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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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02 Oct 2014 There’s No Question – The EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan Is In Full Bloom

  You’ll recall that the EEOC put out a Strategic Enforcement Plan to cover FY 2013-2016. This Plan offered a peek into what the Agency might tackle in the coming years. One of the Agency’s six national priorities was to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, which, in the Agency’s words included “issues associated with significant events, demographic changes, developing theories, new legislation, judicial decisions and administrative interpretations.” Well, based on the Agency’s actions over the past week or so, no one…

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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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15 Aug 2014 When “I Love You” May Be Too Much

  Normally, the words “I love you” make a person feel good, happy, confident and host of other emotions. However, in the employment context, saying these three little words can cause a host of potential issues for both employers and employees. Typically, as employment attorneys, we see these words leading to claims of sexual harassment. But, now it appears saying “I love you” (among other things) also can create a claim of religious discrimination.   In June of this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity…

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14 Aug 2014 Could Corporate Wellness Programs Land A Business in Hot Water?

The EEOC recently filed suit against an employer after it established a self-improvement program based on the “Onionhead” belief system.   The Onionhead belief system is related to the Harnessing Happiness Foundation. The Harnessing Happiness Foundation is a “501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to emotional knowledge and intelligence, conflict resolution and life handling skills for all ages.” The Foundation’s website offers the following description of the belief system: “Onionhead is part of Harnessing Happiness. We used an onion as a medium to express peeling our feelings,…

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16 Jun 2014 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: COURT OKS “INFLEXIBLE” SIX MONTHS OF LEAVE

  Must an employer allow more than six months sick leave to an ill employee? In Hwang v. Kansas State University, a federal appeals court answered with a clear, “No.”   An assistant professor at Kansas State University was diagnosed with cancer and needed extended time off for treatment. The university granted the professor a six-month paid leave of absence, but it declined to extend her leave after a subsequent request for more time. The university cited its “inflexible” policy, which allowed no more than…

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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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