Discrimination

Say What? NLRB Seeks Guidance on Workplace Protections for Profane or Offensive Speech.

As states continue to pass legislation focused on the workplace, employers should be mindful that federal agencies are also continuing to regulate the workplace even in the absence of new federal legislation, especially with respect to when disputes arise regarding compensation and working conditions. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”) arguably protects an employees’, including non-union employees’, rights to engage in concerted activities, including circumstances where an employee’s profane language or sexually- or racially- offensive speech is legally protected. Following criticism from the judiciary, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) announced this month it is now seeking input on the scope and applicability of this protection. READ MORE

Washington Supreme Court Weighs in on the Weighty Question of Weight

In Taylor v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, the Washington Supreme Court recently held that obesity is always an “impairment” under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”). The court held that the WLAD is more expansive than the Americans with Disabilities Act and expressly refused to follow some federal court decisions that found obesity to be a disability only if it is caused by a separate underlying physiological disorder.

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Phase Two of New York Legislative Response to #MeToo: State Passes Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Expansion Bill

Major changes are in store for New York employers under a new bill passed in the waning hours of the 2019 legislative session. As part of an ongoing, multi-year effort to address sexual harassment and other discrimination and harassment issues, the New York legislature on June 19, 2019 passed Assembly Bill 8421 (“AB 8421”), a compendium bill that introduces new and refined employee protections against harassment, retaliation, and discrimination in the workplace. AB 8421 amends the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) to usher in new affirmative protections and procedural mandates that will significantly affect employer liability under state law. Building on protections previously enacted under the 2018 state budget, AB 8421 will expand prohibitions on nondisclosure agreements and arbitration agreements to categories of discrimination and harassment beyond sexual harassment. Key elements of AB 8421 are described below. READ MORE

Use It or Lose It: SCOTUS holds that EEOC Charge-Filing Requirement Is Forfeited If Not Timely Asserted

On June 3, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis, resolving a circuit split regarding whether Title VII’s charge-filing requirement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), or equivalent state agency, is jurisdictional. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Title VII’s charge-filing instruction is not jurisdictional; rather, it is a procedural prescription which is mandatory if timely raised, but subject to forfeiture if tardily asserted. READ MORE

Up in Smoke: New York City Bans Pre-Employment Drug Testing for Marijuana

Effective May 10, 2020, New York City employers may no longer test prospective employees for marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. This bill- which is the first of its kind in the country- makes such testing an unlawful discriminatory practice under the New York City Human Rights Law. READ MORE

SCOTUS to Finally Decide if Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Protected by Title VII

On April 22, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in a trio of employment discrimination cases for which the Court’s forthcoming rulings—expected to be published by June 2020—could ultimately settle whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The three cases that the high court agreed to hear are Bostock v. Clayton Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, No. 17-1618 (filed May 25, 2018), Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623 (filed May 29, 2018), and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., No. 18-107 (filed July 20, 2018). The first two cases involve sexual orientation specifically, while the third case pertains to gender identity. READ MORE

Teachable Moment on Equal Pay Act and Title VII as Fourth Circuit Rejects Claim that Professors Perform “Equal” or “Similar” Work

The Fourth Circuit recently issued a decision discussing whether a university professor established pay-related claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.  This case has important implications for professional occupations where complainants seek to compare themselves to their colleagues for purposes of alleging pay discrimination.

Zoe Spencer, a sociology professor at Virginia State University (“VSU”), sued her employer for allegedly paying her less than two male professors because she is a woman.  The district court granted summary judgment, and plaintiff appealed to the Fourth Circuit.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision because (1) plaintiff failed to present evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact that the two male professors are appropriate comparators; and (2) in any event, unrebutted evidence shows that the VSU based the two male professors’ higher pay on their prior service as VSU administrators, not their sex.

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District Court Orders Employers to Submit Component 2 Data by September 30, 2019

The EEOC has been ordered to collect employers’ EEO-1 Component 2 pay data by September 30, 2019.  The D.C. District Court issued the order after finding back in March 2019 that Office of Management and Budget (OMB’s) decision to stay the collection of Component 2 pay data lacked the reasoned explanation required by the Administrative Procedure Act.  See our prior blog posts here, here, and here about National Women’s Law Center v. Office of Management and Budget, No. 17-cv-2458 (TSC) (D.D.C.).  Since then the court has been critical of the EEOC’s compliance with its order, and held a status conference and a hearing in March and April. READ MORE

Must-See Viewing: NYC Sexual Harassment Video Training Released

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (“NYCCHR”) released its long anticipated model anti-sexual harassment training on April 1, 2019.  The City’s model training satisfies all of the training requirements under both New York State and City laws, although the training is geared to educate viewers as to the broader sexual harassment protections afforded to workers by the New York City laws.  READ MORE