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May 2016 Archives

Chambers v. Burwell, No. 14-5047 (D.C. Cir. May 31, 2016); Johnson v. Perez, No. 14-5034 (D.C. Cir. May 20, 2016)

In two recent federal-sector race discrimination decisions, the D.C. Circuit - while ruling in the employer-agency's favor - issued opinions that may be even more useful for employees in future cases. Both opinions criticized short-cuts sometimes used by district courts to improperly weigh summary judgment records.

Racial Discrimination from the Time of "The Butler's Child" until Now

In The Butler's Child, Outten & Golden Senior Counsel Lewis Steel describes his career spent seeking racial justice as a civil rights lawyer. The book, to be released on June 14th, is a fascinating chronicle of many landmark cases, and a fitting reminder of the continuing fight against racial discrimination in employment, housing, criminal law, governmental services, and education.

From Knee-Jerk Reactions to Thoughtful Discussion: Using Mindfulness to Address Privilege, by Nina Frank

In a recent blog post, on Hamilton & Griffin on Rights, Outten & Golden LLP associate Nina Frank discusses recent studies which have found that anti-bias training and sexual harassment awareness training can not only be ineffective, but can actually backfire, resulting in defensiveness and a solidification of discriminatory beliefs. Mindfulness - and mindfulness meditation - should be taken seriously as a tool to combat our knee-jerk reactions to being confronted with our own privilege. Mindfulness can guard against the tendency to become defensive or guilt-ridden, two automatic reactions that can derail meaningful discourse and progressive change.

Green v. Brennan, No. 14-613 (U.S. S. Ct. May 23, 2016)

In the Supreme Court's only substantive Title VII case this term, the six-justice majority takes a plaintifff-friendly view of when a claim for constructive discharge accrues - on the date that the employee declares his resignation - while Justice Alito's special concurrence and Justice Thomas's dissent would start the limitations clock with the last discriminatory event. The court also dispenses with the requirement (imposed by some courts) that hostile working conditions be created by the employer with the intent of making the employee resign.

Hollywood Is Taking the Lead Role in Spotlighting Equal Pay Issues for Women

In a move fitting of her determined "House of Cards" character, actress Robin Wright demanded that she be paid the same salary as her co-star Kevin Spacey - or else she would go public with news of the disparity. Ms. Wright revealed the details of her ultimatum during a Rockefeller Foundation event on Tuesday, later reported by the Huffington Post.

The New "Defend Trade Secrets Act"

President Obama has now signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which takes effect immediately and represents a significant change in the way trade secret disputes are likely to be resolved in the United States. The law also extends new whistleblower protections to employees.

New federal overtime rules: "Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees"

The White House today issued a blockbuster set of changes to the overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) that will allow far more middle-class workers to earn time-and-a-half. The Final Rule doubles the standard salary floor for exempt workers, establishes automatic increases of that floor every three years, and sets a higher salary threshold for "highly compensated individuals" who are generally exempt under the 2004 rules.

Olivares v. Brentwood Indus., No. 15-2674 (8th Cir. May 13, 2016)

The Eighth Circuit today issued a short, cautionary opinion for plaintifffs who seek reinstatement (or front pay) in a discrimination case. Here, the employer - which the jury found liable for violating the employee's Title VII rights - escaped all but $1 of damages, where the district court found that reinstatement was not practical, and that the employee failed to make a strong enough case for front pay.

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