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 Even though the decision is not binding precedent in federal court, and runs contrary to a significant body of case law holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual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.
A Rhode Island graduate student has filed a lawsuit against a textile company, alleging that it discriminated against her because she used medical marijuana. The complaint, filed by the local ACLU chapter on behalf of University of Rhode Island student Christine Callaghan, alleges that Darlington Fabrics Corporation rescinded a paid internship offer because Callaghan was a registered medical marijuana cardholder. According to the complaint, it appeared that Callaghan was going to be given the internship until, during a meeting with a Darlington HR representative, Callaghan disclosed that she suffered from migraines and used medical marijuana to treat her condition—but that she would not bring marijuana with her onto the premises or show up for work after having taken marijuana. A few days after the meeting, the representative contacted Callaghan and told her that Darlington would not be offering her the internship because of her status as a medical marijuana patient. The suit is believed to be the first to invoke the anti-discrimination provisions of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law. Under the law, schools, employers, and landlords may not “refuse to enroll, employ, or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder.” G.L. § 21-28.6-4(c).
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.