The President released his 2017 budget this week. Budgets are aspirational documents that Congress rarely implements in full. The current acrimony between Congress and the Administration ensures that the President’s 2017 budget will likely remain aspirational. However, Presidential budgets and their accompanying justifications can shed light on an agency’s priorities.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301–4335, prohibits discrimination against employees and potential employees based on their military service and imposes certain obligations on employers with respect to employees returning to their civilian workplace after a period of service in the U.S. military.
On January 5, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that added “caregiver” to the list of protected classifications under the New York City Human Rights Law. The law, which takes effect on May 4, 2016, seeks to protect employees and applicants from discrimination because of their status or perceived status as a caregiver. Carmelyn Malais, the Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights vowed that “the Commission will vigorously enforce this much-needed protection” for “every parent and family member caring for a loved one.”
On December 21, 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (Commission) issued Legal Enforcement Guidance (Guidance) clarifying New York City’s prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodations has been illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) since 2002. According to the accompanying press release, the Guidance is intended to make clear, through specific examples, what the Commission considers gender identity and gender expression discrimination under the City law and to offer best practices to employers and other stakeholders on how to comply with the law. The Guidance also solidifies New York City’s place as having one of the most protective laws in the country for transgender and other gender non-conforming individuals.
The Ninth Circuit recently held that during the course of an investigation, the EEOC can force employers to produce “pedigree information” (i.e., name, telephone number, address, and Social Security number) of applicants and workers other than the charging party if the information is relevant to the underlying investigation.
The use of big data in employment decisions—a practice often referred to as “people analytics”—has exploded in recent years. Lately, however, the concept is gaining more and more attention not only for its appeal of faster and more efficient hiring, but also for the significant risks it can pose. One key risk is the potential for a disparate impact claim, particularly on a class-wide basis. So while proponents of using software tools and algorithms to identify and select job candidates claim people analytics is more efficient and effective than traditional recruiting and selection procedures, employers should take care when choosing tools and vendors, and should proactively monitor their implementation to avoid big liability.
On the heels of the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage, the EEOC held on July 15, 2015 that sex discrimination under Title VII includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Even though the decision is not binding precedent in federal court, and runs contrary to a significant body of case law holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it could be regarded by some courts as persuasive authority. The decision could also have an impact on employers in the form of an increased number of administrative charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC based on sexual orientation, as courts determine whether to adopt the EEOC’s interpretation.
Following the excitement of the same-sex marriage decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26th, the question remains how much the Opinion may impact Title VII employment discrimination claims. Based on our reading of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and the many states that have passed legislation protecting employees from sexual-orientation discrimination, we recommend that employers revisit and update their anti-discrimination policies.
On June 10, 2015, the New York City Council passed the Fair Chance Act (the “Act”), which prohibits employers from inquiring into the criminal backgrounds of applicants in the initial stages of the employment application process. With the passage of the Act, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City joins a large group of other states and municipalities in passing so-called “ban the box” legislation, which refers to laws that prohibit or restrict employers from asking about or relying upon criminal convictions and arrests or requiring employees to disclose their criminal history through a check box on an employment application. The ban the box legislation stems from the use of criminal history as an employment screening tool and from concerns that criminal history is often not a reliable indicator of job performance, and moreover, may adversely affect minority groups.
Employers often encounter challenging questions regarding their duty to accommodate employees who are diagnosed with stress, anxiety, or other mental health conditions that allegedly impact job performance absent accommodation. But what if an employee claims that the stress of working with a particular supervisor is disabling, and that a transfer is the only reasonable accommodation? The California Court of Appeal has provided some measure of clarity, in a recent opinion holding that anxiety and stress claimed by an employee as a result of working under a particular supervisor does not constitute a disability under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Higgins-Williams v. Sutter Med. Found., Case No. C073677 (May 26, 2015).