On June 14, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a public meeting entitled “The ADEA @ 50 – More Relevant Than Ever,” to commemorate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act’s 50th anniversary and to “explore the state of age discrimination in America today and the challenges it poses for the future.” Participants in the meeting included Victoria Lipnic, newly-appointed Chairman of the EEOC, and various workers’ advocates who provided their thoughts on the perceived increasing prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace.
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The United States Supreme Court recently resolved a Circuit Court split on the appropriate standard of review of a District Court’s decision whether to enforce a subpoena issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).  In McLane Co., Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 15-1248, 581 U.S. __ (April 3, 2017), the Court held that such a decision should be reviewed only to determine whether the District Court abused its discretion – a deferential standard of review.  This conclusion was fairly uncontroversial.  Indeed, the abuse of discretion standard has long been used for review of decisions whether to enforce administrative subpoenas (such as those issued by the National Labor Relations Board). Historically, however, the Ninth Circuit alone has used a de novo standard of review in these circumstances, while the seven other U.S. Courts of Appeal to have addressed this issue all applied the more deferential standard.  The Ninth Circuit panel itself questioned why de novo review applied, in light of the substantial authority to the contrary, and the Supreme Court took the case to resolve this circuit split.

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Hunton & Williams recently published an entry on its Retail Law Resource Blog regarding what employers can expect from Victoria Lipnic, the new acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and an EEOC Commissioner since 2010. Since that publication, Lipnic has made public comments as to what she envisions from the EEOC under her leadership.
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On November 21, 2016, the EEOC announced the release of new enforcement guidance addressing national origin discrimination. Like many enforcement initiatives of late, the update is intended to address current cultural issues and legal developments. It updates an EEOC compliance manual section from 2002 (Volume II, Section 13: National Origin Discrimination). For employers who have been following court decisions in this area, the guidance may not convey much new information. But, it makes clear the agency’s position in a number of areas that may continue to present workplace challenges under Donald Trump’s administration.
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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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Recently, the federal government has highlighted the issue of religious discrimination and accommodation in the workplace. Given the diversity of most workplaces, especially retailers, employers should be particularly sensitive to the potential risks of religious discrimination and harassment claims, as well as its obligations to accommodate reasonable religious-based requests for workplace changes.
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We have written on several occasions about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) proposed rules on wellness programs, and the extent to which employer-sponsored wellness plans must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new rules were finalized in May 2016 and state that employers may offer limited financial and other incentives to employees to participate in wellness programs.
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The Fifth Circuit held recently that the State of Texas had standing to sue the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) over the Commission’s “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII” (the “Guidance”) issued in April 2012, which warned employers that blanket policies against hiring felons could disproportionately exclude minorities and thus be deemed discriminatory.
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