Photo: Beatrice Murch via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

The US Supreme Court recently announced it accepted three cases that will determine the scope of “sex” discrimination under federal law.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the

On October 24, 2018 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that Denton County Texas will pay $115,000 to a female physician formerly employed by the county.  The EEOC filed suit in August 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging that Dr. Martha C. Storrie was paid less than her male counterpart for the same job in violation of the Equal Pay Act.  The court entered judgment in favor of the EEOC.

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On October 4, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released preliminary data on sexual harassment claims for FY 2018, which ended on September 30, 2018.  The document, entitled “What You Should Know: EEOC Leads the Way in Preventing Workplace Harassment” summarizes the enforcement and prevention actions taken by the EEOC in the almost two years since the agency released the report of its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace in June 2016.

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On March 5, 2018 I reported that the EEOC announced a settlement in its first lawsuit alleging that parental leave policies which granted more rights to mothers discriminated against new fathers. Details on the lawsuit’s allegations can be found here. The EEOC’s press release was devoid of details about the terms of the settlement. On July 17, the details became public, and they are likely to send shock waves through HR departments and C suites.
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Our April 5, 2017 post highlighted a decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals finding that Title VII protections against discrimination on the basis of gender extend to sexual orientation.  That court referenced US Supreme Court decisions such as the 2015 same sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, in concluding that “[t]he logic of the Supreme Court’s decisions, as well as the common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex, persuade us that the time has come to overrule our previous cases that have endeavored to find and observe that line.”

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Late yesterday, the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appeals court to hold that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex also extends to sexual orientation.

The plaintiff, who is a lesbian, was a part-time adjunct professor at a community college in South Bend, Indiana.  She repeatedly and unsuccessfully applied for full-time teaching positions at the college, and ultimately, her part-time teaching contract was not renewed.  She believed that the college was discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation, and she filed a claim with the EEOC, and later in federal court.  The college moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that she had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted, relying on a string of cases from the Seventh Circuit and elsewhere holding that sexual orientation is not protected under Title VII.  The district court agreed and dismissed the case.  A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit upheld the dismissal.  On further appeal, the full Seventh Circuit took “a fresh look” at its position on the issue, and ultimately decided to overrule its prior precedent.
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Photo: Rusty Clark via Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Photo: Rusty Clark via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court announced that it had decided not to hear the case of Gavin Grimm – the transgender student who sued his school district seeking access to the restroom and locker room facilities that correspond to his gender identity.  The Court’s  change in course followed the Trump Administration’s rescission of an Obama-era Department of Education policy on the issue of bathroom access.  Although Grimm’s suit involves public school students, private employers have been keeping a close eye on the case for any implications it may have on the rights of transgender employees in the workplace.  The answer to that question will have to wait.
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Photo: Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)
Photo: Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

One of the most problematic areas for employers is the balancing act which occurs between managing employee productivity and attendance while taking care not to tread on entitlement to Family and Medical Leave (“FMLA”) and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protections.  Intermittent and unforeseeable absences are at the top of the list of challenges, and one particularly challenging issue is migraine headaches.

Individuals who suffer from migraines know they are usually 1) unpredictable and 2) debilitating.  They often result in employees calling in at the last minute, leaving work midday or being out for days at a time without notice.
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Photo: Mark Goebel via Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Photo: Mark Goebel via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

As we reported in an earlier blog post, employers have been keeping an eye on the ongoing political fights over the rights of transgender persons to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

Yesterday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” withdrawing two statements of policy and guidance issued by the Obama Administration relating to transgender students’ access to restroom and locker room facilities.  The prior guidance documents took the position that prohibitions on discrimination “on the basis of sex” under federal law governing education (Title IX), also apply to gender identity, and require schools receiving federal funds to allow transgender students to use the facilities that correspond to their gender identities.  The new letter from the Trump Administration states that the prior guidance did not contain extensive legal analysis, and did not undergo a formal public comment and review process.  The new letter from the DOJ and the DOE also notes that states and local school districts play a primary role in establishing educational policy.
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