According to research cited by the British Association of Dermatologists, one in five Britons now has a tattoo. Amongst US 30 somethings, the estimate rises to about two in five, with facial piercings being almost as common in both countries. As a result, this is becoming an issue that more and more employers have to grapple with.
Employers may wish to promote a certain image through their employees which they believe reflects the ethos of their organization and tattoos and piercings may well not fit with that image. So how should this be handled and are there any pitfalls of imposing rules of this nature on employees?
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.
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.
On the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision in late June, the Supreme Court has signaled that women’s health issues in the workplace will continue to be a central issue by granting a petition for certiorari in Young v. United Parcel Service on July 1, 2014. In Young, the Court will examine whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), which provides that pregnant women “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…as other persons…similar in their ability or inability to work,” requires employers to provide work accommodations to pregnant women to the same extent they provide them to other disabled workers. The Court’s review of Young comes at a time when pregnancy discrimination laws are gaining more attention and more traction, and litigation in this area is increasing.
Last Tuesday, a Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted partial class certification in a case where plaintiffs allege that the United States Census Bureau used arrest records to screen out job applicants, thereby transferring disparities in arrest and conviction rates for African-Americans and Latinos into the agency’s hiring practices and setting up hurdles to employment that disproportionately affected these groups in violation of Title VII. Read More
Changes in telecommuting practices may be around the corner for many employers, as the recent 2-1 decision in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., 2014 FED App. 0082P (6th Cir. 2014) may usher in significant changes in what constitutes a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability under the ADA. According to the Sixth Circuit, given the advances in technology, employers need to be more open to telecommuting arrangements and cannot assume that coming to work is always an essential job function. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warns—in an amicus brief filed in early June—that these changes may have a “devastating” effect on employers by allowing employees to choose “where and when” they want to work. Read More
On April 30, 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against a private college, charging for the second time in two months that an employer’s severance agreement was unlawful. The EEOC alleged that CollegeAmerica, Inc.’s Separation and Release Agreements violated federal law by conditioning the receipt of severance payments and benefits on the employee’s promise not to file a charge with, or cooperate in investigations by, the EEOC against CollegeAmerica. Read More
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