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.
Here's a case that may be of value to Title VII litigants, as well as in First Amendment cases. The Eighth Circuit holds that for an employer to win a mixed-motive case, where the claimed reason for termination was poor performance, it must offer "evidence showing [that the plaintiff's] performance would have indisputably caused her termination." That proves a heavy lift.
ADA opinions released in the Eighth and Ninth Circuits today underscore that the burden of proof, ultimately, is always on the employee to show that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. These serve as a reminder to disabled employees and counsel that when seeking reassignment as an accommodation, it is vital to request the reassignment clearly and to set one's sights realistically.
Here's a nice case for the New Year: a win for a class of Panera Bread store managers who claimed that the operation cheated them out of part of their bonus, by imposing a cap on the amount that could be earned only after the program commenced. The panel majority holds that once the managers performed any service under the terms of the bonus plan, it formed a unilateral contract that the employer could not modify without consent.
The Eighth Circuit holds that a granary employee who complained about sex discrimination in her paycheck - only to have her manager initiate her layoff literally minutes later - was entitled to have a jury decide whether she suffered retaliation under the Equal Pay Act, Title VII and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act.
There plaintiffs successfully defend a jury verdict totaling $204,000 in a Title VII, Equal Pay Act and Iowa Civil Rights Act case, plus $269,877.67 in attorney's fees. The court casts doubt on the use of a "market forces" defense by employers to justify lower pay for women, yet also holds that if such a defense were valid, the employer presented insufficient evidence to warrant an instruction.
The Eighth Circuit today issued a short, cautionary opinion for plaintiffs 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.
In the first-published federal court of appeals EEO decision of 2016, the Eighth Circuit (in a 2-1 decision) reverses summary judgment in a sex harassment case. The plaintiff - a woman truck driver - was forced to share close quarters with a male co-worker for a week-long trip. The panel majority holds that a jury could find that the employer could have taken greater steps to prevent the harassment.
Dividing 2-1 on the question, an Eighth Circuit panel holds that it can be considered an "adverse employment action" under Title VII and section 1981 for an employee to be hired at - or even above - his or her asking salary, at least when another person outside the protected group is hired for similar work but at a higher pay grade and salary.
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.