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Brown v. Smith, No. 15-1114 (7th Cir. June 28, 2016)

Here's a nice, short decision affirming a judgment of $25,200 in compensatory damages and $65,274.64 in back pay for an ADA plaintiff fired because of his insulin-dependent diabetes. The court underscores that the question of "essential function" under that statute is a factual one for a jury to resolve. And the court also holds that starting a business, even one that fails, is a valid method of mitigating damages.

Morris v. McCarthy, No. 14-5074 (D.C. Cir. June 14, 2016)

The D.C. Circuit, in a Title VII race-discrimination case, hands down a mixed decision for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee. It reverses summary judgment on her challenge of a suspension, holding that she was entitled to a trial where there was evidence that the lower-level decisionmaker who prompted the action made racially-biased remarks, especially one directed at the plaintiff. Yet it affirms dismissal of her termination claim, concluding that the plaintiff failed to exhaust the exacting administrative requirements that apply to federal-sector workers.

Illinois Attorney General Files Suit Against Jimmy John's

In a civil complaint filed June 8, 2016, the State of Illinois alleges that the sandwich chain Jimmy John's violated the state's Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, 815 ILCS 50511, et seq., by requiring its store employees to sign aggressive non-compete agreements.

Non-Compete Agreements: Bad for Employees, Bad for the Marketplace

This May, the Obama Administration released a report analyzing the use of non-compete agreements in the American economy, potential issues arising from such use, and the effectiveness of various state responses. This analysis suggests that the misuse of non-competes at various occupational levels places an unnecessary burden on employees, consumers, and the economy.

Seventh Circuit Finds Class Action Waivers Violate Federal Labor Law

Last week, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck a blow to employers that require their employees to waive their right to bring class and collective actions to remedy wage and hour violations, finding these waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act's right to engage in "concerted activities" to improve workplace conditions.

New York Attorney General Says Domino's Pizza Is "Joint Employer" in Wage Theft Scheme

A lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accuses Domino's Pizza of under-paying delivery workers and other forms of wage theft at ten locations across New York state. As a result, according to the lawsuit, restaurant workers have been shorted more than a half-million dollars in hard-earned pay.

Chambers v. Burwell, No. 14-5047 (D.C. Cir. May 31, 2016); Johnson v. Perez, No. 14-5034 (D.C. Cir. May 20, 2016)

In two recent federal-sector race discrimination decisions, the D.C. Circuit - while ruling in the employer-agency's favor - issued opinions that may be even more useful for employees in future cases. Both opinions criticized short-cuts sometimes used by district courts to improperly weigh summary judgment records.

Racial Discrimination from the Time of "The Butler's Child" until Now

In The Butler's Child, Outten & Golden Senior Counsel Lewis Steel describes his career spent seeking racial justice as a civil rights lawyer. The book, to be released on June 14th, is a fascinating chronicle of many landmark cases, and a fitting reminder of the continuing fight against racial discrimination in employment, housing, criminal law, governmental services, and education.

From Knee-Jerk Reactions to Thoughtful Discussion: Using Mindfulness to Address Privilege, by Nina Frank

In a recent blog post, on Hamilton & Griffin on Rights, Outten & Golden LLP associate Nina Frank discusses recent studies which have found that anti-bias training and sexual harassment awareness training can not only be ineffective, but can actually backfire, resulting in defensiveness and a solidification of discriminatory beliefs. Mindfulness - and mindfulness meditation - should be taken seriously as a tool to combat our knee-jerk reactions to being confronted with our own privilege. Mindfulness can guard against the tendency to become defensive or guilt-ridden, two automatic reactions that can derail meaningful discourse and progressive change.

Green v. Brennan, No. 14-613 (U.S. S. Ct. May 23, 2016)

In the Supreme Court's only substantive Title VII case this term, the six-justice majority takes a plaintiff-friendly view of when a claim for constructive discharge accrues - on the date that the employee declares his resignation - while Justice Alito's special concurrence and Justice Thomas's dissent would start the limitations clock with the last discriminatory event. The court also dispenses with the requirement (imposed by some courts) that hostile working conditions be created by the employer with the intent of making the employee resign.

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