The Second Circuit, in an ADEA hostile work environment and retaliation case, reminds district court judges that they are not to weigh or evaluate credibility of evidence submitted on summary judgment. Among other things, the district court forgot that "[i]t was required to disregard the contrary statements from [defendant's witnesses] that a jury would not be required to believe."
The Ninth Circuit addresses the legal standard for holding joint-employers liable under Title VII, in a case involving Thai contract workers hired under the H-2A guest-worker program to pick fruit in California orchards. The panel returns the case to the district court for more discovery and factual development.
Sex harassment is often conflated with sexual misconduct, yet belittlement of and failure to cooperate with women at work - no less than sexual comments or physical grabbing - violates their rights as well. The First Circuit sends such a case back for trial, also addressing when a non-employer may be liable for retaliation.
In a contentious 2-1 opinion, the Eighth Circuit holds that a job applicant who requests a religious accommodation - here, not to work Saturdays - is not engaged in a "protected activity" under the opposition clause of Title VII's retaliation provision.
In a short-but-sweet opinion, the Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation case, where the district court failed to perceive a genuine dispute of material fact: specifically, when company management first became aware of the plaintiff's alleged violation of work rules. By the plaintiff's account, management knowingly overlooked her alleged breach .... until she complained about sex harassment.
There have been various cases that have addressed whether human-resource professionals may benefit from the anti-retaliation provisions of federal employment law when they are fired for investigating or pursuing an EEO claim, as part of their duties. In this fascinating case, the Eleventh Circuit (dividing 2-1) holds that an HR manager who the company believed "encouraged or even solicited" an employee to sue her employer was protected by Title VII.
Title VII requires that employers exercise due care to prevent sexual harassment of their employees by customers. The EEOC prevailed at trial on just such a claim, winning a $250,000 verdict for a woman shelver who - a jury found - was stalked for over a year by a male customer, while Costco took inadequate measures to protect her. The Seventh Circuit upholds the verdict, and even remands the case back to the district court for award of more back-pay relief.
The Supreme Court in Oubre v. Entergy Operations, Inc., 522 U.S. 422 (1998), held that an ADEA plaintiff does not have to tender back (offer to return) consideration paid in settlement of a claim as a condition to challenge that settlement in court. Today, the Sixth Circuit (in a 2-1 decision) extends that ruling to Title VII and Equal Pay Act (EPA) claims.
Two opinions this week highlight the power of retaliation claims: in each case, the principal discrimination claim failed on summary judgment, yet the retaliation claim was remanded for trial.
The Sixth Circuit holds that full-time, in-office attendance is not a per se "essential function" for purposes of the ADA, and must be established just like any other element of the claim. The court vacates summary judgment and remands a claim brought under the ADA, Title VII, and the FMLA that the employee needed a reduced schedule to accommodate her post-partum depression and separation anxiety.