Marriage equality comes to Arizona (and 16 other states in 2014)

by Dinita James

On October 17, 2014, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne issued a directive to the state’s 15 county clerks that they could begin immediately issuing licenses for same-sex marriages. With that letter, Arizona became the 30th state to permit same-sex marriage and recognize same-sex marriages celebrated in other states and countries.  Horne’s action came near the end of a dramatic two weeks that saw the number of states recognizing same-sex marriage rise from 19 to 32 by the end of the day on October 17, when Alaska and Wyoming also joined the parade (the number climbed to 33 on November 12 when a judge ordered South Carolina officials to stop enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage). With 17 states making same-sex marriage legal in 2014 and appeals in progress in 7 of the remaining 17 states with same-sex marriage bans, a closer look at the Arizona shift can be instructive for many employers.  Same-sex marriage Arizona

Waving the white flag

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Policies designed to protect employees may do more harm than good

by Jeremy M. Brenner

The law prohibits discrimination against employees and applicants based on a number of protected statuses. Employers often implement policies that are intended to benefit workers but actually cause illegal systemic discrimination. Unfortunately, no matter how genuine an employer’s good intentions are, they typically do not excuse it from discriminatory conduct. Read on to learn some of the pitfalls employers face when implementing seemingly neutralor even beneficialworkplace policies. Employer Policies and Procedures

Facts

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Active duty military employees are on leave, not inactive

by Jane Pfeifle

An employer’s failure to include a deployed servicemember on a list of employees when it sold its assets may be a violation of the benefit provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)MilitaryLeave

Facts

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‘Sex-plus’ discrimination claims are still viable

by Rachel E. Burke

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed the issue of whether a “sex- plus” claim of discrimination, in which a former employee claimed that she was discriminated against specifically for being an African-American female, can be made under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case is significant not only for its reinforcement of the notion that the various traits protected by Title VII necessarily coexist and shouldn’t always be considered separate from each other but also for its emphasis on the importance of e-mail evidence in discrimination cases.  StopRaceDiscrimination

Facts

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Perception is reality when it comes to disabilities

by Cathleen S. Yonahara

An employee was placed on paid leave because of his medical symptoms. When he was subsequently fired, he sued for disability discrimination. The employer prevailed at the trial court level but lost before the appellate court. The crux of the case was whether the employer “regarded” the employee as disabled even though he didn’t have an actual disability.  ToxicLeadWire

Employee placed on leave because of lead toxicity

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Rude isn’t racist: Supervisor’s alleged poor treatment doesn’t amount to discrimination

by Carrie Pond

A Kentucky federal court recently dismissed a claim of hostile work environment racial harassment because the employee failed to show the harassment was race-based. Despite allegations that, if believed, demonstrated the employee’s supervisor “treated [her] very badly,” she failed to establish that the treatment was racially motivated.   Racist Supervisor

Facts

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Untouchable? Disciplining employees for disability-caused misconduct

by Nikki Hall and Eugene Park

HR professionals regularly implement employee discipline and are adept at navigating the waters of reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. Mingling those two issues, however, can sometimes pull an employer in opposite directions when it’s responding to, for example, a chronically tardy employee suffering debilitating side effects from medication or an employee whose rude or even threatening behavior is due to a psychiatric disability. Adding to this conundrum is the differing and evolving judicial and administrative guidance.  YouAreLate

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You’re not a doctor, and you don’t play one on TV

by Jane Pfeifle

An employer made an incorrect assumption about a disabled applicant. When a court disagreed with the assumption, the employer paid the applicant more than $50,000. Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & Lebrun, P.C., the firm of article author Jane Wipf Pfeifle, was involved in this case. All facts are taken solely from the court’s decision.  EyeDoctor

Facts

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Different pay for unequal jobs OK

by Charles S. Plumb

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) prohibits sex-based discrimination in pay and benefits. Employers shouldn’t pay different wages to employees of the opposite sex for substantially equal work. “Substantially equal” work doesn’t mean identical work. It means substantially equal in terms of required skills, effort, and responsibilities.   EqualPay3

An employer can defeat an EPA claim of discriminatory compensation if it shows the difference in wages was on account of seniority, merit, quantity or quality of work, or any factor other than sex. Such was the case for FNGP, an auto parts manufacturer.

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ENDA may be coming soon—what will its impact really be?

by John R. Merinar, Jr.

A great deal of attention has been focused on the U.S. Senate’s recent passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The House of Representatives has yet to take up the bill, but there’s much speculation that supporters have the votes necessary to secure passage. Often, supporters can be heard using the phrase “fundamentally transform,” made popular by President Barack Obama, to describe the impact of ENDA in the workplace. But, in reality, the legislation may merely be an example of lawmakers catching up with the citizens they represent.  Senate

Behind the curve

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