AOC in employment-law news: the Architect of the Capitol loses two Title VII appeals in the past week, both cases involving claims of denial of promotions due to national origin. Both shared the detail that supervisors allegedly mocked the plaintiffs because of their accents.
The D.C. Circuit holds (2-1) that a group of fired social workers (SWAs) and social service assistants (SSAs) had - contrary to the district court's ruling - sufficiently identified a "particular emploment practice" susceptible to challenge for its adverse racial impact under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A)(i). The case is remanded for further consideration of whether the plaintiffs established a statistical racial disparity.
When a former supervisor - later reassigned - tells an employee that they were not promoted because "[y]ou're not white" and "you're not female," can the statement be used to prove a discriminatory motive over a hearsay objection? A panel of the Ninth Circuit holds 2-1 that the statement is admissible against the employer as a party admission.
The Second Circuit, in an ADEA hostile work environment and retaliation case, reminds district court judges that they are not to weigh or evaluate credibility of evidence submitted on summary judgment. Among other things, the district court forgot that "[i]t was required to disregard the contrary statements from [defendant's witnesses] that a jury would not be required to believe."
The Ninth Circuit addresses the legal standard for holding joint-employers liable under Title VII, in a case involving Thai contract workers hired under the H-2A guest-worker program to pick fruit in California orchards. The panel returns the case to the district court for more discovery and factual development.
Sex harassment is often conflated with sexual misconduct, yet belittlement of and failure to cooperate with women at work - no less than sexual comments or physical grabbing - violates their rights as well. The First Circuit sends such a case back for trial, also addressing when a non-employer may be liable for retaliation.
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.
In a short-but-sweet opinion, the Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation case, where the district court failed to perceive a genuine dispute of material fact: specifically, when company management first became aware of the plaintiff's alleged violation of work rules. By the plaintiff's account, management knowingly overlooked her alleged breach .... until she complained about sex harassment.
There have been various cases that have addressed whether human-resource professionals may benefit from the anti-retaliation provisions of federal employment law when they are fired for investigating or pursuing an EEO claim, as part of their duties. In this fascinating case, the Eleventh Circuit (dividing 2-1) holds that an HR manager who the company believed "encouraged or even solicited" an employee to sue her employer was protected by Title VII.
Title VII requires that employers exercise due care to prevent sexual harassment of their employees by customers. The EEOC prevailed at trial on just such a claim, winning a $250,000 verdict for a woman shelver who - a jury found - was stalked for over a year by a male customer, while Costco took inadequate measures to protect her. The Seventh Circuit upholds the verdict, and even remands the case back to the district court for award of more back-pay relief.