A new wave of litigation: obesity related disability discrimination

by Julia M. Hodges

Obesity is a disease, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA’s recent declaration has a multitude of implications for employers, including the potential for increased disability-related litigation. Whether courts will decide to consider obesity a disability under the law remains to be seen, but employers everywhere should beware. 

Obesity not a disability under ADA

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What’s the status of transgender employees in the workplace?

by Raanon Gal and Chad A. Shultz

The law regarding the rights of transgender employees is evolving, with a clear trend toward the recognition and protection of the rights of transgender individuals. Just five years ago, employers in the United States likely would not have considered whether transgender employees were protected by federal employment laws. At most, employers would have considered whether state or local laws extended protections to transgender employees. However, the global community has been active regarding the protection of transgender employees’ rights in the workplace, and now it seems that the federal government is on track to join that trend. 

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Keeping older workers: Do you risk a brain drain or offer opportunity?

October 20, 2013 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Much has been said about the number of older workers staying in the workforce. Whether it’s to make up for a retirement savings shortage or a passion for work that people are able to do well even when they pass a typical retirement age, people are working longer. 

Smart employers are seizing the opportunity to reap the benefits of a group of older workers—benefits that come from employees who, because of their perspective and experience, may be better at problem solving, thinking ahead, and keeping setbacks in perspective. Often, however, employers—even those eager to retain older workers—inadvertently make the workplace inhospitable for people who may be caring for teens and aging parents simultaneously or have other demands on their time and attention.

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Caregiver responsibility discrimination: an emerging issue

by Joseph U. Leonoro

For years, federal, state, and local employment laws have prohibited discrimination based on various protected characteristics, such as gender, race, disability, and age. In recent years, a new theory of discrimination, frequently referred to as “caregiver responsibility discrimination,” has emerged. There’s no federal  law that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on caregiving responsibilities. Rather, numerous courts have interpreted various laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to prohibit discrimination against workers who have family caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has emphasized enforcement of this form of discrimination and has issued guidance to address it.

Context of caregiver discrimination

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Miss Utah and the Equal Pay Act

by Boyd Byers

She didn’t win the crown, but Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, made the most news during the Miss USA pageant this summer. Her bungled response to a question about the gender pay gap went viral and was seen by millions on the Internet. But her response also generated serious discussion about equal pay. 

‘Create education better’

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Disability developments: the shape of things to come?

by Christopher J. Pyles

Employers often face difficult challenges when they’re called on to determine if employees are “disabled,” especially when considering characteristics like height and weight. 

It’s up to you

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Resources available for employers trying to recruit people with disabilities

September 15, 2013 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

As October nears, employers may be hearing a lot about how people with disabilities can benefit the workplace. Every year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) designates October as a time to raise awareness about the value of employing people with disabilities.

This year’s theme–“Because We Are EQUAL to the Task”–was chosen to show employers “the reality that people with disabilities have the education, training, experience, and desire to be successful in the workplace,” according to an announcement from ODEP.

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Same-sex couples stand to receive benefits after DOMA provision’s demise

by Scott Evans

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions favorable to the gay rights movement. In United States v. Windsor, the Court ruled that same-sex married couples are entitled to federal benefits, and by declining to decide a California case, the Court effectively allowed same-sex marriage in the state.

In the Windsor case, the Supreme Court held that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman and denied more than 1,000 federal benefits to same-sex married couples, was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision to strike down Section 3 may dramatically transform the legal and financial standing of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority’s opinion in the 5-4 decision, with the four liberal-leaning justices―Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan―joining.

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Who is GINA, and why should I care about her?

by Mark Jeffries

Those of us in HR and the field of employment law sometimes feel like we’re being force-fed a veritable alphabet soup of federal statutes. We have to mind our p’s and q’s under the FLSA, FMLA, ADA, ADAAA, and ADEA, just to name a few. But there’s a relatively young law that some of you may not be aware of: the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, or GINA.

Because GINA just became law a few years ago and her scope is fairly limited, many employers may not have given her much thought. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed its first GINA lawsuit against an employer, resulting in a $50,000 settlement. So beware―GINA is out there, and the facts of the EEOC’s case show how easy it can be to run afoul of her prohibitions.

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EEOC steps up enforcement of genetic information nondiscrimination

by Roberta Fields

Each year, scientific advancements in the field of genetics broaden our understanding of health issues and, specifically, the impact heredity plays on a person’s chances of developing certain medical conditions. Such research has led to more and more genetic tests designed to help people understand their risks for getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of other diseases and conditions.

While such tests are beneficial in understanding, detecting, treating, and preventing disease, the information they yield―if it falls into the wrong hands or is used for the wrong purposes―can be used to hurt people as well.

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