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EEOC v. New Breed Logistics, No. 13-6250 (6th Cir. Apr. 22, 2015)

The Sixth Circuit chalks up a big win for the EEOC, affirming a jury verdict for four employees awarding compensatory and punitive damages totaling over $1.5 million. The court upholds the rule that telling a sexually-harassing supervisor to cut-it-out is protected "opposition" activity under Title VII, and will support a claim for retaliation. The opinion also highlights the kind of trouble employers can get into when they fail to treat temporary employees as a full-fledged part of the workforce.

EEOC Affirms Right to Gender-Appropriate Bathrooms and Pronouns for Transgender Employees

On April 1st, the EEOC issued a groundbreaking ruling that found that the Army discriminated against a transgender civilian employee by denying her access to the women's restroom and created a hostile work environment by allowing a supervisor to intentionally misuse her former name and male pronouns.

U.S. Oil Worker Wage-and-Hour Pay Rights Issues

Since July 2014, the price of oil has dropped by half. That's good for consumers' pocketbooks, but one segment of the population is facing hard times: U. S. oil industry workers.  In the past few years, the boom in oil production meant that companies needed to quickly expand hiring to meet the demand for workers. The rush to hire meant that some companies did not follow wage and hour laws.

McMullin v. MS Dept of Public Safety, No. 14-60366 (5th Cir. Apr. 6, 2015)

The Fifth Circuit issues yet another reminder, in today's Title VII decision, that an employer who stoutly refuses to offer any explanation for a decision to deny a promotion takes a strong chance of having to justify its actions at a jury trial.

Mandatory Arbitration: Searching for Fairness

Arbitration is a common, employer imposed method for resolving employment conflicts without going to court. However, Outten & Golden Partner Wendi Lazar suggests that when an employee is forced by contract to arbitrate rather than sue, arbitration becomes a means for employers to suppress the rights their employees would be entitled to in court.

Hutchens v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 13-3648 (7th Cir. Mar. 24, 2015)

In an organization otherwise blanketed in paper, it raises eyebrows when the employer's complaints about a worker's performance find no support in the records. The Seventh Circuit vacates summary judgment in this pro se case, and remands for a trial of Title VII and § 1983 claims, where the performance-based reasons offered for a black teacher's termination were at odds with the employer's files and were bolstered mostly by sharply-disputed witness testimony.

Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, No. 13-2212 (4th Cir. Mar. 12, 2015)

Social anxiety disorder is a recognized disability, and employers need to consider work assignments with that disorder in mind. The Fourth Circuit holds that a district court erred by dismissing a claim (on summary judgment) against a public-sector employer that fired an employee instead of assigning her away from public-oriented, customer service duties. It also observes that a recent Supreme Court decision should make summary judgment for defendants more difficult to obtain.

Flood v. Bank of America Corporation, No. 14-1068 (1st Cir. Feb. 27, 2015)

The Maine Human Rights Act protects employees who express "actual or perceived ... bisexuality." The First Circuit holds that the district court erred in not crediting evidence that two women employees who began dating at work, and who were discouraged from expression of their relationship in the workplace (while others were allowed to do so), were subjected to a hostile work environment. The district court also erred in handling a termination claim, misperceived as a constructive discharge claim.

Fulghum v. Embarq Corp., No. 13-3230 (10th Cir. Feb. 24, 2015)

While ERISA does not provide a limitations period for most claims, it does impose a three-year limitations period after discovery of a breach of fiduciary duty, plus a six-year period of repose. Yet the statute also provides that "in the case of fraud or concealment, such action may be commenced not later than six years after the date of discovery of such breach or violation." The Tenth Circuit examined this quoted language today, and remanded parts of a class action to be reconsidered under this provision.

Soto-Feliciano v. Villa Cofresi Hotels, Inc., No. 13-2296 (1st Cir. Feb. 20, 2015)

Even imperfect employees, we are reminded, are protected by anti-discrimination laws. The First Circuit holds that the district court too quickly credited the employer's reliance on the plaintiff's disciplinary history when it fired him, without looking behind the record to see if the hotel genuinely believed that the offenses were serious enough to warrant termination.

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