November 26, 2014

Adding Weight As Employment Discrimination Class

Vanderbilt University Law School recently conducted a study examining the relationship between weight class and jobs. Minnesota Public Radio reported on the study, which showed that heavier women are more likely to work lower-compensated jobs as they gain weight. The reason for this phenomenon is not actually clear, but it is evident that perceived beauty or attractiveness is related to better pay for both sexes.

keep-the-weight-away-291512-m.jpgThe study's author has suggested that a sixth category should be added to the prohibited discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She believes that the research study is highly indicative of discrimination against obese people.

Current Kentucky Protections Against Discrimination

The Kentucky Civil Rights Act prohibits public employers from discriminating against employees or prospective employees based on age over 40, disability, smoking status, sex, national origin, religion, color, or race. Kentucky also has two other statutes that protect individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of their HIV or AIDS status or black lung disease.

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November 21, 2014

Judge Awards $10 Million in Class-Action Lawsuit against Social Security Administration

On October 30, an administrative law judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) approved a $10 million class-action settlement. A news source reported that the plaintiffs are former employees of the Social Security Administration (SSA) who applied for a promotion in 2003. Apparently, these individuals made a "best qualified" list but were not chosen for promotions. The plaintiffs argued that they were not chosen because of certain enumerated disabilities.

handicap-parking-1271666-m.jpgIn response to the settlement, the SSA will begin to significantly improve its policies and procedures in regards to disabled workers. This will include trainings and providing individuals with reasonable accommodations. The compensation will include over $6.5 million to members of the class that was discriminated against, and the rest of the settlement will go towards legal and administrative fees.

Kentucky Disability Discrimination

In Kentucky, discrimination because of a legitimate disability is unlawful. Both Kentucky and federal law require that public employers provide any employee who has a known disability with reasonable accommodations. Disabilities include both physical and mental limitations of qualified individuals. It is important to note that this ban on discrimination does not only include current employees but potential employees as well. For example, employers cannot ask a prospective employee whether he or she is disabled before he or she is hired. They can only ask about any disabilities after the employee is hired.

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November 14, 2014

Landmark Suit in Transgender Discrimination Case Against the U.S. Government

Late last week, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that the Department of the Army engaged in discrimination against a transgender veteran. A prominent Washington newspaper reported that the Counsel determined that the Army was discriminating against a transgender individual who transitioned from male to female.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 4.49.18 PM.pngApparently, the individual was working as a software specialist for the Army in 2010 when she transitioned from male to female. During this transition, the Army put restrictions on which restrooms she could use, insulted her, and refused to give her work.

The victim filed a lawsuit in 2012 and explained that the restrictions had isolated her and segregated her from the rest of her employees. Furthermore, an investigation found that her gender transition did not have any negative impact on her work or other employees' productivity. Fortunately, after this suit the Army has implemented training to ensure that no further discrimination occurs in the form of diversity and sensitivity training.

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November 6, 2014

Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Growing Area of Concern

Currently, sexual preference discrimination is not an area that is covered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, there is a significant push for this area to be included. According to one article, a recent poll has indicated that Americans are generally supportive of protection against discrimination in all areas.

rainbow-flag-1392509-m.jpgA small percentage of individuals felt that some discrimination was warranted. Some examples included allowing places of worship and some private employers to discriminate against employees who were not their religions. An overwhelming two-thirds of those individuals polled believed that federal law should include protection against discrimination because of sexual orientation and identity.

This poll is likely a foreshadowing of what is to come in regards to protection from discrimination, especially in light of recent same-sex marriage laws.

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October 27, 2014

Retaliation Lawsuit by Railroad Worker Dismissed by 8th Circuit

The Eighth Circuit decided an employment discrimination case earlier this month brought by an employee of a railroad carrier. Apparently, the plaintiff in this case had a significant history of good work performance, but at some point he violated a serious safety rule. He agreed to a 30-day suspension and a period of probation. At some point during his probation, the plaintiff was viewed walking in the tracks, which is another serious safety violation.

fall-railroad-1433372-2-m.jpgThe supervisors who witnessed the above violation began an investigation. A hearing was held, and it was decided that the plaintiff would be terminated from his position. The plaintiff believes that his termination was based on the fact that he made two previous complaints and not because of the alleged rule violation. The lower court ruled in favor of the employer, and the Eighth Circuit agreed, finding that there was no unlawful retaliation and the plaintiff would have been discharged even without the rule violation.

What is Retaliation?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that employers cannot harass, terminate, or demote an employee or retaliate against him or her for filing a claim for discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or other similar activities. Generally, a retaliation suit is brought when an employer participates in an adverse action against a qualified employee because he or she engaged in a constitutionally protected activity.

