Employer Law Report

Archives: EEO

Subscribe to EEO RSS Feed

New app allows consumers to buy based on which companies are female-friendly

Thanks to Summer Associate Christopher Hawthorne for his assistance with this blog entry.

In an era of consumers making choices based on whether companies have ethical labor and sourcing practices, a new app now tracks how female friendly a company is. “Buy Up Index,” reveals whether a company’s workplace policies and practices accommodate and empower its female employees. Through this app, consumers no longer have to rely on the company’s public persona.

The app uses four criteria—women employees, women’s leadership, corporate citizenship, and marketing—to create an overall score that grades the company’s treatment of its female employees. Employers are graded …

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses district court’s ruling in Title VII retaliation case, proving that getting the entire story is key for employers

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses district court’s summary judgment ruling in Yazdian v. ConMed Endoscopic Tech., Inc., on a Title VII retaliation claim, finding a reasonable jury could conclude the former employee was terminated for engaging in protected activity.

Background

Reza Yazdian, an Iranian-American Muslim, was employed with ConMed Endoscopic Tech., Inc. from April 1, 2005 through July 26, 2010, as a territory manager. In 2009, Yazdian received favorable ratings in all categories and was described as a talented salesman. Yazdian’s direct supervisor from 2008 until the time of his termination was Timothy Sweatt, and Sweatt reported …

Employment law and recent events: Confederate flag unrest

Thanks to Porter Wright Summer Associate Carolyn Alford for her assistance in preparing this blog post.

The recent tragedy in South Carolina, where a reputed white supremacist opened fire on a crowd of Black churchgoers, has propelled the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism back into the public spotlight, after a picture surfaced of the shooter posing with a gun in front of a Confederate flag. The attention the Confederate flag has received nationwide will no doubt be reflected in the workplace as well. But what are an employer’s responsibilities when an employee or manager wants to display the …

OFCCP posts sample affirmative action plans for individuals with disabilities and veterans

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently posted sample affirmative action plans (AAPs) for individuals with disabilities and veterans to its website, available here.

The forms should be helpful guidance for companies who are federal contractors and subcontractors who are looking to comply with new regulations that took effect on March 24, 2014 but are only now being integrated into AAPs that were already in existence on the regulations’ effective date. Many contractors and subcontractors are incorporating or incorporated these regulatory changes into their annual AAPs in 2015 for the first time.

The samples are designed to …

Join us in Cleveland on Wednesday, May 13 for our Spring Employment Relations Seminar – Fresh Ideas for Employers

Fresh ideas header

Need to refresh your workplace?

Join Porter Wright’s Labor and Employment Group on Wednesday, May 13 as we share Fresh Ideas for Employers

Topics Include:

Freshly Picked: A Review of Recent Employment Law Updates Tracey L. Turnbull, Porter Wright

As you look to make sure your policies and practices reflect recent developments, you will not want to miss this session. We will review recent significant judicial and administrative decisions addressing a variety of employment law issues. This review will highlight the best practices and instincts that will ensure you are complying with new laws and developments.

Straight Off the Vine:

Courts can (barely) weigh in on whether EEOC satisfies its conciliation obligations

On Wednesday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated and remanded a 7th Circuit decision that said courts could not review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) satisfied its conciliation obligations under Title VII. Mach Mining LLC v. EEOC, No. 13-1019 (2015). The review the Court permitted, however, remains limited and courts are only to enforce the EEOC’s obligation to give an employer notice and a chance to achieve voluntary compliance. The court made a point to recognize that the EEOC still had “extensive discretion to determine the kind and amount of communication with an employer …

EEOC issues proposed rule on ADA application to employer wellness programs

On April 16, 2015, the EEOC released its long-anticipated proposed rule on the extent to which the ADA permits employers to offer incentives to employees to promote participation in wellness programs that are employee health programs. For the most part, the rule reflects the EEOC’s efforts to make the ADA’s requirements consistent with the requirements for employer wellness programs that are already found in HIPAA’s non-discrimination provisions, as amended by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), but there are some key differences and the EEOC’s proposed rule leaves open some questions that hopefully will be addressed when the final rule is …

Sixth Circuit in EEOC v. Ford: Sometimes showing up really is an essential function of the job

Almost a year ago, we wrote that a panel of the Sixth Circuit in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, bucking the trend elsewhere, had held that an employer could be required to permit an employee to work from home as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Last week, however, the entire Sixth Circuit, in an 8-5 decision, issued an opinion overturning the panel’s decision and finding that in-person attendance at the work site is generally an essential function of most jobs, particularly those that are interactive. The court recognized that advances in technology may mean that regular on-site …

Reminder to federal contractors and subcontractors: April 8th effective date for expanded discrimination protections

In December, 2014, Jamie LaPlante wrote here about expanded obligations under the affirmative action laws that cover federal contractors and subcontractors. Among the changes she mentioned was the April 8th effective date for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity among the classes protected under affirmative action laws. The expanded protections apply to all federal contractors and subcontractors who enter into new contracts or modify existing contracts on or after April 8th.

