Being the subject of malicious gossip or innuendo in the workplace can sabotage your relationships with coworkers and impede your career prospects. But can this behavior actually rise to the level of a hostile work environment under the law and provide the basis for a sexual harassment claim? According to several cases from around the country, the answer is yes - if adequately supported, evidence of rumors, innuendo, and gossip can demonstrate actionable gender-based discrimination.
Although it is a commonplace that employers do not violate Title VII simply by shortcutting their own internal disciplinary systems, that is not necessarily the case if the disciplinary proceeding itself is motivated in part by gender or racial stereotypes. Today, the Second Circuit holds that a coach stated a plausible claim that his employer relied on "invidious stereotypes and credit[ed] malicious accusations" while investigating a Title IX harassment complaint filed against him by a student.
"U.S.A.! Equal Pay! Equal Pay!" These chants from the crowd after the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (USWNT) won the World Cup became the rallying cry behind its ongoing efforts to obtain pay equity for female athletes. Following the team's second straight international championship, and fourth overall, the players returned home to increased national recognition of both their sport and their struggle. Now that the women's team and the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) failed to resolve their pay dispute in mediation, they are now preparing their cases for the courtroom while making their respective cases in the court of public opinion.
The D.C. Circuit remands a summary judgment in a Title VII case, holding that the district court erred in not allowing the plaintiff to get discovery on whether "white . . . or male employees, were disciplined less severely for the sort of behavior for which Cruz was disciplined."
Here's a terse reminder that when an employer's supposedly "legitimate, non-discriminatory" reason for an adverse action is utterly contradicted by the undisputed timeline, then summary judgment most likely ought to be denied.
AOC in employment-law news: the Architect of the Capitol loses two Title VII appeals in the past week, both cases involving claims of denial of promotions due to national origin. Both shared the detail that supervisors allegedly mocked the plaintiffs because of their accents.
A regular theme on this blog is for lawyers to keep an eye on remedies at all times. A pair of non-precedential Eleventh Circuit cases arising from the same trial illustrate the point. In the first, a fully-tried Title VII sex harassment case ends with a liability verdict against the employer, but with $0 in damages. Yet creative lawyering saves the day, preserving prevailing-party status by obtaining a reformation of the employee's personnel file. In the second, the panel remands for reconsideration of attorney's fees in light of an unaccepted Rule 68 offer of judgment.
Here's a cautionary tale from the Sixth Circuit about disabilities discrimination: just because an employee is medically restricted in some aspect of their job does not automatically translate into a covered "disability" for purposes of the ADA. The court affirms summary judgment here, holding that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAAA") - while it liberalized other parts of the statute - did not change the definition of "working" as a "major life activity."
The D.C. Circuit holds (2-1) that a group of fired social workers (SWAs) and social service assistants (SSAs) had - contrary to the district court's ruling - sufficiently identified a "particular emploment practice" susceptible to challenge for its adverse racial impact under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A)(i). The case is remanded for further consideration of whether the plaintiffs established a statistical racial disparity.
While somewhat out of the lane of employment law, this Title III ADA case - about whether a restaurant ought to have accommodated a parent's request to allow a child to bring his own food on a field trip - has some good general lessons for disability-discrimination law.