Employment Discrimination

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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In its recent decision in David Baldwin v. Dep’t of Transportation, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133080 (July 15, 2015), the EEOC ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, despite the fact that Title VII does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its list of protected bases.
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The Supreme Court recently held in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. that Title VII prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship, even where the applicant has not informed the employer of his need for an accommodation.
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The Texas Supreme Court is considering a case that could have important implications to disparate impact analysis, including on criminal background checks. The case also foreshadows further challenges from the Texas Attorney General to aggressive positions taken by federal enforcement agencies in regard to disparate impact.
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Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. Oral argument was heard on October 8, 2014. This case will resolve a circuit split on whether time spent by warehouse workers going through security is paid time. The Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Portal to Portal Act, does not require an employer to compensate for activities that are preliminary or postliminary to their principle work.
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