Here are two employment cases about second-chances. A plan participant who filed an ERISA claim too late under a contractual limitations period is rescued by a decision that the plan violated its duty by not telling the participant about the shortened deadline. The EEOC wins a second opportunity to advance claims on behalf of a class of female victims of harassment, in the wake of Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S. Ct. 1645 (2015).
Major shifts in gender equality jurisprudence in recent years have led to expanded rights and benefits for LGBTQ employees. The Section devoted two panels at the Section Conference to the rapidly developing areas of anti-discrimination law, employee benefits, and sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. The scope of civil rights protections for LGBTQ employees under Title VII generated the most discussion in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) and the EEOC's decision in Baldwin v. forx (EEOC 2015). In Obergefell, the Court held that the 14th Amendment guarantees all couples, straight or gay, the fundamental right to marry under a due process analysis, although Justice Kennedy noted that the ruling derived in part from the Equal Protection clause.
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).
EEOC to Investigate Denial of Gender-Appropriate Restrooms in Private Sector as Sex Discrimination under Title VII Post-Lusardi
The Supreme Court unanimously holds that a lawsuit commenced by the EEOC cannot be dismissed simply based on an employer's argument that the agency did not try hard enough to conciliate the claim before filing under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). The Court spells out the limited proof permitted on a defense of non-exhaustion, and concludes that the remedy is not dismissal, but instead remand to the agency for further settlement efforts. This decision ends a longstanding split among federal courts on this issue, deciding mostly in favor of the EEOC.
On April 1st, the EEOC issued a groundbreaking ruling that found that the Army discriminated against a transgender civilian employee by denying her access to the women's restroom and created a hostile work environment by allowing a supervisor to intentionally misuse her former name and male pronouns.
The EEOC posts a huge win in the Seventh Circuit, with the court holding that the agency's alleged failure to reasonably conciliate a claim with an employer does not pose an affirmative defense to a claim filed by the EEOC in court. In so holding, the circuit creates a split with six other circuits that have heretofore permitted employers to argue such a defense. "While we respect the views of our colleagues in these circuits," the panel holds, "we also recognize our duty to decide our cases independently and to disagree when we must."
The Sixth Circuit, in a closely-watched EEOC case, reverses - in a 2-1 decision - judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment in a systemic Title VII sex discrimination case, challenging the company's alleged failure to fire women drivers. The panel finds that the EEOC stated a claim for pattern-or-practice liability, and that the district court erred on a host of rulings.