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July 2015 Archives

EEOC Rules Sexual Orientation-Based Discrimination is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII

Last Thursday, the EEOC issued a groundbreaking decision that held, in clear and unequivocal language, that claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation implicitly state a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII. See Complainant v. Foxx, EEOC DOC 0120133080, 2015 WL 4397641, at *10 (July 16, 2015). This decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's landmark decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry under the Fourteenth Amendment. Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2608 (2015).

Yazdian v. ConMed Endoscopic Tech., Inc., No. 14-3745 (6th Cir. July 14, 2015)

How much credence must a district court give to an employer's argument in a Title VII retaliation case that the employee was terminated not for his protected activity, but because of his tone of voice, insubordination and "unprofessional behavior" in making his complaints. The Sixth Circuit reverses summary judgment (in part), holding that such generalized reasons so closely related to a protected activity cannot be resolved by a judge and must be evaluated by a jury.

Confidentiality Agreements and the Aleynikov Case: A Cautionary Tale

Employees, particularly those with access to sensitive company information, are typically required by their employers to maintain the confidentiality of such information. This requirement may be found in the employee handbook or may be contained in a restrictive covenant agreement, employment agreement, or severance agreement. Violating a confidentiality obligation can have serious consequences, including hefty monetary damages in a civil lawsuit. For one Goldman Sachs employee, however, the consequences were even more severe: Sergey Aleynikov was criminally prosecuted--twice--for taking confidential material with him when he resigned his position. His controversial second conviction was overturned earlier this week.

Outten & Golden LLP honours Former Partner Carmelyn Malalis in Her New Role as NYC Human Rights Commissioner

On a stormy summer evening, attorneys, former clients and members of the LGBTQ community joined Outten & Golden to celebrate Pride Month and honour former O&G partner Carmelyn P. Malalis in her new role as Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights. While guests nibbled at hors d'oeurves, partner and LGBTQ Committee co-chair KaThereine Blostein took the podium. With her committee co-chair Sally Abrahamson, O&G associate, Blostein explained the significance of the weather with a short story from the previous evening with her family.

Pryor v. United Air Lines, Inc., No. 14-1442 (4th Cir. July 1, 2015); Stewart v. Rise, Inc., No. 13-3579 (8th Cir. June 30, 2015)

Two decisions this week address racially-hostile work environment claims involving unusual circumstances. The Fourth Circuit addresses the employer's duty to address anonymous race harassment, here a death threat left in a company mailbox. The Eighth Circuit addresses harassment of an African-American supervisor by her Somali staff. Both result in reversals of summary judgment on Title VII and § 1981 harassment claims.

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