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October 20, 2014

Employment Discrimination Suit Denied Because of Procedural Time-Bar

Earlier this month, the First Circuit ruled on an employment discrimination case in favor of the defendants in Acevedo-Perez v. United States Department of Homeland Security, et al. Apparently, an employee of the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) filed a suit for employment discrimination, claiming he was discriminated against based on his age.

grandpa-558324-m.jpgThe employee alleged that in 2005 the agent in charge of his office asked for volunteers to transfer offices. The employee was listed as one of the four officers of seniority and was reassigned to headquarters. He had to delay his transfer because of a family issue. His third attempt to delay his transfer was denied, and he subsequently retired. He then filed a complaint in 2006, alleging that he was discriminated against because of his age, and that he was forced to retire. This claim was denied in 2009. He received a notice to appeal in July 2009, and he commenced his action in September 2009.

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October 13, 2014

EEOC Equal-Pay Case Dismissed for Lack of Specific Information Regarding Pay Discrepancies

The federal government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plays a large role in keeping the workplace fair for all workers. In some cases, the EEOC will pick up cases that involve large groups of employees and litigate them on behalf of the aggrieved employees. While the EEOC has a good success rate, it certainly isn't perfect.

chairs-and-coffee-732128-m.jpgIn a recent case involving the EEOC, the Commission's case was dismissed because it failed to provide specific information about the jobs of male and female employees when it was making a wage-discrimination claim.

EEOC v. Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J.

In the recent case of EEOC v. Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., the EEOC claimed that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was paying male and female employees differently, although the two groups performed similar work.

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October 6, 2014

Employee Awarded Large Settlement in FMLA Case

The Seventh Circuit recently decided an appeal in Cuff v. Trans States Holdings, Inc., et al. and affirmed a lower court's decision to award an employee-plaintiff a large settlement in a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case. The Court found that the employee worked jointly for two companies that were owned by one supplier, and it held that the employer was in fact mandated to follow federal law regarding FMLA and should not have terminated the employee for taking leave.

milan-office-1445888-m.jpgThe Facts of the Case

An employee was terminated from his job after he took a leave under FMLA after the request was denied by his employer. The employer contended that it was not considered an employer subject to the regulations because they did not have the requisite number of employees. The company said that it only had 33 employees. The plaintiff argued that he worked for both companies jointly, and the other company had 343 employees, therefore qualifying the employer under FMLA.

The Court found that under the regulations by the Department of Labor, an employee will be eligible for FMLA if he or she is employed by more than one agency that has 50 or more workers total, and in this instance the employer was qualified as such under the law.

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September 26, 2014

Supreme Court of Washington Rules in Favor of College in Age Discrimination Suit

Last week, the Supreme Court of Washington State ruled in favor of Clark College in an age discrimination suit brought against the college by a professor employed by the college. The Court ruled that the professor did not meet the requirements necessary to establish discrimination.

doodled-desks-2-1193228-m.jpgThe Background of the Case

In 1994, the plaintiff started teaching English as an adjunct professor at the college. After about nine years, she applied for a tenured position. In addition to the plaintiff's application, Clark College received 151 other applications, and it subsequently screened 13 of the candidates during a teaching demonstration. They then recommended the four screened individuals to the president and vice-president of the department.

The plaintiff was 55 at the time of the interview and was one of the four candidates chosen to be recommended to the president. The college did not hire the plaintiff and instead hired two other individuals who were younger than 40 years old.

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September 19, 2014

Sixth Circuit Rules against Plaintiff in Employment Discrimination Suit

Late last week, the Sixth Circuit decided an employment discrimination lawsuit in favor of the employer in Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland et al.. Apparently, a 52-year-old African-American woman was terminated from her 25-year position as a security guard at a Michigan hospital. The woman first brought charges with her union and then filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employee alleged that she was discriminated against and terminated because of her sex, race, and age. The hospital argued that she was not fired for any of those reasons, but rather because of a series of violations of the hospital's policies and practices.

guard-1063331-m.jpgBackground

The plaintiff, Anita Loyd, was a security guard for 25 years with the hospital. During her tenure, she was disciplined several times for various infractions. One of these infractions included a 2001 incident when she failed to help restrain a patient. She was subsequently written up.

In 2011, Ms. Loyd was called to a room where a psychiatric patient was residing. The patient was very agitated and was acting in a violent manner. The hospital contends that Ms. Loyd was asked to help restrain the patient to ensure that no one was injured, but Ms. Loyd instead began asking the patient questions. However, Ms. Loyd argues that she did leave the room to inquire about the patient but that she also helped restrain the patient.

