The U.S. Supreme Court held in CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 563 U.S. 421 (2011), that a summary plan description (SPD) is not enforceable as a plan document. The Sixth Circuit holds, though, that a court has equitable power to order a benefit plan reformed to agree with the language of the SPD, and that it is not necessary to find fraud by the employer to do so.
The First Circuit affirms a $2.6 million judgment for race discrimination against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, where the jury was presented with direct evidence involving "[t]hree of the MBTA's supervisory staff who either concurred in [plaintiff]'s dismissal or were involved in the investigation of the January 25th altercation, had demonstrated racial animus towards her."
Each year, before the teams draft new talent for the following fall season, the NFL organizes its Scouting Combine, a multi-day evaluation and audition process for the most promising football players. Hundreds of hopeful athletes compete to improve their chances to be drafted into a professional football career. Like every other job interview, this one takes guts, stamina, and talent, and a player's personality factors into hiring decisions.
But just like every other interview, state and federal employment laws make it illegal for employers to make employment decisions based on age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status, or sexual orientation. Some NFL officials as well as team owners, coaches, and scouts don't read the playbook, however, and ask questions that appear to reflect discriminatory intent.
One of the maddening things for employee advocates is how rules developed by the courts for one set of facts are used to swat down a case involving an entirely different set of facts. The First Circuit holds that's exactly what happened here, and reverses summary judgment when a judge used a standard developed for failure-to-hire cases to prematurely dismiss a forcible-transfer case.
Here's a case that may be of value to Title VII litigants, as well as in First Amendment cases. The Eighth Circuit holds that for an employer to win a mixed-motive case, where the claimed reason for termination was poor performance, it must offer "evidence showing [that the plaintiff's] performance would have indisputably caused her termination." That proves a heavy lift.
A Black employee who is denied a transfer and told by her supervisor that another manager "wanted a Korean in that position" - and is then fired a week after complaining about race discrimination - presents a triable case of Title VII discrimination and retaliation, so holds the Eleventh Circuit.
Can a boss's repeated offer of a "big bonus" to a woman employee as an inducement to date an important customer constitute quid pro quo sexual harassment? The Fifth Circuit today holds that it can ... but also holds (2-1) that the plaintiff failed to present a genuine dispute that she was entitled to such a bonus in the first place.
An employee fired during her pregnancy should get a Title VII trial, holds the Tenth Circuit, where one of the putative decision-makers reportedly told the plaintiff "[w]hat, you're pregnant too?," and said "I don't know how I'm going to be able to handle all of these people being pregnant at once" and "I have too many pregnant workers, I don't know what I am going to do with all of them."
ADA opinions released in the Eighth and Ninth Circuits today underscore that the burden of proof, ultimately, is always on the employee to show that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. These serve as a reminder to disabled employees and counsel that when seeking reassignment as an accommodation, it is vital to request the reassignment clearly and to set one's sights realistically.
In late March, the Trump administration backed off from a proposal that would have effectively given restaurants and other employers the legal right to pocket workers' tips. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the proposed rule change last December, saying it would give employers the "freedom to share tips between traditionally tipped and non-tipped workers." It would have rolled back regulations introduced in 2011 by the Obama administration that barred employers from redistributing tips to anyone other than the employees who would normally receive them.
Too often, however, tip-pooling with non-tipped workers becomes wage theft when employers use it as a way to redirect tips to themselves. In the case of the DOL proposal, managers, supervisors and even business owners would have been legally entitled to receive a portion of workers' tips.
Thankfully, the backlash that erupted in response to the proposed change forced the DOL to reconsider the proposal and, ultimately, put forward amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that better protect tipped workers.