denied a job as a ballistics technician by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The facts are straightforward:  Macy previously was a police detective in Phoenix, Arizona. In December 2010, she decided…

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18 Sep 2014 Reminder: Pregnant Employees are a Protected Class

  This should come as no newsflash: Just because you own a company, an organization, a pro basketball team or a pro baseball team, does not mean that you have a license to do or say whatever you want. At least, not without stirring up some trouble.   Donald Sterling, the former owner of the L.A. Clippers was ousted from the NBA after allegedly racist remarks were made public. Last week, we learned that Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson self-reported that he sent a…

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01 Aug 2014 Employee Evaluation Practices Under Scrutiny LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

Recent weeks have seen employee evaluation practices in the news several times. For example, following an investigation into its employee review system, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced in May of this year that it would completely eliminate performance ratings previously assigned to some employees. In addition, the Bureau decided to assign high performance ratings to employees who received certain lower ratings in the past two years and to provide pay raises to those employees.   The Bureau had come under fire due to…

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27 Feb 2014 Workplace Bullying may Amount to Actionable Discrimination

A recent court of appeals decision highlights the risks associated with failing to address allegations of workplace “harassment” or “bullying.” In Woods v. Boh Brothers (5th Cir. 2013), Kerry Woods was employed by Boh Brothers as welder. In this capacity, Woods was supervised by Chuck Wolfe. Woods claimed that during his employment, Wolfe subjected him to almost-daily verbal and physical harassment: – Wolfe directed very foul language and locker room talk at Woods; – Wolfe referred to Woods by graphically derogatory names many of which…

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02 Dec 2013 “Using Social Media to Discriminate”: Please Read the Fine Print

A recent study of how hiring managers respond to phony social media accounts has been featured in some outlets with bold headlines along the lines of “Employers May Use Social Media to Discriminate.” Here is what the study, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, really concluded:  The study involved sending dummy resumes to employers and creating dummy social media accounts to accompany those resumes. (While the subject matter of the research is undeniably important, is anybody else furrowing their brows a little about, um, lying to employers for purposes…

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