Under the expanded protections, discrimination against applicants or employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited. Sexual orientation and gender identity now …

New “significant burden” test for pregnancy discrimination

Yesterday, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and answered the question of how to apply the law to an employer’s policy that accommodates many, but not all, workers with non-pregnancy related issues.

Peggy Young was a part-time driver for United Parcel Service (UPS). After becoming pregnant, her doctor advised her she should not lift more than 20 pounds. UPS required drivers like Young to routinely lift up to 70 pounds. UPS told Young that she could not work while under the temporary lifting restrictions which accompanied her pregnancy.  At the time, UPS …

DOL’s new rule puts same-sex couples on level footing under the FMLA

On Monday, February 23, 2015, the Department of Labor issued a new rule providing FMLA leave benefits to workers in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of where the couple resides. Employees in same-sex marriages now have consistent federal family leave rights as those in opposite-sex marriages to take leave to care for a spouse with a serious health condition. The new rule updates the regulatory definition of “spouse” providing benefits now based on the law of the place where the same-sex marriage was entered into, regardless of whether the state in which the couple currently resides recognizes such marriages.

An employee …

Employers are not required to break the law to provide a religious accommodation

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals provides a common sense decision in Yeager v. FirstEnergy Generation Corporation, reminding employers they are not liable under Title VII when “accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs would require the employer to violate federal. . . law.”

Donald Yeager, a Fundamentalist Christian, disavowed and disclaimed his social security number when he was 18 years old based on his sincerely held religious beliefs. When Yeager applied for an internship with FirstEnergy he refused to supply the number. FirstEnergy subsequently refused to hire him.

Mr. Yeager filed suit in the federal district court in March of …

Employment Law Proposals Highlight State of the Union Address

In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama reemphasized that employment and labor reform are at the forefront of his current agenda. He urged lawmakers to pass laws regarding the following:

  • Equal pay law for women;
  • Higher federal minimum wage;
  • Government-mandated 7 days of paid sick leave per year.

As we have previously reported, many states, including Ohio, and municipalities have raised minimum wages at the state or local level. As of January 1, 2015, Ohio’s minimum wage is $8.10 per hour for employers with annual gross receipts of $297,000 or more, which is higher than the current …

Confused or overwhelmed about the new obligations and regulatory activity related to federal contractors? – You aren’t alone

The Office of Federal Contacts Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has been very busy changing the rules for federal contractors and subcontractors. There are 8 new developments from the second half of 2014 that all covered contractors should be aware of:

  1. Final rule prohibiting discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity for federal contractors subject to Executive Order 11246.
  2. New scheduling letter released requiring submission of data regarding veterans, disabled persons, compensation, and other items not previously required.
  3. New form for annual submissions about veterans to be used beginning in 2015 (replaces VETS-100A and VETS-100).
  4.  Proposed rule to prohibit federal contractors from

Ohio Appellate Court upholds employee termination for Facebook threats

A recent Ohio appellate court decision highlights how an employer’s response to employee threats of violence made on social media sites can impact a court’s decision when the employee challenges their termination. In Ames v. Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction, the plaintiff was employed by ODRC as a Senior Parole Officer. In 2009, after the plaintiff returned from a medical leave of absence due to depression and anxiety, her co-workers and supervisors began noticing what they described as a pattern of interpersonal conflicts, erratic behavior, and emotional outbursts at work. Later that year, while discussing her work situation …

Covered affirmative action employers — more scary news from the OFCCP

On August 6, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced a proposed rule that should be of real concern to covered affirmative action federal contractors. The OFCCP is the agency that enforces federal affirmative action laws. If the proposed rule is adopted, it will add compensation data to the information that covered employers must submit with their annual EEO-1 reports. Keep in mind the “web” of coverage under affirmative action laws reaches far. Coverage is triggered not just by direct federal contracts but also by contracts to provide goods or services to any private sector entity, as …

