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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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23 Apr 2014 Technological Advances Make Telecommuting A More Reasonable Accommodation

  On April 22, the Sixth Circuit reversed the Eastern District of Michigan in a case that may pave the way for more employees to work at home as a reasonable accommodation. Jane Harris worked as a resale steel buyer for Ford. Her job duties included interacting with steel suppliers and members of the Ford team to ensure that there is no gap in the auto maker’s steel supply. Although managers believed that these interactions were best conducted face to face, Harris suffers from debilitating…

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09 Apr 2014 Ends and Means: Federal Appeals Judge Reflects on Attorney Fee Award Against EEOC

  The EEOC has been more aggressive in the last few years than at any time during my 25 years of practice. It seems a fair question whether its high publicity focus on things like social media and, what I think most plaintiffs’ employment lawyers would agree are routine, release agreements are the best use of its resources – compared, for example, to efficiently doing its less sexy day-to-day work of promptly processing the charges that are brought before it.   This recent post from the…

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20 Mar 2014 EEOC turns its focus to the impact of social media in employment litigation

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is concerned that efforts to access “private” social media communications through discovery in employment discrimination litigation could have “a chilling effect” on people seeking to “exercise their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws,” according to EEOC’s own summary of a recent meeting on the topic of social media in the workplace.   The EEOC held a Social Media Commission meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. on March 12 to gather information about the use of social media in the…

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17 Mar 2014 Second Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Untimely Filed State Law Claims from Title VII Harassment Suit

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that filing a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not toll the limitations periods for filing state law tort claims, even if the state law claims arise out of the same factual circumstances as the discrimination alleged in the EEOC Charge. Castagna v. Luceno, No. 13-076-cv, 2014 WL 840964 (2d Cir. March 5, 2014). This issue has not yet been decided in most of the federal appeals courts, but the Second Circuit…

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13 Mar 2014 EEOC and FTC Team up to Offer Guidance on Employee Background Checks

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the U.S. Fair Trade Commission (“FTC,” the commission responsible for enforcing the Fair Credit Reporting Act) have co-published two technical assistance publications – one aimed at employers and one aimed at employees and applicants – explaining how their rules apply to background checks used for hiring, retention, promotion, or reassignment purposes.   The EEOC confirmed that it is legal to ask questions about an applicant’s background as long as the questions do not discriminate on the basis of…

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19 Feb 2014 EEOC Challenges Standard Severance Agreement Language

  A new EEOC lawsuit could have repercussions on employers’ standard severance agreements. At issue in the lawsuit, which was filed last week in the Northern District of Illinois, is the language of a standard severance agreement which – according to the EEOC – unlawfully prevents employees from communicating with the agency or filing discrimination claims.   As many employers know, general principles of contract law allow an employee who enters into a severance agreement to waive the right to file a legal claim seeking…

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10 Feb 2014 EEOC Charges Drop In 2013, But Wait, There’s More!

The EEOC has disclosed the number of charges filed last year and the overall trend for employers is positive. For the third year in a row, the number of charges dropped – to 93,727 down from 99,412 in 2012 and the record high of 99,947 in 2011. The chart below illustrates the drop and puts the numbers into perspective back to 1997. As illustrated, the good news is that the number of charges are down; the bad news is that the number of charges essentially…

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07 Feb 2014 EEOC Releases Detailed FY 2013 Statistics Showing Highest Monetary Recovery in Agency History

As we previously reported, the EEOC issued its Performance and Accountability Report for FY 2013 in December, which in part summarized the agency’s activity from October 2012 through September 2013. As promised in December, the agency has released more detailed charge and litigation statistics for its FY 2013 activity, providing better insight into what is on its radar (and what employees are complaining about). Data tables provide detailed breakdowns for intake and resolution of charges, in addition to initiated and resolved litigation. A summary of…

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03 Jan 2014 The Importance and Limitations of Internal Investigations

Many companies pride themselves on maintaining and rigorously enforcing equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies. From a business perspective, EEO policies help ensure a company is regarded as a fair place to work – improving employee morale and productivity. From a legal perspective, strong EEO policies (a) help protect the company from discrimination, harassment or retaliation claims by identifying and (hopefully) resolving problems ahead of costly litigation; (b) force the company to create a record of its position with respect to an employee’s claims and the…

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31 Dec 2013 EEOC Measures its Performance in FY 2013

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for Fiscal year 2013. The report summarizes the agency’s activity and assessment of its financial performance from October 2012 through September 2013. It reveals some interesting details about the agency’s work this past year. Highlights from the EEOC’s report include the following: 1. The agency received a total of 93,272 private sector charges of discrimination, a 6,000 charge decrease from the prior three fiscal years. 2. 97,252 charges were resolved, nearly…

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