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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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17 Mar 2017 Does Same-Sex Harassment Support Gender Discrimination Claims? Texas Supreme Court to Decide

  The Texas Supreme Court agreed to determine whether a school teacher’s allegations of a hostile work environment by her same-sex superiors can support a claim of gender discrimination in violation of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA). The court will also decide whether the circumstantial evidence presented to prove the teacher’s retaliation claim is sufficient to support a violation of the TCHRA.   The teacher alleged that a fellow coach began to sexually harass by allegedly making comments about the teacher’s body…

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03 Sep 2015 Choose Your Words Wisely

In Figueroa v. Village of Melrose Park, a former female probationary officer filed a lawsuit alleging gender and race discrimination. Of relevance to this post, the plaintiff’s police chief expressed concern that she would be a liability because the plaintiff would be unable to defend herself in a confrontation with a “200-pound man.” In denying summary judgment, the district court held that this remark amounted to direct evidence of gender discrimination. While some may argue that the remark was nothing more than a “real world”…

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30 Apr 2015 Alleged Victim of Sex Discrimination Recovers $13 Million

Earlier this month, in the case Robertson v. Hunter Panels LLC et al., a Pennsylvania federal jury awarded a female employee $13 million after finding that she had been a victim of harassment and gender discrimination.  During the six-day trial, members of the jury heard evidence that the plaintiff had earned significantly less than the male who previously occupied her position. There was also evidence that the plaintiff’s supervisors had belittled her in front of other employees. Finally, there was evidence that when the plaintiff…

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27 Mar 2015 When is a Disclaimer Not a Disclaimer? Certain Employment Policies Trump “No Contract” Disclaimers in Handbooks

An employer’s whistleblower policy and its grievance policy are implied contractual promises that employees may enforce, notwithstanding the valid disclaimer that employment policies are not contracts contained in the company’s employee handbook. So says the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a recent case involving a non-profit organization’s employee who included multiple implied contract and promissory estoppel claims in her post-termination lawsuit.  Leyden v. American Accreditation Healthcare Commission, No. 1:14-cv-01118, March 18, 2015.  The court ruled that a whistleblower policy and a…

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20 Nov 2014 Yikes!! AutoZone Hammered with Record $185 Million Dollar Punitive Damages Jury Verdict

A federal jury – not surprisingly from California – recently issued a whopping $185M ($185,000,000) punitive damages verdict in a single-employee gender discrimination case, believed to be a record award. The plaintiff also received over $872k in compensatory damages for front pay, back pay and emotional distress. The case is entitled Juarez v. AutoZone (Case No. 3:08-cv-00417), and currently sits in the Southern District of California.   Ms. Juarez, who originally filed the suit in 2008, claimed that AutoZone imposed a glass ceiling on women…

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15 Jul 2013 Update: Still Legal to Fire the ‘Irresistible’ Employee in Iowa

A few months ago we wrote about the Iowa Supreme Court decision holding that it was not gender discrimination for a dentist to fire his attractive assistant at his wife’s behest because she was deemed a threat to the dentist’s marriage. Last week we got to relive this case in the media (social and otherwise) when the court declined the employee’s motion asking the court to reconsider its position. While it is certainly the exception for courts to reverse their own decisions (the employee probably…

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02 Apr 2013 Seventh Circuit Finds Menial Tasks, Isolation, and Allegations of Violence Provide Pipeline to Jury Trial

In reversing a district court’s grant of summary judgment on an employee’s hostile work environment claim under Title VII, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found a female plumber to have alleged sufficient facts to make it to a jury trial. Specifically, in Hall v. City of Chicago, found here, the only female plumber working within a particular division for the City of Chicago, alleged, among other things, that she was forced to do menial tasks (e.g., sorting of the exact same documents…

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15 Mar 2013 Some Basic Advice as “March Madness” Begins

It’s mid-March. That – as any fan of college basketball knows – means that the NCAA basketball tournament and “March Madness” are about to begin. As a result, a case that was handed down by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit yesterday is timely.  In Covington v. International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, No. 11-3096, 2013 WL 979067 (3d Cir. Mar. 14, 2013), a female referee alleged that the organization that supplies referees for high school basketball games in New Jersey’s Hamilton…

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28 Dec 2012 Iowa Supreme Court Rules that Employer Lawfully Terminated “Irresistible” Employee

Can an employer lawfully terminate a female employee because the employer’s wife is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee?  You bet (at least in Iowa). Dr. James Knight hired Melissa Nelson in 1999 to work as an assistant in his dental office. In the months leading up to Nelson’s termination, Dr. Knight and Nelson began texting each other regarding both work related and personal matters. While most of the texts were innocuous, Dr. Knight did send several messages that were…

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