Bill takes aim at forced arbitration of sexual harassment complaints

December 08, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Arbitration, long a favored method of handling workplace disputes, would be removed as an option in sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases if a new bill introduced in Congress becomes law.

Often, employment contracts contain arbitration clauses that require disputes to be settled through arbitration instead of litigation. Also, complaint settlements frequently include nondisclosure agreements that keep claims out of the public eye. The new bill, called the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, is intended to keep harassers from settling claims in secret and then continuing to harass.

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New guidance shifts federal policy on religious liberty in employment

October 10, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

New guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on religious liberty in employment “signals a shift in federal employment law and policy,” according to an attorney who focuses on employment law.

Sessions issued the new guidance to all administrative agencies and executive departments on October 6. It identifies 20 principles that administrative agencies and executive departments are to use “to ensure the religious freedoms of Americans are lawfully protected,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

J. Steven Massoni, a contributor to Kansas Employment Law Letter and attorney with Foulston Siefkin LLP in Wichita, Kansas, says the new guidance, which purports to expand the religious exemption in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, represents a change at the federal level. However, he says “it remains to be seen” what effect the DOJ’s guidance may have on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) position in cases involving religious liberty in employment. The EEOC interprets and enforces Title VII, which, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on religion.

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Sessions memo changes DOJ position on transgender discrimination

October 06, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Transgender snipby Tammy Binford

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement changing his department’s position on transgender employment discrimination marks a change in the legal landscape, but it doesn’t alter employer obligations under various state and local laws or the position taken by other federal agencies.

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DOJ says Title VII doesn’t apply to sexual orientation discrimination

July 27, 2017 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

Sexual orientation flag snipThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in a case in which an employee claims his employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against him based on his sexual orientation.

The DOJ’s brief asserts that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not extend to discrimination based on sexual orientation. The DOJ’s position is in stark contrast to the position taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which says discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

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Texas Supreme Court balks at extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples

by Jacob Monty
Monty & Ramirez, LLP

The Texas Supreme Court ruled this week that the City of Houston’s extension of its employee benefits to married same-sex couples goes further than is required by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared same-sex marriage equal in all 50 states. The plaintiffs in Friday’s decision argued that Obergefell didn’t impose on taxpayers the obligation to “subsidize” same-sex marriage. The city argued that the Supreme Court ruling requires it to treat employees in same-sex marriage equally.

In what same-sex marriage opponents are calling a victory, the Texas Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for arguments to be made in light of Obergefell, which was announced only after the parties had briefed the case in the lower court. The court stated: read more…

In ‘landmark’ ruling, appeals court says sexual orientation discrimination is illegal

April 06, 2017 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation, a federal appeals court ruled for the first time on April 4.

With its “landmark” ruling, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upended three decades of precedent and set up the issue for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Steven L. Brenneman, a partner with Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP, and an editor of Illinois Employment Law Letter.

The decision applies only in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, but Brent E. Siler, an attorney at Butler Snow in Memphis and a contributor to Tennessee Employment Law Letter, said its effect reaches far beyond those three states. The ruling, combined with the federal government’s position on the issue, means employers must ensure they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation, Siler added.

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Supreme Court’s action on transgender rights keeps employers watching

March 07, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it has decided not to hear arguments in a case regarding restroom access for transgender students doesn’t directly affect employment, but it puts employers on notice to keep up with developments that could affect the workplace.

On March 6, the Court announced that it is sending back to a lower court the case of a transgender boy suing a Virginia school district in an effort to be allowed to use the boys’ restroom. The Court had been scheduled to hear arguments in the case later this month. But on February 22, the Trump administration revoked guidelines released by the Obama administration advising public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

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Employers advised to stay up to date on legal trends affecting transgender rights

February 23, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The Trump administration’s action rescinding guidance to public schools on restroom policies for transgender students sends a different signal than guidance from federal agencies dealing with employment, but the real message for employers is to stay tuned.

On February 22, the Trump administration revoked Obama administration guidelines that advised public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity instead of their gender assigned at birth. The Trump administration’s new guidance now puts the question of restroom access on states and school districts.

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Stakeholders get more time to comment on EEOC’s harassment guidance

February 06, 2017 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

Stakeholders now have until March 21 to comment on proposed antiharassment guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The move is in line with the new administration’s overall approach of pausing Obama administration initiatives and taking time to evaluate them, said Jonathan Mook, a founding partner of DiMuro Ginsberg PC and an editor of Virginia Employment Law Letter. Given the change in administration, it makes sense to provide stakeholders more time, he said.

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‘No-brainer’ appointment: Lipnic to head EEOC

January 27, 2017 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

President Donald Trump has chosen Victoria A. Lipnic to serve as acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on January 25. She will replace Jenny Yang as chair, but Democrats still will retain a majority on the commission for some time.

Lipnic’s appointment was “a no-brainer,” says Jonathan Mook, a founding partner at DiMuro Ginsberg PC and an editor of Virginia Employment Law Letter. “It makes so much sense,” he said, adding that both employers and employees should fare well under her leadership. “She has a very good track record of working well with the Democratic appointees to achieve the goals of equal employment opportunity.”

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