Can increased scrutiny at work, including a disciplinary letter (later withdrawn), constitute a "materially adverse action" for a claim under Title VII's anti-retaliation provision, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)? A jury said "yes," to the tune of a $500,000 judgment, but the Second Circuit - in a 2-1 decision - sides with the district court on these facts, and says "no."
Herman Cain, a leading candidate in the primaries for the Republican nominee for president, confirmed today that he had been the subject of sexual harassment allegations while serving as the head of the National Restaurant Association. Coming in the wake of the twentieth anniversary of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, the charges against Mr. Cain remind us how ever-present sexual harassment is in the workplace.
On October 15, 2011, twenty years after Clarence Thomas's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Hunter College held a conference with over 1,000 attendees honoring Anita Hill's courage during the confirmation hearings. The conference was co-hosted by Outten & Golden's own Kathleen Peratis and activist Letty Pogrebin. The inspiration for the conference arose, Professor Hill revealed, in part by a phone message just months earlier from Clarence Thomas's wife asking Professor Hill to apologize to Clarence Thomas for her testimony. After that call made national news, the public outcry demonstrated how strongly people still felt about the hearings today-a fact that the packed audience at Hunter College confirmed to be true. Remarkably, the audience consisted of men and women of all ages and races. It was a true testament that Anita Hill's legacy has and continues to impact generations of civil rights advocates.
Outten & Golden was horned to host Professor Anita Hill on October 12th at our office. Professor Hill discussed both her role in the evolution of raising awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace since the Thomas hearings twenty years ago, as well as the mes in her new book Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home (Beacon Press, 2011).
A pro se plaintiff wins a victory in the Third Circuit, reversing summary judgment on his Title VII claim that Newark, New Jersey's residency requirement for city employment has a disparate impact on non-Latino white job applicants.
One of the most memorable hostile-work-environment facts encountered in a recent published federal opinion: The manager - who has a history of physically threatening the plaintiff - rips off his shirt at work and tells the employee, "You don't know who you are talking to. See these scars. I was shot and was in jail." The Fifth Circuit reverses summary judgment in an ADEA and Title VII harassment case.
For the second time in two weeks, the Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII case where the employee alleged discriminatory discipline. The court finds that similar, if not identical, disciplinary violations were comparable enough to make out a prima facie case of discrimination. The court also reminds us of a simple, though easily-overlooked, principle: that a factual distinction proffered to defeat a "similarly situated" holding at the prima facie stage is immaterial if there is no evidence that the employer actually relied on that reason at the time decisions were made.
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.
In a case of allegedly racially-motivated discipline, where there is no direct or circumstantial evidence of racial animus, the issue of how similarly situated the disciplined employees were can be key to whether the claim survives summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit today holds that a district court in a Title VII case erred in holding that a supervisor cannot be comparable to a line employee for purposes of applying the McDonnell Douglas method of proof, vacating summary judgment and remanding the claim for trial.
A jury finds that a promising woman neurosurgeon was bumped off-track by a campaign of sex harassment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII and Massachusettes civil rights law. The First Circuit affirms awards of $600,000 against the Hospital in compensatory damages on the retaliation claim and $1,000,000 in compensatory damages against it on the hostile work environment claim (with lesser awards for other state law claims), and $1,352,525.94 in attorneys' fees.