The Boss, your boss, and LGBT rights

April 12, 2016 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

North Carolina got itself a bit of attention recently when it enacted House Bill 2, which mandates that public restrooms be limited for use based on the individual’s “biological sex.” The effect of this bill was to take away from transgender citizens their ability to choose, based on their individual gender identities, which restroom they will use. There was some fairly prompt backlash. Bruce Springsteen cancelled a Greensboro concert in protest. The NBA is considering relocating its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.  Fist hand with rainbow flag patterned isolate on white

Relevant to the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been pursuing LGBT cases since long before the Boss or the Association ever heard of HB2. The EEOC’s position is that it “interprets and enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964′s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws.” While Title VII does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the EEOC says that it will pursue adverse employment decisions that are the result of “gender stereotyping.” Consider these actions brought by EEOC: read more…

Don’t matter if you’re black or white

February 16, 2016 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Somewhere between outrage, bewilderment, and comedy falls the news that a U.K. production company has cast very very very white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, a short film about a rumored post-9/11 road trip involving Liz Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Marlon Brando.  hip hop funk dancer dancing man

There has been much criticism of this particular casting decision, especially against the backdrop of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. But what about any black actors who believe the casting of a white actor is discriminatory? Turns out they probably don’t have a case.

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Age, sex, and sports media

December 21, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Sports reporter Colleen Dominguez is 54 years old and has enjoyed a successful career in sports journalism including a lengthy stint at ESPN. Dominguez recently jumped to Fox Sports 1 and believes her age and gender are the only plausible reasons that FS1 has cut her broadcasting assignments and diminished her career. These are her allegations in a lawsuit filed recently in a California federal court. The complaint tells the story of a veteran, experienced reporter who has paid her dues but is being pushed aside by the men and the new pretty girl on the block. Can a media company make decisions based on the age and gender of its on-air talent?a young woman journalist with a microphone and a cameraman

This is not the first time this has come up in the TV and entertainment industry. In 1993 a Minnesota jury awarded 53-year-old sportscaster Tom Ryther $1.2 million in an age discrimination case. Ryther, a longtime fixture on TV news, was not renewed after his network commissioned a poll that showed he wasn’t having a “positive” effect on viewership. According to Ryther, at the time of his termination, the station manager asked him how it felt to be a failure at age 53.  No doubt that played well with the jury.

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Tricks and treats and trial briefs

October 26, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Remember NBC’s The Office? I think some lawyers used to blog about it. Anyhow, one of my favorite episodes was “Costume Contest” where the Scranton employees threw a Halloween party at the branch office. The costumes in the episode were mostly tame, ranging from Justin Bieber (Ryan) to Lady Gaga (Gabe). Late in the episode Angela dressed up as “sexy nurse.” The employment lawyer in me was not amused.  Devils Not in Disguise

Halloween is a few days away, and many employers will be holding costume-themed events. Unless HR steps in with some firm rules about costumes and conduct, some of those parties will invariably end up as reported Title VII cases. Consider just a few examples: read more…

Employment is short. Don’t have an affair.

September 08, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Imagine a guy, a married guy, more specifically an unhappily married guy, and even more specifically an unhappily married guy lacking a moral compass. The guy creates a discrete (ha!) profile on AshleyMadison.com, a dating website for married people whose tagline is “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” No need to prowl hotel bars at last call. Thanks to Ashley Madison, our guy can arrange an illicit rendezvous from the privacy of his laptop. shhhhh

Or not.

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Donald Trump will win (a Title VII lawsuit)

July 20, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

This is an entertainment-centered blog and therefore as good a place as any to discuss Donald Trump. By now you are surely aware of the nuanced approach Trump took toward U.S.-Mexico immigration policy in his presidential bid announcementDonald Trump

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

If you are of Mexican national origin, that stings. If you are of Mexican national origin and are employed at Trump Plaza, or at the Trump Taj Mahal, or work on the Miss USA Pageant broadcast, you may be asking yourself whether Trump’s remarks could give rise to a discrimination or harassment lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. read more…

Gall, Blatter

June 01, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter is a man whose name seems an adjective as much as a proper noun. Blatter, as you likely know by now, was just elected to a fifth term as President of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international umbrella organization for international soccer. The 79-year-old Blatter was his typically arrogant and tone-deaf self after his election victory, but one wonders if privately he is lining up some Ballon d’Or-caliber legal counsel.FIFA headquarter in Zurich, Switzerland

Because the Yanks are coming.

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Fire Harry Crane

April 16, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Mad Men can be tough to watch for an employment lawyer. I was thinking of this while watching the show’s most recent episode, “New Business.” In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Harry Crane propositions Megan under the pretense that he can help get her acting career back on track. Harry is a buffoon and a jackass, and I wondered if he was exposing the firm to potential liability. iStock_000051863008_XXXLarge

There is precedent for the theory that an employee who harasses a third party can expose his employer to vicarious liability. Twenty-five years ago, a New York trial court  famously found that a model was sexually harassed by Penthouse Enterprises, which, among other things, required her to engage in sexual activities for the benefit of the company’s business. In that case the model was quasi-employed by Penthouse, but the court pointed out that the conduct constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as sexual harassment.

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Pay the lady

February 24, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, and people are still buzzing about her acceptance speech where she exclaimed: “It’s our time to have wageshutterstock_225011584 equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

Arquette will be pleased to know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) vigorously administers the Equal Pay Act, which guarantees equal pay for equal work. In fact, an EPA complainant doesn’t even have to file a charge with the EEOC and, unlike with Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act, can proceed straight to court with a lawsuit.

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BFOQ FTW

January 04, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

YOU are a seasoned HR pro.  YOU understand the difference between Internet slang–omg, imho, lmao–and the Title VII defense of BFOQ.  We must discuss the BFOQ exception–bona fide occupational qualification–in the wake of the Abu Dhabi adventures of actress, singer, and ex-Biebs girl Selena Gomez.  ICYMI (see what I did there?), a picture surfaced of Gomez in a mosque taken while she and some pals were vacationing in Abu Dhabi. In the photo, Gomez clearly flashes her (NSFW alert) … ankle. shutterstock_194149595

Context is important. Gomez was a female in a mosque in the United Arab Emirates. Mosque rules prohibit “intimate behavior,” including a female’s failure to wear ankle-length garments. Could a U.S. employer refuse to hire or employ a female because it did business in Arab countries with decisionmakers who were devout Muslims?

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