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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‘Breathtakingly radical’: Acosta questions legality of any overtime threshold

March 23, 2017 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor has questioned whether the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has the authority to set any salary threshold for overtime pay—not just the pending increase that would raise the threshold to $47,476.

Alexander Acosta volunteered that concern twice during his March 22 confirmation hearing, despite no questions from lawmakers to that effect. A former DOL economist who worked under President Barack Obama called Acosta’s statements “breathtakingly radical,” noting that an overtime threshold has been in place since 1938.

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Construction association sues to stop OFCCP’s new affirmative action rule

November 23, 2013 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

On November 19, 2013, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a national association for the construction industry, filed a request for an injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) final rule affecting federal government contractors, including construction contractors. The final rule implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act dramatically alters federal contractors’ existing affirmative action and nondiscrimination obligations for individuals with disabilities. The rule is schedule to go into effect March 24, 2014.

According to ABC, the association filed the lawsuit because “OFCCP exceeded its statutory authority, altered longstanding precedent, and imposed wasteful and burdensome data collection and reporting requirements on government contractors without any supporting evidence from the agency that contractors weren’t meeting the previous requirements.” ABC claims that the new rule “is especially burdensome for construction contractors that will be required to maintain written documentation and track whether the percentage of protected employees meets affirmative action requirements for federal projects. Such paperwork and reporting provisions are completely new to the construction industry—a fact that was not taken into account in OFCCP cost estimates.”

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Federal government eases stance on state marijuana laws

August 30, 2013 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement updating the federal marijuana enforcement policy means the federal government won’t sue to keep states from allowing controlled recreational use of marijuana, but the effect on employers isn’t yet clear.

The DOJ announced on August 29 that it was revising its policy because of state legislation in Colorado and Washington legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The announcement emphasized, however, that marijuana use remains unlawful under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and federal prosecutors will continue to enforce that law.

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