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March 2015 Archives

Mandatory Arbitration: Searching for Fairness

Arbitration is a common, employer imposed method for resolving employment conflicts without going to court. However, Outten & Golden Partner Wendi Lazar suggests that when an employee is forced by contract to arbitrate rather than sue, arbitration becomes a means for employers to suppress the rights their employees would be entitled to in court.

Hutchens v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 13-3648 (7th Cir. Mar. 24, 2015)

In an organization otherwise blanketed in paper, it raises eyebrows when the employer's complaints about a worker's performance find no support in the records. The Seventh Circuit vacates summary judgment in this pro se case, and remands for a trial of Title VII and § 1983 claims, where the performance-based reasons offered for a black teacher's termination were at odds with the employer's files and were bolstered mostly by sharply-disputed witness testimony.

Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, No. 13-2212 (4th Cir. Mar. 12, 2015)

Social anxiety disorder is a recognized disability, and employers need to consider work assignments with that disorder in mind. The Fourth Circuit holds that a district court erred by dismissing a claim (on summary judgment) against a public-sector employer that fired an employee instead of assigning her away from public-oriented, customer service duties. It also observes that a recent Supreme Court decision should make summary judgment for defendants more difficult to obtain.

Flood v. Bank of America Corporation, No. 14-1068 (1st Cir. Feb. 27, 2015)

The Maine Human Rights Act protects employees who express "actual or perceived ... bisexuality." The First Circuit holds that the district court erred in not crediting evidence that two women employees who began dating at work, and who were discouraged from expression of their relationship in the workplace (while Theres were allowed to do so), were subjected to a hostile work environment. The district court also erred in handling a termination claim, misperceived as a constructive discharge claim.

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