On Tuesday, August 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a directive to “clarify that existing agency guidance on discrimination on the basis of sex . . . includes discrimination on the bases of gender identity and transgender status.” This directive follows President Obama’s Executive Order 13672, issued on July 21, 2014, amending existing orders to specifically prohibit federal contractors from discriminating based on gender identity.
On August 8, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) proposed new annual reporting requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors. The proposal requires additional pay information and will become effective in early 2015, unless the OFCCP decides to amend them.
Last week, in Liu v. Siemens, AG, the Second Circuit held that the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower retaliation provision (15 U.S.C. 78u-6(h)(1)) does not apply extraterritorially, in the first Second Circuit decision to address the international scope of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protections against retaliation. Liu, a citizen and resident of Taiwan, was a compliance officer for Siemens China Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens AG. Siemens AG is a German corporation with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Liu claimed Siemens wrongfully terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting that Siemens China Ltd. employees were making improper payments to Chinese officials in North Korea and China in connection with the sale of medical equipment in those countries, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).
Last week, the Second Circuit upheld a district court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s Sarbanes-Oxley (“SOX”) whistleblower claim – but not before rejecting the “definitively and specifically” standard on which the district court’s decision relied. Nielsen v. AECOM Tech. Corp., No. 13-235-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 8, 2014).
Recent decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court have thrown a road block in the way of employers relying on a federal statute to preempt certain state wage-and-hour law claims. At issue is whether the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”) precludes truck drivers from asserting claims for meal and rest break, minimum wage, and other violations under California law. At least for now, the road is clear for such claims.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced the latest whistleblower bounty awarded under the Dodd-Frank Act, which authorizes rewards for original information about violations of securities laws. Whistleblowers can receive 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected in an SEC enforcement action where the monetary sanctions imposed exceed $1 million.
An increasing number of cities, counties and states have passed laws restricting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal background, giving momentum to the “ban the box” movement. The term “ban the box” refers to questions on an employment application that ask a job applicant about past convictions. Proponents of the movement say that such legislation will help remove unfair employment barriers to job applicants with criminal histories.
In an unwelcome, mid-summer surprise for the business community, President Obama signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order on Thursday July 31, 2014 requiring federal contractors to report violations of federal and state labor and employment laws and prohibiting certain contractors from requiring that employees arbitrate disputes alleging violations of Title VII or claims for sexual assault or harassment. The Executive Order also requires federal contractors to provide relevant information about hours worked and overtime on employee paychecks.
Following up on our recent post regarding pregnancy discrimination developments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues on July 14, 2014. This is the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on discrimination against pregnant workers in thirty years, since its 1983 Compliance Manual chapter. One major development in the new Enforcement Guidance is that pregnancy discrimination claims are not limited to the current pregnancy under the PDA – they can be based on “past pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Thus, the EEOC will more likely find a causal connection between a past pregnancy and the challenged employment action if there is close timing between the two, however a longer time gap between the pregnancy and the challenged action will not foreclose a finding of pregnancy discrimination.
Even if a potential Employer does not know that an applicant is unsuitable for the offered job from an objective point of view, compensation claims based on discrimination would not be granted.
The first comprehensive anti-discrimination law, regulated in the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz – “AGG”), was introduced in Germany in 2006. In the early years of this Act, many so called “AGG-Hoppers” have abused this situation by applying for discriminatory job offers to assert a compensation claim against inexperienced employers as a second step.