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Employment Law Blog

Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC, No. 15-60562 (5th Cir. Sept. 27, 2016)

Undocumented workers are entitled to protection under Title VII and other federal employment laws, but many fear filing charges and lawsuits because they risk exposure, termination, and deportation. The Fifth Circuit addresses the delicate balance between the public interest in enforcing anti-discrimination laws and the right of an employer under federal discovery procedures to obtain evidence that is potentially important to its defense.

Paid Parental Leave Has Broad Business and Economic Benefits

As noted by Vogue Magazine, August marked the 23rd anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Though considered landmark legislation at the time, the law only provides for unpaid leave, and does not apply to a large percentage of Americans employed by companies with fewer than 50 employees. Seeking to correct this situation, four states - California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York - now have paid leave laws. Even in those states, however, there remain gaps, particularly when it comes to job protection.

Despite progress, the United States retains its regrettable title as the only major developed country in the world not to offer all workers paid parental leave.

Ernst v. City of Chicago, No. 14-3783 (7th Cir. Sept. 19, 2016)

It's rare for a federal court of appeals to toss a defense jury verdict in an employment-discrimination case, and rarer still for the panel to order entry of a judgment in favor of a plaintiff. Yet both things happened in yesterday's Seventh Circuit decision, which held that a group of female paramedic applicants proved they were unlawfully screened out of employment due to an unreliable physical-skills entrance examination.

Lawler v. Peoria School District No. 150, No. 15-2976 (7th Cir. Sept. 16, 2016)

One way that employers go wrong under disability-discrimination laws is writing off an employee with diagnosed mental disabilities as simply a difficult personality or a poor "fit" for the job. Here, a special-education teacher with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - who was denied a transfer to a less-stressful position and fired for supposedly creating "so much unnecessary drama" with co-workers - will have a trial, thanks to a recent Seventh Circuit decision.

EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, No. 14-13482 (11th Cir. Sept. 15, 2016)

May an employer deny employment to a Black applicant who would not cut her dreadlocks? A decision by the Eleventh Circuit yesterday goes to the very core of the anti-discrimination statutes: what does it mean to discriminate in employment on the basis of "race"? The panel unfortunately holds that "race" under Title VII is limited to "immutable" physical characteristics, rather than cultural and other traits associated with race. In so doing, it potentially creates a rift between two major federal race-discrimination statutes, Title VII and § 1981.

Smith v. LexisNexis Screening Solutions, No. 15-2329 (6th Cir. Sept. 13, 2016)

The Sixth Circuit reviews and affirms a $75,000 jury verdict for a job applicant whose employment background check was negligently performed, but vacates an award for punitive damages, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The case involves a scenario where an applicant's common first and last names triggered a false criminal report.

WARN Act Protects Laid off Employees of Companies in Bankruptcy

Being laid off is likely one of the most stressful events employees and their families will face. It means looking for a new job and wrestling with the financial uncertainty that comes with being out of work.

Recognizing this, Congress passed the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act in 1988. This federal law requires companies with 100 or more full-time employees to give written notice 60 days before a mass layoff or plant closing, and thus provides laid-off workers two months to try and find a new job while still employed. If a company fails to give this notice, employees are entitled to up to 60 days of back pay and benefits. WARN protects many types of workers, including those paid hourly or on salary, as well as managers and supervisors.

But what if a company announces a layoff and then immediately files for bankruptcy? Employees may worry they have now lost out on the notice period - and the income that goes with it.

Finally, a Study that Clearly Shows Pay Gap Between Male and Female Doctors

After years of study and training to become highly educated health professionals, female doctors often find they don't earn the same as their male colleagues. Unfortunately, that's not a new revelation, but data spotlighting the pay disparity has been difficult to collect and routinely challenged as flawed by critics and defense lawyers. Until now.

A new study published by JAMA Internal Medicine may be the first to overcome those hurdles and withstand such attacks, providing long-overdue support in the fight for pay equity for women physicians.

Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises, Inc., No. 15-2574 (7th Cir. Aug. 19, 2016)

In a bid to restore common sense to the adjudication of Title VII and other employment cases, a panel of the Seventh Circuit (with the acquiescence of the full court) decisively overrules both the "convincing mosaic" and "direct vs. indirect" methods of proof. It urges instead the straight-forward application of the anti-discrimination standard: whether the plaintiff "would have kept his job if he [or she] had a different ethnicity, and everything else had remained the same."

Dodd-Frank Act Gives Corporate Whistleblowers a Sword, a Shield, and a Cloak

Stories of corporate greed, cover-ups, and corruption make headlines nearly every day. Scandals at Enron, AIG, Madoff Securities, and elsewhere rocked the investment world to the point that we almost take such violations in stride. What we shouldn't take for granted, however, is the critical role of the courageous whistleblower who exposes the wrongdoing, often at great personal risk.

But just who can be a whistleblower and how do U.S. laws encourage people to come forward while protecting them from retaliation?

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