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Executive Order Restricts Federal Contractor Diversity Training

On September 22, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping prohibiting certain diversity-related training in the federal workforce and among government contractors.  Specifically, the executive order provides that the United States will not promote “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating” in the federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services, the government will not allow grant funds to be used for those purposes, and federal contractors cannot “inculcate such views in their employees.”  While the executive order may have significant implications for contractors, the lasting impacts are currently uncertain, including in light of the upcoming election and expected legal challenges. READ MORE

Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Guarantees LGBTQ+ Workplace Protections

On June 15, and just in time for LGBTQ+ Pride month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision is among the most Court’s most significant federal non-discrimination rulings in the last several decades, and immediately resolves a circuit split regarding the scope of Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination. The decision covers three consolidated opinions – Bostock v. Clayton Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 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

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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Hut-Hut-Hike: The Second Circuit Tackles Hostile Work Environment Claims Under the ADA

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

Does Title VII Protect Gay & Transgender Employees? The Supreme Court May Soon Decide.

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’.”

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Let Them Eat Cake: Religious Accommodations, LGBTQ Rights and Other Workplace Implications of SCOTUS’ Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision

In a highly anticipated ruling, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a cake shop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs.  The case highlights the potentially conflicting intersection of religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws; i.e. the right to hold sincere religious beliefs and the right to be treated equally and without discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. READ MORE

Get it on the Calendar: Employees’ Sabbath Work Claims Survive, but Tenth Circuit Rejects Broad “Complete” or “Total” Theories of Religious Accommodation

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah granting summary judgment in favor of Kellogg USA in a case involving an alleged failure to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.

The case, Tabura v. Kellogg USA, emerged after Richard Tabura and Guadalupe Diaz, both Seventh-day Adventists, were terminated for refusing to work on Saturdays, the Sabbath day in their religion.  The former employees filed suit in February 2014, claiming that Kellogg violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by failing to accommodate their religious beliefs. READ MORE

Marrying Sex and Sexuality under Title VII

Several recent cases are poised to set a major tonal shift in the realm of LGBT employee rights following the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. As part of its ongoing coverage of LGBT employment issues, Orrick offers its insights and predictions as courts continue to contemplate where sexual identity fits within this changing landscape of protected statuses. READ MORE

EEOC Issues First Update on National Origin Discrimination Since 2002

In its first update in 14 years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination (“Enforcement Guidance”) on November 21, 2016, replacing its 2002 Compliance Manual on National Origin Discrimination. With input from approximately 20 organizations and individuals, the Enforcement Guidance addresses important legal developments over the past 14 years on national origin issues ranging from employment decisions and workplace harassment to human trafficking. READ MORE