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September 12, 2014

Art Institute Moves to Dismiss Discrimination Case Based on Their Anti-Discrimination Policy

The Education Management Corporation (EDMC) has recently motioned the court to dismiss a suit against the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, which it manages. According to a report by one news source, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh was sued by two former employees who alleged that they were being discriminated against because of their race and age.

ring-binder-2-1286890-m.jpgBackground

In April of 2014, two former admissions office employees sued EDMC, making allegations that the Institute engaged in a series of illegal employment practices. The two individuals claimed that the Institute terminated individuals and refused to promote others because of their race and age. Furthermore, they alleged that the Institute participated in retaliation in regards to a disput- resolution policy.

The attorney for the Institute attempted to dismiss the suit by arguing that its dispute-resolution policy is the only way to resolve any workplace issues. However, the attorney for the plaintiffs in this case countered by explaining that, although the company has a dispute-resolution policy, that policy does not trump the Supreme Court, nor does it trump statutory law, nor is it appropriate public policy.

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September 5, 2014

Sixth Circuit Reverses Lower Court Decision on FMLA Issue

office-chair-1431952-m.jpgThe Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a woman who claimed a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violation was entitled to a judgment in her favor. During the trial in this case, the jury awarded the woman $173,000, but that amount was reduced by the judge to $90,788. This decision was reversed by the Sixth Circuit, and she was awarded $173,000.

Wallace v. Fedex Corp.

Wallace v. Fedex Corp. is a classic example of the impact that the violation of an employee's rights can have on an organization. The Sixth Circuit explained that, although FedEx has a right to ask an employee to provide a medical certification in relation to an FMLA request, it must also explain the consequences to an employee if he or she fails to provide such documentation. In this instance, FedEx failed to inform the plaintiff about what would happen if she did not provide a certification.

Ms. Wallace was employed by FedEx as a paralegal for over two decades. Unfortunately, she became ill, which resulted in a series of medical difficulties that affected her ability to attend work as she was regularly scheduled. After discussing her issues with her employer, FedEx finally agreed to provide Ms. Wallace with the documentation necessary to proceed with leave under the FMLA.

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August 22, 2014

EEOC Updates Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines

The Federal Government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated the enforcement guidelines regarding discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. The revision of these guidelines comes over 30 years after pregnancy discrimination was first banned in the workplace, and is the first revision since then.

maternity-portrait-2-1413394-m.jpgThe 1983 Pregnancy Discrimination Act is part of the larger American with Disabilities Act. The Act makes it illegal for employers to make hiring, firing, promotion, and other employment-related decisions based on an employee's status as a pregnant woman or in relation to any pregnancy-related illnesses.

While pregnancy itself is not listed as a "disability" under the Act, pregnancy-related illnesses can qualify. This means that if a pregnancy-related illness rises to the level of a "disability" under the terms of the Act, an employer may need to make reasonable accommodations for the employee, including:

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August 15, 2014

Pregnant Police Officer Files Suit After Her Department Refused to Accommodate Her

Earlier this year, a pregnant woman and police officer in the City of Florence filed suit against her employer after they refused to accommodate her request for a job more fitting for a pregnant woman.

police-car-126271-m.jpgAccording to a report by one local news source, the police officer has a master's degree in Criminal Justice and has been with the force for a number of years. In fact, this was not her first pregnancy while on the police force. Back in 2012, she was pregnant with her first child, and the police department accommodated her request to transfer to a desk job once it became physically impossible for her to go out on her regular shifts.

Evidently, the police department's policy has always been that only those injured while on the job are eligible for a temporary desk job. However, they clearly made an exception for this particular officer's first pregnancy. At some point after she gave birth to her first child, the department sent out a memo telling management not to approve desk duty for anyone who was not injured while on the job.

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August 8, 2014

Seventh Circuit Overturns Lower Court Ruling on Indiana Title VII Prison Case

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently found that a lower court erroneously ruled against an Indiana prison employee who had brought Title VII discrimination claims against her employer.

prison-1431136-m.jpgThe details of Orton-Bell v. Indiana seem like they belong in a movie or television show. Connie Orton-Bell worked as a substance abuse counselor in Pendleton Correctional Facility, one of Indiana's maximum security prisons, from 2007 until April 2010. During her time in the position, she claimed that numerous sexually inappropriate behaviors took place in her work environment. For instance, an investigation into security breaches uncovered that night shift employees were having sex on Orton-Bell's desk. The investigator's only reaction was that Orton-Bell should wipe her desk off every morning.

Orton-Bell also claimed to be the personal recipient of many sexual remarks by her superior, Superintendent Brett Mize. Mize allegedly instructed Orton-Bell to never wear jeans to work because "her ass looked so good, she would cause a riot." Such comments were allegedly common from Mize, who was eventually terminated for reasons unknown prior to the events that led to the lawsuit. However, Ortin-Bell claimed that these comments were common among all of the male employees, and that female employees were "bombarded."

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