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Daily Developments in EEO Law Archives

Navigating the Fissured Workplace: New Guidance from the DOL on Joint Employment

Last Wednesday, the Department of Labor issued guidance to clarify employees' rights and employers' obligations in an increasingly fragmented workplace. The Department of Labor Administrator's Interpretation (AI) No. 2016-1 addresses Joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).

Connelly v. Lane Construction Corp., No. 14-3792 (3d Cir. Jan. 11, 2016)

The Third Circuit issues a solid reminder to judges that - notwithstanding the increased attention on filing "plausible" complaints under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 - federal courts do not require the pleading of legal theories. Thus, plaintiffs are not required to specify the method that they plan to use to prove discrimination cases in their Title VII complaints.

Nichols v. Tri-National Logistics, Inc., No. 15-1153 (8th Cir. Jan. 4, 2016)

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. 

Lounds v. Lincare, Inc., No. 14-3158 (10th Cir. Dec. 22, 2015)

The Tenth Circuit reverses summary judgment and remands in a section 1981 case involving harassment of a call-center's only black employee. The panel reminds district courts and litigants that even non-racial remarks, against a backdrop of racially-offensive chatter, may constitute harassment. It also notes that "whether a workplace environment is sufficiently polluted for purposes of a § 1981 claim should not be based on whether an alleged harasser possessed the motivation or intent to cause discriminatory harm or offense."

Liebman v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 14-13197 (11th Cir. Dec. 18, 2015)

The end of the year often brings a haul of decisions, when the courts of appeal clear their dockets for year's-end. Here's a short, to-the-point decision, reversing summary judgment on an ADEA and ERISA case where the district court judge misapprehended a controlling Supreme Court decision.

Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds, No. 15-10602 (11th Cir. Nov. 30, 2015)

The Eleventh Circuit holds (2-1) that hiring guidelines that target employees a few years out of college, or that discourage hiring of employees with too much experience, may violate the ADEA if they have a disparate impact on hiring employees age 40 and over. The majority also holds that equitable tolling of the limitations period for filing an EEOC charge does not necessarily depend on concealment or fraud by the employer.

Porter v. Houma Terrebonne Housing Auth., No. 14-31090 (5th Cir. Nov. 17, 2015)

Courts in Title VII retaliation cases continue to werestle with what constitutes a "materially adverse action" under Burlington N. and Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006). While accepting an employee's voluntary resignation may not itself be an adverse action, the Fifth Circuit here holds that an employer's refusal to honour an employee's rescission of a resignation may be deemed materially adverse.

Smith v. URS Corp., No. 13-2645 (8th Cir. Oct. 14, 2015)

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.

Cox v. Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Inc., No. SC94462 (Mo. Sept. 22, 2015)

Sometimes state law and state courts provide advantages over a federal forum. Exhibit A: today's 5-2 decision from the Missouri Supreme Court, remanding an age-discrimination case for a new trial owing to evidentiary and discovery errors, particularly exclusion of evidence of discrimination against There, older coworkers and denial of a deposition of the chairman and CEO.

Howe v. City of Akron, No. 14-3352 (6th Cir. Sept. 17, 2015)

A long-running disparate impact case challenging promotions of firefighters to the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain is remanded by the Sixth Circuit for a third trial to award back pay, and the panel reassigns the case to a new judge for good measure. The panel has valuable things to say about how to calculate monetary make-whole relief. It also affirms injunctive relief, and appointment of a monitor, to purge the city's violation.

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