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We get a lot of phone calls and emails. On most days, we hear form eight to twelve potential clients asking about discrimination, harassment, non-compete clauses, severance agreements, failure to pay overtime, and other employment issues.  Those calls range from local issues in Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, and other areas in northern Virginia and the District, to calls from individuals whose employers are defense contractors often based in Reston or Herndon, but the individuals themselves are personally located in Iraq, Afghanistan, or another foreign nation.

Every call is unique, but there are some things that will help you hire an attorney regardless of your reason for calling. Here’s a list of the first five steps:

1. Talk About Money – Seriously, folks.  Don’t be afraid to talk about money.  You are calling to hire a firm such as ours to do a service.  We, in turn, have a business to run.  Our decisions are not exclusively about money, but we cannot enter into any agreement without discussing it.  There’s no point in trying to avoid it.

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file5961270333740According to the Chicago Tribune, shoe retailer DSW, Inc. has agreed to settle an age discrimination suit brought by the Chicago District Office of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of seven managers and approximately 100 other employees, all of whom claimed to have been terminated in 2008-2009 in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). DSW, based in Columbus, Ohio, has approximately 10,000 employees nationwide and over a dozen locations in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area alone.

According to the EEOC, DSW conducted a “reduction in force” that resulted in the termination of employees and managers over 40. Furthermore, according to the EEOC, not only did DSW terminate employees based on their age, but it also retaliated against employees who refused to follow the force-reduction directive. The lawsuit, filed on September 15, settled for $900,000, to be given to the former employees, and the requirements that DSW report any employee complaints of age discrimination in the next three years to the EEOC and revise its anti-discrimination policy.

As is to be expected in this sort of situation, DSW denies it discriminated against these workers based on age and claims it decided to settle in order to mitigate the costs associated with litigating a class-action lawsuit such as this.

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IMG_0432Jeff Wilpon, the Chief Operating Officer of the New York Mets and son of Mets owner Fred Wilpon, runs his front office department about like his father runs the baseball team: Leigh Castergine, former Vice President of Ticket Sales, recently filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York alleging that Fred Wilpon and the ball club discriminated against her for being pregnant and unmarried.

Castergine is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked for the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, and Boston Bruins and was hired by the Mets in 2010. Last December, the Mets promoted Castergine to Vice President of Ticket Sales, making her the first female to hold such a position in the ball club’s 52 years of existence. The team regularly awarded her five- and six-figure bonuses for her work.

Sounds pretty good. So how did things go wrong?

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file0001329734681Have you ever had to deal with an unpleasant person at work? When does the inappropriate conduct of someone at work rise to a civil rights violation by your employer? A recent decision by the Fourth Circuit may help answer these questions. The Fourth Circuit upheld racial and sexual hostile work environment claims in Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corporation on April 29, 2014.

Lori Freeman, former employee of Dal-Tile, sued her former employer after enduring months of mistreatment from a sales representative from one of the company’s main clients.

In June 2008, Dal-Tile bought a stone yard called Marble Point in Raleigh, North Carolina, formerly owned by Marco Izzi. The yard was incorporated into Dal-Tile as a sale-service organization, and Izzi purchased ownership in VoStone, Inc., a Raleigh kitchen/bath remodeling center that became a significant client of Dal-Tile and major source of revenue.

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Being terminated from your job almost always comes with a huge amount of stress and emotion.  There’s a lot to process, and people often want to do that processing very quickly in order to get back up and running.  Every day, we see people who have lost their jobs and are understandably having a tough time figuring out where to begin. We’re here to help, and in this particular situation we’re here to help you understand with some visual aids.  Here’s a guide to the firing process.

1. Be Professional: Nothing is gained by burning bridges on the way out.

Stay calm, act professionally.
2. What’s The Deal?: What are the terms of your separation?  Were you fired?  Did you get a chance to resign?  Is there a severance package?

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file0001365683306In Part 1 of our 2 Part series on the EEOC’s new Guidelines on Pregnancy Discrimination, we discussed the first five things you should know about this recent and important guidance.  Here are tips six through eleven:

6) Title VII prohibits an employer from offering a health insurance plan that does not cover prescription contraceptives but provides other preventative health care.   To comply with Title VII, an employer’s health insurance plan must cover prescription contraceptives to the same extent it does prescription drugs, devices and services that are used to prevent the occurrence of medical conditions other than pregnancy, such as medicine that lowers cholesterol levels.

This, of course, is particularly fascinating because it is in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Nos. 13-354, 13-356, 2014 WL 2921709 (U.S. June 30, 2014).

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ancsa 005On July 14, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published guidance on laws governing pregnancy-based discrimination for the first time since 1984. Charges of pregnancy discrimination are rising largely due to common and persistent misconceptions about pregnancy in the workplace.

The two of the main federal laws concerning pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The PDA is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), which contains two fundamental restrictions on how employers may treat workers for pregnancy-related reasons.

First, employers may not discriminate against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions. Second, women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or other related conditions must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work. The ADA’s pregnancy-related provisions mandate that employers must accommodate impairments caused by an employee’s pregnancy to the same extent they would other disabilities in the workplace.

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file0002000666636The excellent Ask A Manager blog recently responded to a reader question about whether it is legal for publications to not pay their volunteer writers.  As always with legal questions, AAM addresses the underlying issues, but avoids offering legal advice.  We’ve decided to expand on legal issues here.

As readers of this blog know, the Fair Labor Standards Act guarantees that employees are paid no less than minimum wage for their work.  The important language in the FLSA is that an employer must pay for hours that that employer has “suffered or permitted” you to work.

But before we get too far into the weeds: can people write for free for publications?  Can they trade their writing for the nebulous compensation of exposure?

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file1581270826885The Eleventh Circuit recently provided insight as to how federal courts analyze disability discrimination law claims when it held that firing a truck driver because he was diagnosed with alcoholism is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Title I of the ADA grants certain protections to disabled individuals who are qualified to perform a job’s basic functions from discrimination in employment.

Alcoholism is a disability under the ADA, but the question of whether or not an alcoholic can seek the ADA’s protection doesn’t end there: employers are not always obligated to retain workers who suffer from a condition that is recognized as a disability under the ADA.

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file000495587744Do you think that the Fourth Circuit got it wrong when it decided against an employee who was called a “porch monkey” more than once by a coworker and was fired from her job shortly after she complained?   You are certainly not alone.  Ms. Boyer-Liberto’s complaints about the racists did not give rise to a claim for a hostile work environment or employment discrimination according to the Fourth Circuit, but you may see the Fourth Circuit change or limit that opinion.

The Fourth Circuit on Tuesday, July 1, granted en banc hearing to Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., marking a potential shift in the way the Fourth Circuit analyzes employment discrimination claims. What this means is that both sides will reargue the case, but this time they will do so in front of all eligible judges of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Many appellate courts sit in parts or divisions of three or more judges from among a larger number on the full court.  The Fourth Circuit is no exception.  That’s why only three judges (Chief Judge Traxler and Judges Neimeyer and Shed)  heard and decided the original case.  When a court sits en banc it is possible that it will reach a different decision from the original 3-member panel. It is common for parties to ask for a rehearing en banc after an appellate court renders a decision; however, they are rarely granted.  When a court does grant a rehearing en banc, it means that one of the following situations are in play:

  1. A material (potentially outcome changing) fact or legal issue was overlooked in the decision;