Perhaps Overdue, Pregnancy Discrimination Update Issued by the EEOC

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.

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Doctor Doctor Give Me the News, Is My Employee Fit for Duty After FMLA Leave?

On April 15, 2014, a California appeals court ruled that after an employee returns to work from leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employer can require a medical reevaluation related to the health condition for which the employee was granted FMLA leave, so long as it is job related and consistent with business necessity. Read More

Strippers and the Fair Labor Standards Act: Lessons for All Employers

Late last month, in the Southern District of Florida, adult entertainers at several Rick’s Cabaret locations filed a lawsuit alleging that they were improperly categorized (and thus improperly compensated) as independent contractors rather than employees. See Espinoza, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-24565-UU. In light of recent decisions, Rick’s—like other employers classifying workers as independent contractors—should proceed with caution.

The past several months have seen a spate of rulings adverse to employers in the adult entertainment context. Early last year, a Southern District of New York judge approved an $8 million settlement for a class of dancers at another adult establishment who alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors. See In re: Penthouse Executive Club Compensation Litigation, Case No. 1:10-cv-01145. In September 2013, in a different S.D.N.Y. case, the court in Hart, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc. found that dancers at the New York club location were employees, not independent contractors, for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law. And just last week a Northern District of Georgia judge who previously certified a class of adult entertainers who alleged they were wrongly classified as independent contractors granted the entertainers’ summary judgment motion with respect to their status as employees under the FLSA. See Stevenson, et al. v. The Great American Dream, Inc., No. 1:12-CV-3359-TWT.

In finding no independent contractor relationship in Hart, the court cited the existence of club guidelines that governed dancers’ dress/appearance (e.g., body glitter forbidden, 4-inch stiletto heels required), behavior in the club (e.g., gum chewing or using a cell phone on the dance floor prohibited), when dancers could be scheduled to work, various fees dancers were required to pay, and manner of performance (e.g., prohibition on more than one knee touching the ground when performing on stage). Of virtually no significance was the fact that there were signed agreements between dancers and Rick’s Cabaret expressing that the employment relationship was that of an independent contractor.

Irrespective of industry, companies that utilize independent contractors are well advised to periodically reexamine the economic realities of those relationships.

Court is in Session: Three Employment Law Cases Before the Supreme Court to Watch This Term

The United States Supreme Court is now in session and three cases stand out on the docket that private employers will want to follow. While not the blockbusters heard during the Court’s last session, these cases will address important issues ranging from the proper interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower provision to the breadth of the President’s recess-appointment power to what constitutes “changing clothes” under the FLSA. Read More

U.S. Supreme Court Adopts a Narrow Definition of a Supervisor in Harassment Claims

Resolving a split among the circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a “supervisor” for Title VII harassment liability is limited to those who have the power to take a tangible employment action against the alleged victim (e.g., hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline). Merely overseeing and directing the alleged victim’s daily work is insufficient to meet this heightened standard.   Read More

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects the Mixed-Motive Analysis in Retaliation Claims

The U.S. Supreme Court held on Monday that a plaintiff alleging retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) must prove that retaliation was the “but-for” reason for an adverse employment decision. The mixed-motive analysis, whereby a plaintiff need only show that the illegal reason played a part in the decision, now no longer applies to retaliation cases. Read More

Supreme Court Votes Pro-Arbitration Once Again and Upholds Class Arbitration Waiver

Lest there be any lingering confusion, the U.S. Supreme Court has once again reminded us that arbitration agreements are to be “rigorously enforced.” In this latest installment of pro-arbitration decisions from the high court, a majority of the justices (5-3) upheld a class arbitration waiver as enforceable even when the cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery. Although the decision arose in the antitrust context, the broad language in the opinion opens the door for enforcement of class action waivers in wage-and-hour class and collective actions where employers have included such waivers in their arbitration agreements with their employees. Read More

Three More States Hop on the Social Media Legislation Bandwagon

So far in 2013, three states (Arkansas, New Mexico and Utah) have passed new social media legislation restricting employer access to employees and job applicants’ personal social media accounts. We previously posted about social media legislation in California and other states here and hereRead More

Supreme Court Eliminates Jurisdictional Escape Hatch To The Class Action Fairness Act

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles confirms that a plaintiff cannot avoid federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) by stipulating that the class will seek less than CAFA’s $5 million amount in controversy threshold. Read More

Second Circuit Holds No Substantive Right To Bring A Pattern-Or-Practice Title VII Claim

Reversing a denial of a motion to compel arbitration in Parisi et al. v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. et al., the Second Circuit held that a plaintiff does not have a substantive right to bring a pattern and practice claim under Title VII. The plaintiff at issue in Parisi alleged gender discrimination under Title VII, seeking to bring her claims on behalf of herself and a putative class of female Goldman Sachs employees. During her employment, the plaintiff signed a broad arbitration agreement, which covered her discrimination claims and did not contain a provision providing for class-wide arbitration.  Read More