President Obama issues executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

On July 21, 2014, President Obama issued an executive order amending Executive Order 11246 by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes for federal contractors and subcontractors. Under the amended Executive Order 11246, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to select and employ individuals without regard to sexual orientation and gender identity.  Executive Order 11246’s nondiscrimination provisions apply to contractors and subcontractors with over $10,000 in total government contracts and subcontracts in one year. This executive order does not include a religious exemption, which was the subject of negotiation between the White House and religious …

EEOC issues updated enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues

Over the dissents of Commissioners Lipnic and Barker, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Monday, July 14, 2014, issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, along with a question and answer document about the guidance and a Fact Sheet for Small Businesses. In addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the guidance discusses the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008, to individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities.

According to the EEOC, the guidance sets out the fundamental PDA requirements that an employer may not …

Federal court finds employer may be liable under the ADA for employee’s snarky Facebook comments about another employee’s medical condition

In Shoun v. Best Formed Plastics, Inc., a federal judge held that an employer may be liable for an employee’s snarky Facebook comments about another employee’s medical condition. This case serves as a good reminder to employers and employees alike of the importance of preserving the confidentiality of employee medical information.

Factual background

George Shoun, an employee at Best Formed Plastics, suffered a workplace injury and took a few weeks off work to recover. Jane Stewart, another employee, processed his worker’s compensation claim and monitored his medical treatment for the company. In doing so, she learned the nature and …

University gets it right when it says, “enough is enough”: Tenth Circuit upholds inflexible leave policy under Rehabilitation Act

Employers who have been concerned about the EEOC’s stance on inflexible maximum leave policies can find some comfort in the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Hwang v. Kansas State University, wherein the court held a six month leave of absence was a reasonable accommodation, and the University’s denial of additional time was not a violation of the Rehabilitation Act.

Facts

Grace Hwang was employed as a professor at Kansas State University from 1994 until February 2012, on a year-to-year contract. Ms. Hwang served as an assistant professor in KSU’s School of Leadership Studies. In 2005, Hwang was diagnosed with breast …

Articulating inconsistent reasons for an employee’s discharge results in a denial of summary judgment

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently revived an age discrimination lawsuit brought against printing giant QG LLC by a former Plant Facilities Manager, finding that QG could not hide behind the poor economic climate and its own decision to reduce headcount when it discharged the manager and replaced him with a younger employee, particularly given that it offered inconsistent reasons for the discharge.

In Pierson v. Quad/Graphics Printing Corp., James Pierson was discharged from his position as Plant Facilities Manager at the age of sixty-two.  QG was experiencing financial setbacks and decided to cut costs and eliminate various …

Two lessons learned from JP Morgan Chase’s recent $1.45 million EEOC settlement

In a widely publicized case, the EEOC obtained a $1.45 million settlement on behalf of female mortgage consultants in Columbus, Ohio who it alleges were subjected to a hostile work environment and denied lucrative sales leads and training opportunities. Employers can learn two lessons from the case: (1) the method of distributing sales leads, customers, and territories should be defensible and (2) litigation holds should be promptly and effectively implemented as soon as litigation is anticipated.

Aimee Doneyhue worked at JPMorgan Chase in Columbus, Ohio as a mortgage consultant, a commission-based sales position. Doneyhue alleged that she was subject to …

Sixth Circuit reverses course and holds that telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation

Courts in the past, including in the Sixth Circuit (which includes Ohio), have held that telecommuting is not required as a reasonable accommodation because regular attendance at work on a predictable schedule is an essential function of almost all jobs (excepting those that are regularly done by all employees from a remote location). On April 22nd, however, the Sixth Circuit reversed course in a 2-1 decision in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company and revived the EEOC’s lawsuit on behalf of a fired Ford worker with irritable bowel syndrome.

The employee utilized intermittent FMLA leave over a period of …

Sixth Circuit summarily rejects EEOC expert in Title VII challenge to credit history checks

In a harsh rebuke of the EEOC’s method of attempting to prove that Kaplan Higher Education Corp.’s consideration of credit history for hiring in select positions was discriminatory, the Sixth Circuit, only three weeks after oral argument, issued a decision upholding the federal district court’s order excluding the EEOC’s expert opinion from evidence and dismissing the EEOC’s case.  The first sentence of the court’s opinion pretty much tells the EEOC all it needs to know: “In this case the EEOC sued the defendants for using the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses.” Indeed, the EEOC alleged …

LexBlog