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
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
In a case of first impression, the Second Circuit has held that hostile work environment claims are cognizable under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). In Fox v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, No.17‐0936‐CV (2d Cir. Mar. 6, 2019), the Second Circuit joined the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits to recognize this cause of action under the ADA. The court also provided useful guidance on when teasing may or may not suffice to establish a hostile work environment. READ MORE
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, lawmakers nationwide proposed legislation with expressed goals of preventing future sexual harassment scandals. Many proposed bills expired in committee and only a select few became law. New Jersey’s Senate initially proposed S-121 in January 2018. Governor Phil Murphy just signed it into law on March 18, 2019 (full text here). READ MORE
Last year, in the immediate aftermath of the #MeToo movement, both New York State and New York City passed sweeping legislation that sought to provide additional protections for individuals from sexual harassment (see our prior blog posts here). Perhaps most notable was legislation requiring all New York State employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy by October 2018 and to conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training beginning no later than October 2019, among other things. Neither the State nor City legislatures appear to be slowing down – already this year, both have enacted additional worker protections. READ MORE
As early as November 30, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear three high profile employment cases that question whether Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination protects gay and transgender employees. These cases have significant implications on the proper scope of Title VII and the rights of the LGBT community in the workplace.
Under Title VII, an employer has engaged in “‘impermissible consideration of … sex … in employment practices’ when ‘sex … was a motivating factor for any employment practice,’ irrespective of whether the employer was also motivated by ‘other factors’.”
Late last month, the New York State Department of Labor released model sexual harassment prevention training videos that employers can use to train their employees, available here. While a welcome development, the videos alone do not fully comply with the State’s requirement that sexual harassment prevention training be “interactive” – employers must ensure that employees have the ability to ask questions and receive answers to their questions. The New York City Commission on Human Rights has also provided some new and welcome guidance to employers, releasing FAQs regarding NYC’s new sexual harassment prevention laws, available here. The FAQs primarily address which employers must conduct sexual harassment prevention training and how to calculate an employer’s number of employees for purposes of determining whether the employer is subject to the training requirements. READ MORE
The Ninth Circuit recently sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), holding that employers can’t require applicants to pay for follow-up post-offer medical exams. Specifically, in EEOC v. BNSF Railway Company, No. 16-35457 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2018), the court affirmed that BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by conditioning the plaintiff’s job offer on his getting an MRI at his own expense.
On October 15, 2017, the #MeToo movement began in earnest following a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement, the Orrick Employment Law and Litigation Blog will analyze the effects of the movement from the employment perspective. Part 1 reviewed the movement’s impact on sexual harassment claims in the workplace, Part 2 focused on the legislative reaction to the movement, and Part 3 below discusses how employers have responded to #MeToo.
Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has caused a seismic shift in our culture that continues to ripple through important aspects of our daily lives, especially the workplace. As we previously discussed, the #MeToo movement’s growing momentum has sparked rising trends in sexual harassment claims and lawsuits, as well as a significant increase in EEOC charges and enforcement efforts. In the past year, the EEOC revealed that it filed 41 lawsuits with sexual harassment allegations, which is a 50 percent increase from 2017. In addition, litigation and administrative enforcement of sexual harassment issues yielded nearly $70 million to the EEOC in 2018, up from $47.5 million the prior year. But newly filed lawsuits or administrative charges only reveal a part of the impact – claims of sexual harassment may have a devastating effect on those accused of wrongdoing and their employers, even if they lie far beyond any applicable statute of limitations, as today’s claims often do. Employers of all shapes and sizes are acclimating their policies and practices for the #MeToo era, as none can avoid the categorical shift in workplace culture that is slowly becoming the “new normal.” READ MORE