A district court needs to be reminded that Title VII and § 1983 protect different (if overlapping) interests in a government workplace, that an employee can elect a remedy under either or both, and that a § 1983 claimant need not pursue the administrative prerequisites for Title VII.
This my favorite kind of entry to write: the Seventh Circuit revives a jury verdict for a victim of sex harassment, and in so doing elaborates that behavior not particularly sexual in nature - such as repeatedly calling a woman employee a "bitch" - can support Title VII liability. Regrettably, though, the plaintiff loses her termination claim and a large percentage of her damages.
Owing to a tactical decision by the defendant and some inopportune drafting, a panel of the First Circuit holds (2-1) that an arbitration clause tacked onto an employment application did not apply to a person who interviewed for a job but was never hired - allegedly because she was eight months' pregnant at the time.
The Sixth Circuit applies the Supreme Court's recent decision in Staub v. Proctor Hospital, 131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011), to reverse summary judgment in a racially-discriminatory discipline case under Title VII. Echoing another Sixth Circuit decision (Madden v. Chattanooga City Wide Service Dept., 549 F.3d 666, 104 FEP 1473 (6th Cir. 2008)), it holds that an employer that punishes African-Americans who engage in horseplay in the workplace more severely than whites who commit the same infraction are flirting with Title VII liability.
While private-sector employees need merely comply with certain administrative prerequisites in order to file a Title VII civil action (principally, the filing of a timely EEOC charge), federal sector employees must fully exhaust all administrative remedies before they commence suit. The distinction, as illustrated by today's Eleventh Circuit decision, can pay important dividends. The panel here reverses judgment as a matter of law against a pro se applicant for a job at the U.S. DOT, and holds that the agency is barred from collaterally attacking an adverse finding on limitations in federal court that it lost and did not challenge before the EEOC.
The saga of the Doe case continues, with its second trip to the Sixth Circuit since it was first filed in 2005. Once again, the plaintiff wins a reversal of summary judgment, with the Sixth Circuit holding that there is no "religious organization" exception to coverage under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The Tenth Circuit issues two decisions today, both involving the EEOC - in different capacities. In the first, the court splits 2-1 on an ADA reasonable accommodation and retaliation case brought by the Commission itself, holding that a photography studio was not required to accommodate a deaf photographer by providing an ASL signer. In the second, in which the EEOC appeared as amicus, the court affirms summary judgment on a sex harassment claim but reverses on a retaliation claim.
One of the difficulties of enforcing participants' statutory rights under ERISA, heretofore, has been the lack of effective make-whole remedies. But in the wake of last term's CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 131 S. Ct. 1866 (2011), participants have remedial options not previously available to them for breach of fiduciary duty claims. The Fourth Circuit reverses summary judgment in a case where a participant had been allowed to pay for years for dependent life insurance that (evidently) she was not entitled to receive.