The same panel on the Sixth Circuit publishes two opinions on the same day reversing summary judgment. In the first, a gaming floor supervisor revives a case against a casino for selectively enforcing a workrule about bad deals, owing (allegedly) to race and sex. In the second, the court reminds the lower court that the Americans with Disabilities Act is special because - in contrast to There statutes - it specifically protects against discrimination in training.
The Sixth Circuit applies the Supreme Court's recent decision in Staub v. Proctor Hospital, 131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011), to reverse summary judgment in a racially-discriminatory discipline case under Title VII. Echoing another Sixth Circuit decision (Madden v. Chattanooga City Wide Service Dept., 549 F.3d 666, 104 FEP 1473 (6th Cir. 2008)), it holds that an employer that punishes African-Americans who engage in horseplay in the workplace more severely than whites who commit the same infraction are flirting with Title VII liability.
The saga of the Doe case continues, with its second trip to the Sixth Circuit since it was first filed in 2005. Once again, the plaintiff wins a reversal of summary judgment, with the Sixth Circuit holding that there is no "religious organization" exception to coverage under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
In the space of ten days, two circuits issue decisions rejecting a "sole cause" jury instruction under different federal acts. The en banc Sixth Circuit unanimously sweeps away prior circuit law requiring proof under the ADA that disability was the "sole" cause of the discrimination - vacating the jury's verdict under such an instruction - though the judges ultimately divide over what the correct causation standard ought to be. In the D.C. Circuit, the panel rejects a "sole factor" instruction in a Title VII case, distinguishing a prior published decision, but affirms the defense verdict on the ground that the jury charge was overall correct.
Under what is known as the Moench presumption, an ERISA plan fiduciary's decision to remain invested in employer stock in an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is insulated from legal challenge unless the participant proves that a prudent fiduciary would have made a different investment decision. The Sixth Circuit today reverses dismissal of such a case, where the ESOP - of General Motors stock - cratered as GM went into bankruptcy. Importantly for the future of such cases, the Sixth Circuit rejected the rulings of several other circuits and holds that the participant need not allege the Moench presumption in a complaint.
Two circuits, the Sixth and Seventh, issue back-to-back decisions criticizing district courts for applying an excessively-stringent standard for proving comparable employees under the McDonnell Douglas test. The Seventh Circuit - in a special concurring opinion by Judge Diane Wood, co-signed by her two co-panelists - goes a step further, and urges the end of this entire line of cases: "Perhaps McDonnell Douglas was necessary nearly 40 years ago, when Title VII litigation was still relatively new in the federal courts. By now, however, as this case well illustrates, the various tests that we insist lawyers use have lost their utility."
Apparently, in Cleveland, Ohio public schools, the ability to yell at the class - here, politely termed "verbally control[ling] resistive students" - is deemed an "essential function" of teaching. A teacher's medical restriction not to raise her voice, holds an unreported Sixth Circuit decision today, means that she is not a "qualified individual" under the ADA.
Interns, volunteers, graduate students, even prisoners - these are just some examples of categories of people who might be deemed "employees" of an organization under Title VII, depending on the conditions of their work and how they might be compensated for their services. The Sixth Circuit, in a 2-1 panel decision, declares a split with the Second Circuit and holds that remuneration is only one factor - not a threshold factor - in the judicial determination about whether volunteer workers should count as employees.
Today we log two wins for ADA "regarded as" disability discrimination claimants. In the First Circuit, the panel holds that a district court too hastily dismissed a complaint of disability discrimination, alleging that the employer refused to assign a mentally-ill employee anywhere in the workplace. In the Sixth Circuit, the panel (in an unpublished opinion) astoundingly overturns a jury verdict for the employer - and orders entry of judgment for the employee - where the company placed the plaintiff on involuntary medical leave based solely on an unclear state-court order and without an independent examination of the employee.
An EEOC charge, the essential first step to filing a Title VII (or ADEA or ADA) case, must characteristically include the basic information that makes up the employee's allegations against the employer. Regrettably, many employees stumble at this stage because they do not have an attorney. But a panel of the Sixth Circuit, dividing 2-1, holds that a bare-bones charge and accompanying "charge information form" was sufficient.