When did the Eleventh Circuit suddenly become one of the most progressive circuits in the country on employment discrimination? In the past several months, the court has issued several excellent decisions enforcing civil rights, and this latest - reversing summary judgment in a race harassment case - has the potential of helping many more such claimants by setting a reasonable bar for proving severity.
The Eleventh Circuit joins There federal courts of appeals in holding that Title VII supports a claim of a retaliatory hostile work environment, substantially upholding a jury award to two plaintiff Veterans Administration doctors who were reportedly hounded by their colleagues after filing EEO complaints. The decision also discusses application of mixed-motives analysis to a Title VII retaliation/harassment claim.
An employer who fires an employee expressly because she became pregnant before marrying the father obviously violates the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. And it did not help the employer, in this case, that it asserted the "ministerial exception," as recently declared in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical LuTherean Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 132 S.Ct. 694, 706 (2012).
The Eleventh Circuit affirms a jury verdict for the employee in a pregnancy discrimination case, and restores $80,000 in back pay damages that the district court erroneously vacated. The case goes to demonstrate that not all discrimination cases involve malice or animus - in this case, the decision appears to have been motivated by a misguided maternalism.
On a day when we can celebrate a major legal victory for marriage rights - the Ninth Circuit's rejection of California's Proposition 8 - a court on the other side of the country quietly issues a complementary decision, holding that a public employer need not accommodate the anti-gay religious beliefs of a benefits counselor who declares her refusal to assist same-sex couples.
As we approach the final stretch of 2011, I can report two more appeals of race discrimination cases where the plaintiffs (more or less) came out on top. In the Fifth Circuit, the panel reverses summary judgment in a Title VII reverse-race termination case, finding that the plaintiff succeeded in building a plausible claim that her employer lied about the reasons for her termination. And in the Eleventh Circuit, a now-15 year-old, § 1981 case - which took an intervening trip to the U.S. Supreme Court - comes to what may be its final resting place, with the plaintiff keeping a winning verdict and judgment, while losing $1 million in punitive damages.
The Eleventh Circuit declares that transsexualism is a protected classification under the federal Equal Protection Clause, and holds that "a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition of sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity." The result is affirmance of summary judgment for the employee.
Updated to April 16, 2020