Employment Discrimination

There may be some changes coming to how California enforces its antidiscrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act.  In February 2017, a bill was introduced in the California Senate proposing to allow local government entities to enforce antidiscrimination statutes. 
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On October 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a formal letter on behalf of the United States Department of Justice stating the DOJ’s official position that Title VII “does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,” officially retracting the DOJ’s previous position under the Obama Administration and setting up a direct conflict with the EEOC’s current position on the scope of Title VII.
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It has been ironclad law since the enactment of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that the Act’s prohibition against discrimination “because of . . . sex” does not include sexual orientation. Federal law does not prohibit employers from terminating someone for being gay or lesbian. For now, at least.
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Enforcing a race-neutral grooming policy that prohibits employees from wearing dreadlocks is not intentional racial discrimination under Title VII. That is what the Eleventh Circuit recently held in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, — F.3d —, No. 14-13482, 2016 WL 4916851 (11th Cir. Sept. 15, 2016).
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On August 29, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., — F.3d —, No. 15-3239-CV, 2016 WL 4501673 (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2016), holding that an employer may be held liable for a low-level employee’s animus under the cat’s paw theory of liability if the employer’s own negligence allows that animus to result in adverse employment action against another employee.
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Since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 in 1965, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has been charged with ensuring nondiscrimination and affirmative action for females in employment. In 1970, regulations were issued to further this goal, known as the Sex Discrimination Guidelines, codified at 41 CFR Part 60-20. Those guidelines have not been substantially updated in the 46 years since. Until now, that is. The DOL acknowledges the Guidelines have become “out of touch with current law and with the realities of today’s workforce and workplaces.” See: OFCCP Fact Sheet on Sex Discrimination Final Rule. So, the OFCCP is bringing the Guidelines “from the ‘Mad Men’ era’ to the modern era.’”
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On March 1, 2016, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) sued employers for the first time for sexual orientation discrimination. The EEOC filed lawsuits in federal courts in Pittsburgh and Baltimore against manufacturing and health care employers for unlawful sex discrimination on behalf of employees alleging they were harassed and discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
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In February of 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released detailed information and statistics summarizing the charges of discrimination that the agency received throughout its 2015 fiscal year. The recently released report provides helpful information regarding the types of charges that employees filed in the 2015 fiscal year, which ran from October 1, 2014 to September 20, 2015.
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