VA student’s transgender bathroom case will not pass ‘Go’ . . . yet

May 14, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Rachael L. Loughlin

Transgender issues continue to be one of the hottest areas of the law today. Recent actions by the Trump administration backing away from the Obama administration’s forceful advocacy of transgender rights may have come as no surprise. Nonetheless, they certainly didn’t help clarify the law. In fact, if anything, the Trump administration’s backtracking has made things even more uncertain by pitting the interpretation of federal law banning sex discrimination in schools (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972) against federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and by delaying critical guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court in a Virginia transgender student’s case.  All Gender Restroom

Issue in Grimm’s lawsuit

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Are rules for same-sex marriage about to change in Texas?

February 06, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Jacob M. Monty

The Texas Supreme Court recently announced that it will review a case arguing that Texas employers shouldn’t be required to spend taxpayer funds to provide benefits to employee spouses in same-sex marriages, even if they do offer benefits to employee spouses in opposite-sex marriages. Depending on the outcome of the case, the ruling could lead to plenty of confusion over what Texas employers are required to do (and prohibited from doing) when it comes to employee benefits.  Justice is served

Background

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Walking the workplace proselytizing tightrope

January 15, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by David L. Johnson

“Have a blessed day.” “I’m praying for you.” “Are you a believer?” “Would you be interested in attending church with me?” Comments and questions like those may be common in your workplace. On the one hand, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion. On the other hand, employers have a legitimate interest in preventing employees from expressing their religion in a manner that is disruptive to business operations and preventing proselytizing from creating a religiously hostile work environment. That can be a real tightrope walk because it’s often unclear where the line should be drawn.  Tightrope walker businessman

Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs. That may present challenges when an employee claims that a need to share her faith or seek to convert others is a fundamental tenet of her religion. Employers need not provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship. Of course, what amounts to a “reasonable” accommodation and what kind of hardship is considered “undue” is open to interpretation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted an “undue hardship” to be a hardship that presents “more than a minimal burden on [the] operation of the business.” An accommodation that would impede coworkers’ right to work in an environment free from religious harassment would be considered an undue hardship.

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What’s gender identity got to do with work?

December 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Amanda M. Jones

From Bruce Jenner’s announcement that he was transitioning to become a woman named “Caitlyn” to North Carolina’s passage of a so-called bathroom bill requiring schools and public agencies to restrict bathroom use to the facility corresponding to a person’s biological sex at birth, gender identity issues have become the subject of significant policy debate, lawsuits, and mainstream conversation. Gender identity is also increasingly becoming a more prevalent issue in our workplaces.  Gender Identity

Is transgender discrimination in employment illegal?

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Onionheads everywhere rejoice as NY federal court protects their ‘religion’ under Title VII

November 20, 2016 1 COMMENTS

by Brent E. Siler

The title of this article isn’t a typo or a joke. It’s a literal statement of holding in a recent federal case before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which found that an employer’s conflict-resolution program, which its creator dubbed “Onionhead” or “Harnessing Happiness,” was in fact a religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite the outrageous-sounding nature of the case, it serves as a reminder that the bar for what constitutes a religion under Title VII is low, and employers that try to force religious belief systems on their employees face real legal risks.  Prayer Group

Sincerity of beliefs is the key

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New EEOC guidance should remind employers to guard against retaliation

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

No employer trying to build diversity in its workforce is likely to get very far if its culture tolerates discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against employees based on race, gender, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law. Not only does such a culture work against recruitment and retention of diverse talent, it also invites legal trouble. That’s why employers are taking a close look at new guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressing retaliation claims.  Dangerous handshake

The EEOC issued its new guidance on August 29, replacing previous guidance released in 1998. In addition to the guidance document, the EEOC also released a question-and-answer document and a fact sheet for small business. The material from the EEOC follows a surge of retaliation claims in recent years.

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Employees’ food allergies are nothing to sneeze at!

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Stefanie M. Renaud

Navigating the ins and outs of your obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws can be a challenge for even the most seasoned HR professional. One situation that may be familiar to you is having an employee with food allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 15 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies, and that number is steadily increasing. Allergies are not only miserable for the sufferer, but they can also hurt an employer’s bottom line: It’s estimated that employees miss about four million workdays per year as a result of allergies. Allergy food

Depending on their severity, food allergies may be covered by the ADA or similar state laws. To avoid employee complaints, lost productivity, excessive absences, and the risk of a lawsuit, it’s important to have a plan in place to address requests for accommodations based on food allergies.

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EEOC revises national origin discrimination guidance for changing workforce

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Arielle B. Sepulveda

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released proposed enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination for public comment. Once finalized, the guidance will serve as a reference for agency staff when they investigate and litigate national origin discrimination claims as well as a resource for employers and employees on the law and the EEOC’s interpretation of it.  EEOC-jpg

Basics of national origin discrimination

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Don’t let Confederate flags lead to interoffice civil war

August 14, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Connor Beatty

While enjoying a scenic drive along the Maine coast recently, I was startled to come across a giant Confederate flag prominently displayed in a house’s front yard. Less than a week later, a client contacted our firm to ask for advice in responding to an employee’s claim that a vehicle with a Confederate flag bumper sticker in the parking lot made her uncomfortable. While the timing of the occurrences may have been a coincidence, the events are a reminder that the Southern symbol can appear at any workplace, including workplaces in one of the northernmost states in the country. For many, the Confederate flag is an offensive image, and addressing the symbol at work can be tricky. Employers in other states have been sued for ordering employees to remove Confederate flags, while other employers have been taken to court for failing to order workers to remove the flags.  Confederate flag flying

No right to display Confederate flags at work

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Preventing discrimination against Muslim and Middle Eastern workers

August 14, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Anna C. Lukeman

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has warned employers to be proactive and take measures against discrimination aimed at those who are or are perceived to be either Muslim or Middle Eastern.  Middle eastern people having a business meeting at office

In her statement to address this issue, EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said, “America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. As a nation, we must continue to seek the fair treatment of all, even as we grapple with the concerns raised by the recent terrorist attacks. When people come to work and are unfairly harassed or otherwise targeted based on their religion or national origin, it undermines our shared and longstanding values of tolerance and equality for all.”

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