In Burns v. The Ohio State University, an Ohio appeals court refused to recognize sexual orientation discrimination and harassment as prohibited “sex” discrimination under Ohio law, punting the issue once again to the Ohio legislature.

Background Facts 

Colby Burns was a resident of veterinary clinical sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine at The

We all understand the importance of including a confidentiality clause in settlement, severance, and separation agreements. While nothing can prevent a departing employee from going on a conspicuous shopping spree or driving around town in a flashy new car with his/her settlement dollars or severance payment, employers want to avoid a situation where a former employee openly discloses the amount of a settlement or severance payment and encourages legal challenges by other employees who may have different circumstances than the employee receiving the payment and/or causing discord among current employees who feel cheated by the departing employee receiving a payment they do not believe the employee deserved. A recent Facebook mistake by the daughter of a plaintiff who settled a lawsuit with his former employer highlights the need for well drafted confidentiality clauses. In a story making news beyond just the human resources and legal circles, Dana Snay’s Facebook post cost her father his $80,000 settlement.
Continue Reading Daughter’s Facebook brag underscores the enforceability of confidentiality clauses in settlement and severance agreements

The Sixth Circuit recently addressed the issue of whether a “sex-plus” claim of discrimination, where a former employee claimed that she was discriminated against specifically for being an African American female, can be made under Title VII. The case is significant for reinforcing the notion that the various traits protected by Title VII necessarily coexist and should not always be considered separate from each other, but also for its emphasis on the importance of e-mail traffic in discrimination cases.
Continue Reading “Sex-Plus” Discrimination Claims Are Still Viable

Those of you who watched President Obama’s State of the Union Address know he announced that he will establish by Executive Order a minimum wage of $10.10 for all federal contractors and subcontractors. A proposal backed by the White House is currently pending in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all employers from $7.25 to $10.10. There is strong opposition to the proposed law. The President’s anticipated Executive Order does not need Congressional approval because it will not impact all employers, just those who have federal contracts or subcontracts.
Continue Reading Updates for Federal Contractors: New Minimum Wage Coming Soon; New Required Form for Self-Identification of Disability Published by OFCCP.

In Deleon v. Kalamazoo Cnty. Road Comm’n, a split Sixth Circuit panel concluded that the district court improperly granted the employer summary judgment on the plaintiff’s discrimination claims despite the fact that the alleged adverse employment action was a transfer that the plaintiff had actively sought only nine months earlier.
Continue Reading Sometimes An Employer Just Can’t Win

I have to admit that I generally love it when a federal court judge begins an opinion with a flourish like this: “December 20, 2011, was defining day for Appellant Angela Powell-Pickett.” Almost made me think of Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (OK, maybe not quite.) But I knew from that first line in the court’s opinion in Angela Powell-Pickett v. A.K Steel Corporation would be a good one. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Does Not Permit Amnesiac Plaintiff to Revive Memory Via Contradictory Affidavit

It’s hard to believe that what someone says on social media may not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The truth is, people are more likely to say things on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, that they would never say to or about a person directly because the computer gives people a false impression that they can say or do whatever they want without repercussion. But as we have warned time and time again, comments made on social media sites may not be as private as the commenter may believe and can be very damaging, especially when those comments concern workplace issues, and even more so when they make allegations of workplace misconduct. Debord v. Mercy Health System of Kansas, Inc., Nos. 12-3072 and 12-3109 (10th Cir. Nov. 26, 2013) is a case that demonstrates just how an employee may feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof sitting at a computer keyboard, but whose tone changes when the repercussions from a social media post become all too real.
Continue Reading When an Employee’s 10-Foot-Tall and Bulletproof Attitude on Social Media Becomes a Workplace Reality (and Nightmare)

This week, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a sharply divided 4-3 opinion in Freshwater v. Mt. Vernon City School Dist. Bd. of Edn., Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-5000(Nov. 19, 2013), which held that the Mt. Vernon City School District had “good and just cause” under Ohio Revised Code §3319.16 for terminating a controversial middle school science teacher for insubordination because he refused to remove religious displays from his classroom after being ordered to do so. While the Court also held that the school district violated Freshwater’s First Amendment rights when it ordered him to remove his personal Bible from his desk, the firing was affirmed because Freshwater’s refusal to remove other religious materials on display in his classroom supplied sufficient “good and just cause” for termination required under §3319.16 for terminating a public school teacher’s contract. Having upheld the insubordination finding, the Court avoided having to address the more thorny constitutional issue of whether the teacher impermissibly imposed his religious beliefs in his classroom.

In 2007, a student and his parents claimed that Freshwater: (1) used an electrostatic device to make a mark on the student’s arm resembling a cross; (2) participated in the student group Fellowship of Christian Athletes when he was only permitted to monitor it; and, (3) had religious materials in his classroom.

School officials repeatedly told Freshwater to remove religious icons and materials from his classroom, including a collage incorporating the Ten Commandments and a poster showing a Biblical verse. Freshwater was also informed that Bibles and other religious materials needed to be kept out of the students’ sight. Freshwater did not listen. In fact, disregarding the school’s instructions, Freshwater checked out two religious books from the school library and displayed them in his classroom.
Continue Reading Ohio Supreme Court Holds A Public Teacher Shall Not Disobey a School Board’s Directive Not To Display Religious Materials in the Classroom