Emergence of Transgender Status Issues in Workplace Raises Compliance Questions for Employers

Transgender issues have been grabbing headlines in recent months—perhaps most notably with Bruce Jenner’s televised announcement about his gender transition.  Beyond the bright lights of pop culture, a wave of litigation and legislation is causing employers to pay closer attention to transgender discrimination and related issues.  As we noted in August of last year, there is an increasing trend toward protecting gender identity and transgender status.  This post provides an update and a high-level overview of the landscape in this emerging area and offers some tips for employers to minimize risk.

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Is the EEOC Rushing Your Company to Court? SCOTUS Says Not So Fast

The U. S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on April 29 that courts can review whether the EEOC has satisfied its obligation under Title VII to conciliate before running to court.  Title VII dictates that when the EEOC believes that an employer has discriminated against its employees, it must attempt to “eliminate such alleged unlawful employment practice by informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion.”  However, if the EEOC cannot obtain a conciliation agreement that “is acceptable to the Commission,” the EEOC may then bring a lawsuit.  Up to now, there has been some debate as to what the EEOC needs to do to prove that it has cleared the conciliation hurdle before sprinting into litigation.  In one of the most important labor and employment decisions of this term, the Court held that courts have limited authority to review the EEOC’s conciliation efforts, adopting a middle-ground position that “respects the expansive discretion that Title VII gives to the EEOC over the conciliation process, while still ensuring that the Commission follows the lead.” Mach Mining LLC v. EEOC, U.S., No. 13-1019, 4/29/15.

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Global Employers: How Are You Managing Workplace Concerns About Ebola?

While the world moves quickly to contain the Ebola virus, businesses across the globe are scrambling to figure out how best to manage workplace concerns and protect their employees. But as employers develop their Ebola response strategies, they should also be mindful of employee privacy, anti-discrimination, and other employment laws and regulations.

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Federal Contractors: In the Line of Regulatory Fire

On October 10, 2014, the White House hosted a listening session regarding President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order (discussed in detail in a prior Orrick Employment blog post here), one of many new laws imposing significant new requirements on federal contractors. Representatives of the Professional Services Council met with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and White House officials to urge changes to the Order, which (among other things) requires prospective federal contractors and subcontractors to track and report a comprehensive list of labor and employment law violations, bars larger existing contractors from requiring pre-dispute arbitration agreements of certain claims (including claims under Title VII), and requires contractors to provide employees with additional information on overtime and hours worked in paychecks. Read More

Three Key EEO Cases to Watch on the SCOTUS Docket This Term

The Supreme Court is set to weigh in on several key questions for employers this term related to employee discrimination.  When does an employer have to accommodate a pregnant employee?  How about a job applicant who wears a head scarf in an interview but does not make it clear she is doing so for religious reasons and needs an accommodation?  Can a court decide whether the EEOC has done enough to resolve your case?  Here are three key EEO cases to keep your eye on in the coming months. Read More

EEOC Won’t Get its Prescription Filled at CVS: Case Challenging its Releases Dismissed on Summary Judgment

On October 7th, a federal district judge granted summary judgment against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its lawsuit against CVS. The EEOC had challenged the nation’s largest integrated provider of prescriptions and health-related services for its employee separation agreement. The EEOC’s Chicago office had filed the suit in February, alleging the company’s separation agreement violated its employees’ Title VII rights to communicate with the EEOC and file discrimination charges. Read More

Let’s Talk About Sex: U.S. Department of Labor Targets Transgender & Gender Identity Discrimination

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.

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Obama Executive Order Places New Burdens and Restrictions on Federal Contractors

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.

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U.S. Census Bureau Down for the Count after Certification Ruling in Criminal Background Check Case

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

Did the EEOC Try Hard Enough to Resolve Your Case Before Filing Suit?

March, 2014, three powerful business groups urged the U.S. Supreme Court to consider an important issue at stake for employers in Mach Mining LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—can courts review the adequacy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC’s”) conciliation efforts prior to filing suit? In Mach Mining, the Seventh Circuit held “no,” although six other circuits to address this issue have acknowledged an employer’s ability to raise failure to conciliate as an affirmative defense. If the Supreme Court grants Mach Mining’s February 25, 2014 petition for review, the ruling could have significant impact for employers facing potential litigation with the EEOC. Read More