Articles Tagged with #employment discrimination

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The EEOC has filed 12 religious discrimination lawsuits in fiscal year 2013, more than in the previous year, and indicative of the increasing attention being paid to it in recent months.  In general, this may be one of the areas of more frequent activity in employment law in the coming years.

Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants based on religion.  Concurrent with that prohibition is a responsibility to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.  The EEOC has recommended that employers avoid challenging the validity of an employee’s religious beliefs, and instead argue that accommodating the belief constitutes an undue hardship.  The article notes that between 1992 and 2007 religious discrimination claims increased by 100 percent, and that the EEOC has taken notice and increased its steps to educated employers about prohibited practices.  In 2012 the EEOC received its second-highest amount of religious discrimination complaints ever.

Some of the religious discrimination cases filed by the EEOC can provide employers with lessons in what conduct is prohibited.  Many of the cases concern refusals by employers to accommodate specific requirements of a particular religion, such as growing a beard, not working specific days or hours, or wearing particular clothing.  Others involved the failure of an employer to allow an employee to use equipment that did not violate her religious beliefs, or company-wide mandatory attendance at a religious presentation.  Most of these seem easily remedied- as none involved essential job functions or could not be accommodated with some minimal degree of creativity.

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Our first article this week has an interesting look at FMLA

eligibility for an employee who likely didn’t work the minimum number of hours

in the prior year.  In particular, the

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For our lead in this week, the Employment Discrimination

Report has another look at how sexual harassment in the workplace can be a

problem even when it is not committed by supervisors or co-workers.  Basically, an employer is under an obligation

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On October 3, the U.S. District Court for the Southern

District of New York found that because a female intern was not an employee,

she could not bring a claim for harassment under the New York City Human Rights

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The 4th Circuit recently held that the discovery

of poor performance reviews was sufficient basis to fire an employee, even

though that employee had had recent positive reviews, and even though the

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued two important decisions that narrowed the scope of Title VII.  In the first case, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the Court held retaliation claims to a higher standard of proof, while in Vance v. Ball State University, the Court narrowly described who qualifies as a supervisor.

In Nassar, the plaintiff claimed that he was denied permanent employment after complaining about discrimination by his supervisor.  The Court had to consider whether the plaintiff had to prove retaliation was only a “motivating factor” in the employer’s decision not to hire him, or whether he had to prove it was the “but for” cause.  The Court noted that the “but for” standard is the rule in tort cases, and that Congress is assumed to have chosen that standard unless it says otherwise.  After mentioning some history regarding Title VII causation issues, the Court held that for retaliation claims the more relaxed “motivating factor” test used in status-based discrimination claims did not apply.  The Court noted that the 1991 amendment to Title VII did not expand the more relaxed causation standard to all claims, and that the amendment explicitly differentiated between status-based and retaliation claims, with the latter still utilizing the traditional but-for standard.  The Court was especially concerned that given the large number of retaliation claims that are filed every year, a more relaxed causation standard might encourage more unfounded suits.  Finally, the Court also declined to follow the EEOC’s interpretation.  The dissent essentially argued that retaliation itself is form of discrimination, and that it makes no sense to have separate standards that may encourage retaliatory behavior in the workplace.

In Vance, the Court narrowly defined who counts as a supervisor for the purposes of Title VII liability.  The Court held that a supervisor is someone with the power to “take tangible employment action” against the victim.  Directing everyday activities is not enough.  To give a brief overview, the Court had previously held that it is easier to prevail against an employer in a harassment claim where the harassing employee is a supervisor, because the employee has the option of showing the harassment ended in a tangible employment action or that the employer did not exercise reasonable care in preventing the harassing behavior.  The Court resolved a lower court conflict by stating that a supervisor is someone who has the power to take direct tangible employment action, based on a concept of sharply differentiating between co-workers and supervisors.  The Court claimed this rule would be easier to apply, and might allow some cases to be resolved before trial.  The dissent argued that narrowly defining supervisor as the Court did would under-protect workers who were harassed by those with control over their daily employment situation.

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Here are a few links to some interesting employment law

articles. I’ve also posted another link to some additional information from the

Department of Labor’s recent guidance regarding how the Family and Medical