A Ninth Circuit panel holds, in a Title VII and Oregon state law case, that an employer's breaking into a work locker constitutes a materially adverse employment action. The panel also splits - 2-1 - over whether the employer failed to take appropriate steps to stop alleged racial harassment, and whether it disproportionately punished the plaintiff by firing him (for leaving the workplace) while taking no action against the harasser.
We often hear media reports about workplace discrimination involving gender, race, national origin, age, and disability that is all too common. But most Americans would be surprised to learn that each year thousands of employees are subjected to blatant and harmful discrimination simply because they are veterans or are currently serving in the Armed Forces - and this discrimination harms our national security by discouraging participation in the National Guard and Reserve.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued final "Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues" ("Guidance") which details how the federal agency will enforce anti-retaliation laws. This Guidance is the first major update to EEOC enforcement policy on retaliation in nearly 20 years, and reflects changes in employment law over the last two decades, particularly several landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The updated Guidance also adds specific language regarding retaliatory actions under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is showing its commitment to keeping the lines of communication open between the SEC and whistleblowers willing to report wrongdoing. The SEC recently announced stiff penalties for two companies that included language in separation agreements that required employees to waive financial rewards they might be eligible for if they disclose employer wrongdoing to the SEC.
The Seventh Circuit affirms a jury award of $50,000 compensatory and $250,000 punitive damages in a Title VII retaliation case. The jury could have found, based on conflicting testimony, that the employer fired the plaintiff just two weeks after she filed an EEOC sex-harassment charge, based on an unsubstantiated complaint - reported by the alleged harasser himself - of a minor work-rule violation.
News that Wells Fargo opened more than two million unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts has filled the headlines over the past few months. While there is no question that the customers were harmed by the bank's unlawful sales practices, other victims have had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down in the scandal - innocent Wells Fargo workers who claim the bank used regulatory filings and other tactics as retaliation, jeopardizing their careers.
Women often find themselves in a workplace culture dominated by traditionally male values, approaches to work, and ways of measuring success. To be included, accepted and advanced, women in a wide variety of professions, including finance, technology, medicine, and the law, must walk a fine line between seeking acceptance and ensuring equal treatment.
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.
We have learned a lot in the few short days since Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News anchor, filed her lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. While the allegations underlying the lawsuit may not be particularly surprising to anyone who knew anything about Ailes or the culture of Fox News, the fact that a lawsuit was filed, and the way it was filed, demonstrates remarkable legal ingenuity and personal bravery. The Carlson lawsuit underscores just how high the chips are stacked against women coming forward to report harassment and discrimination, but also may give us a roadmap to even those odds.
An Arab-American Muslim woman from Morocco alleges that she suffered years of ethnic and religious harassment by the company's Chief Financial Officer, and was then fired 75 minutes after complaining about it. The Fourth Circuit reverses summary judgment on her Title VII and § 1981 complaint, in a blockbuster, 46-page opinion that straightens out several wrong turns that district courts take when ruling on dispositive motions.