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September 2011 Archives

Meditz v. City of Newark, No. 10-2442 (3d Cir. Sept. 28, 2011)

A pro se plaintiff wins a victory in the Third Circuit, reversing summary judgment on his Title VII claim that Newark, New Jersey's residency requirement for city employment has a disparate impact on non-Latino white job applicants.

Earl v. Nielsen Media Research, No. 09-17477 (9th Cir. Sept. 26, 2011)

The Ninth Circuit contributes to the latest in a roster of recent U.S. Courts of Appeals' decisions reversing summary judgment in cases where the district court applied a too-strict standard of "similarly situated" to evaluate an employee's claim of discriminatory discipline under the McDonnell Douglas test.

Phillips v. Leggett & Platt, Inc., No. 10-60585 (5th Cir. Sept. 22, 2011)

An age discrimination plaintiff wins a $48,000 judgment at trial, only to lose it - in a 2-1 vote - before a panel of the Fifth Circuit, which holds that judgment should have been entered for the employer on limitations grounds. As Judge Higginbotham's dissent points out, the issue of who decides such issues is paramount.

Dulin v. Board of Commissioners of the Greenwood LeFlore Hospital, No. 10-60095 (5th Cir. Sept. 15, 2011)

In a highly unusual development, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reverses itself in an employment discrimination case, in favor of the plaintiff. It had previously affirmed a Rule 50 judgment as a matter of law granted to the employer - a public hospital - in a § 1981 race discrimination case, but in a two-page per curiam order, it announces that it is vacating and remanding the case back for trial.

Dediol v. Best Chevrolet Inc., No. 10-30767 (5th Cir. Sept. 12, 2011)

One of the most memorable hostile-work-environment facts encountered in a recent published federal opinion: The manager - who has a history of physically threatening the plaintiff - rips off his shirt at work and tells the employee, "You don't know who you are talking to. See these scars. I was shot and was in jail." The Fifth Circuit reverses summary judgment in an ADEA and Title VII harassment case.

Eaton v. Indiana Department of Corrections, No. 10-3214 (7th Cir. Sept. 9, 2011)

For the second time in two weeks, the Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII case where the employee alleged discriminatory discipline. The court finds that similar, if not identical, disciplinary violations were comparable enough to make out a prima facie case of discrimination. The court also reminds us of a simple, though easily-overlooked, principle: that a factual distinction proffered to defeat a "similarly situated" holding at the prima facie stage is immaterial if there is no evidence that the employer actually relied on that reason at the time decisions were made.

Bryson v. Middlefield Volunteer Fire Dep't, No. 10-3055 (6th Cir. Sept. 2, 2011)

Interns, volunteers, graduate students, even prisoners - these are just some examples of categories of people who might be deemed "employees" of an organization under Title VII, depending on the conditions of their work and how they might be compensated for their services. The Sixth Circuit, in a 2-1 panel decision, declares a split with the Second Circuit and holds that remuneration is only one factor - not a threshold factor - in the judicial determination about whether volunteer workers should count as employees.

Rodgers v. White, No. 10-3916 (7th Cir. Sept. 2, 2011)

In a case of allegedly racially-motivated discipline, where there is no direct or circumstantial evidence of racial animus, the issue of how similarly situated the disciplined employees were can be key to whether the claim survives summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit today holds that a district court in a Title VII case erred in holding that a supervisor cannot be comparable to a line employee for purposes of applying the McDonnell Douglas method of proof, vacating summary judgment and remanding the claim for trial.

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