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June 2011 Archives

Hernández-Miranda v. Empresas Díaz Massó, Inc., No. 10-1639 (1st Cir. June 29, 2011); King v. University Healthcare System, L.C., No. 09-30794 (5th Cir. June 28, 2011)

Two plaintiffs win at trial and, on appeal, achieve differing results. In the First Circuit, a Title VII plaintiff improves on her win by persuading the court (with an assist from the EEOC as amicus) that the number of employees in the "current or preceding calendar year" - for purposes of setting the damage cap under 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(3) - is based on the number of employees at the time of the act of discrimination, rather than at the time of trial. In the Fifth Circuit, the employee keeps her Equal Pay Act award, but loses a state statutory wage claim.

Williams v. CSX Transportation Company, Inc., No. 09-5564 (6th Cir. June 28. 2011)

An EEOC charge, the essential first step to filing a Title VII (or ADEA or ADA) case, must characteristically include the basic information that makes up the employee's allegations against the employer. Regrettably, many employees stumble at this stage because they do not have an attorney. But a panel of the Sixth Circuit, dividing 2-1, holds that a bare-bones charge and accompanying "charge information form" was sufficient. 

Cyr v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., No. 07-56869 (9th Cir. June 22, 2011)

In an ERISA case of importance to employees seeking to collect benefits, the en banc Ninth Circuit cleans up some dicta in its prior case law and - without dissent - holds that parties other than benefit plans and plan administrators may be liable for payment of benefits under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B).

Bowie v. Maddox, No. 08-5111 (D.C. Cir. June 21, 2011)

Employment-law litigators are well-familiar with the provisions of Title VII and other federal employment statutes that penalize retaliation against an employee who files a lawsuit. But the D.C. Circuit reminds us today that there is another pair of federal civil rights statutes that can cover the same claim, the post-Civil War laws 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(2) and 1986. The court holds that the district court erred in dismissing these claims before trial.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, No. 10-277 (U.S. S. Ct. June 20, 2011)

The Wal-Mart decision winds down the current class action against the retail giant, but also - by a bare majority - nudges all of Title VII law, class and individual, back in a familiar and unwelcome direction.

Pye v. Nu Aire, Inc., No. 10-2243 (8th Cir. June 17, 2011); Geleta v. Gray, No. 10-7026 (D.C. Cir. June 17, 2011)

Two decisions issued today demonstrate the challenge employers face in managing claims of retaliation. If the summary judgment records in these cases are to be believed, the decision-makers were all-too-eager to announce their intention to get even with employees who made complaints of discrimination.

Ellis v. CCA of Tennessee, No. 10-2768 (7th Cir. June 9, 2011)

In a race harassment case, the Seventh Circuit recognizes that innocent-appearing media can be used in a hostile context to perpetuate abuse of racial minorities by insinuation. It finds in this case, though, that the publication - a book titled THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER MEETS THE MONKEY - was not being used for a racially-hostile purpose.

Rattigan v. Holder, No. 10-5014 (D.C. Cir. June 3, 2011)

To close out the week, how about a case where the employee - an FBI agent stationed in Saudi Arabia in the wake of 9/11  - was accused of wearing Saudi national clothing, thus "creating the impression he had 'gone native,'" and commissioning Saudi colleagues to find him a "suitable wife"? The agent complained that the charges were trumped-up retaliation for his complaints of race discrimination. The D.C. Circuit, remanding the case, discusses the scope of the national-security exception to employment law.

Torgerson v. City of Rochester, Minn., No. 09-1131 (8th Cir. June 1, 2011) (en banc)

A 6-5 en banc decision from the Eighth Circuit affirms summary judgment in a sex and national-origin discrimination case involving the hiring of firefighters, vacating a prior decision that reversed summary judgment. The court disaffirms language located in 62 published, panel decisions since 1987 (collected in an appendix to the opinion) stating that summary judgment ought to be applied sparingly in employment discrimination cases.

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