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January 2014 Archives

Ballard v. Chicago Park District, No. 13-1445 (7th Cir. Jan. 28, 2014)

"This case is about what qualifies as 'caring for' a family member under the Act. In particular, it is about whether the [Family and Medical Leave Act] applies when an employee requests leave so that she can provide physical and psychological care to a terminally ill parent while that parent is traveling away from home." The Seventh Circuit holds that an employee could use FMLA leave to accompany her mother to Las Vegas as her basic care support.

Summers v. Altarum Institute, Corp., No. 13-1645 (4th Cir. Jan. 23, 2014)

As the U.S. Courts of Appeals finally begin to decide disabilities cases governed by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), we'll begin to see transformational decisions like this one. Contrary to prior case law, the Fourth Circuit holds that an employee's temporary condition - here, "broken legs and injured tendons [that] render him completely immobile for more than seven months" - may constitute a disability.

Smothers v. Solvay Chemicals Inc., No. 12-8013 (10th Cir. Jan. 22, 2014)

"Steven Smothers worked for Solvay Chemical, Inc. ('Solvay') for 18 years until Solvay fired him, ostensibly because of a first-time safety violation and a dispute with a coworker." The Tenth Circuit reverses summary judgment in this ADA and FMLA case, holding that the employee created a genuine dispute of material fact about whether Solvay singled him out for harsher treatment than his coworkers. The company, according to the summary judgment record, committed the rookie HR mistake of not allowing the employee to present his side of the story.

Martinez v. Bloomberg LP, No. 12-3654 (2d Cir. Jan. 14, 2014)

Employees should be on their guard when contemplating a secondment or assignment agreement and ensure that they understand through counsel what law applies and where a dispute can be adjudicated. On January 14, the Second Circuit in Martinez v. Bloomberg LP affirmed the dismissal of an employee's discrimination claims for improper venue, underscoring the enforceability - and importance - of international forum selection and choice of law clauses in cross-border employment agreements. The court held that an American employee's discrimination claims could only be adjudicated in London under English law, as his employment agreement prescribed.

Deleon v. Kalamazoo Cnty. Road Comm'n, No. 12-2377 (6th Cir. Jan. 14, 2014)

Can a job transfer originally requested by an employee constitute an "adverse employment action" (for purposes of Title VII, the ADEA and § 1983)? The Sixth Circuit panel in this case split over the issue, 2-1. The panel majority holds, in reversing summary judgment on this issue, that such a transfer may be "adverse" to the employee when the terms and conditions of the transfer are inferior to what the employee originally sought.

Spurling v. C&M Fine Pack, Inc., No. 13-1708 (7th Cir. Jan. 13, 2014)

Any employer that fires a disabled worker on the heels of a request for an ADA workplace accommodation - and entirely disregards a doctor's recommendation - is nothing if not buying trouble. The Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment on just such a claim, holding that the employee presented a genuine dispute of material fact when she was fired just days after filing paperwork from her physician requesting scheduled rest periods. The record includes deposition testimony by a decision maker that "I don't believe that the doctor is in a position to make that determination. It is his opinion."

Alexander v. Casino Queen Inc., No. 12-3696 (7th Cir. Jan. 8, 2014)

The Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a case involving allegations of racially discriminatory (and retaliatory) treatment of two African American cocktail servers at a Mississippi River casino. The court holds that discrimination in table assignments is an adverse employment action under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, because it cut into the servers' tip income.

Matusick v. Erie Cnty. Water Auth., et al., No. 11‐1234 (2d Cir. Jan. 6, 2014)

A divided Second Circuit panel, reviewing a judgment from a jury trial, recognizes a Due Process/First Amendment right-of-intimate-association claim for two people engaged to be married (a right of "betrothal"). The court affirms liability and $304,775 in back pay (plus $5000 in punitive damages) for a plaintiff who the jury found was assaulted and harassed - and ultimately terminated from his job - because his cross-racial engagement to an African American woman.

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