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Where Do I Pee? “The Bathroom Corresponding to Your Gender Identity Says the EEOC

Bathroom use by transgender individuals is today’s hot-button civil rights issue.  The often strong and disparate opinions about the subject creates a conundrum for employers: How do we make everyone comfortable while ensuring a safe and inclusive environment?  And how do we do that without violating the law? More ›

Knock-Knock, Who’s There? The EEOC: When the EEOC’s Can Investigate an Employer’s Premises Without Prior Consent

When the EEOC investigates a charge of discrimination, it may employ one of several investigatory methods, including site inspections.  In EEOC v. Nucor Steel Gallatin, Inc., a case of national first impression, a Kentucky district court considered whether to enforce a subpoena requiring the employer to provide on-site access to conduct witness interviews, examine the facility, and obtain additional information relating to the position the complainant applied for, or alternatively, to require the EEOC to obtain an administrative warrant.   More ›

NY Transit Agencies Escape Vicarious Liability for Contractors Alleged Discrimination

It is not uncommon for companies to contract their daily business operations to third-party companies.  In Motta et al v. Global Contact Services, Inc., the court addressed whether such relationships relieve the outsourcing company of any duties to address discrimination or harassment in the workplace. More ›

New Federal Trade Secrets Protections for Employers

Both the U.S. Senate and House have passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 and it is expected to be signed by President Obama in short order. More ›

Employee’s Inability to Meet Job’s Attendance Requirements Divests her of ADA Protections Sixth Circuit Holds

The converging paths of the Family Medical Leave Act’s (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ranks among the most difficult legal issues for employers to safely traverse.  Employers should think twice before terminating an employee who cannot return to work after 12 weeks of FMLA leave.  This is because courts across the country have held that additional leave may be a necessary reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  The question then becomes, how much additional leave does one need to provide an employee before he or she is no longer protected by the ADA. More ›

Perception Is Everything: Supreme Court Expands First Amendment Protections for Public Employees

In a decision that may expand the "zone of interest" protected by the First Amendment via 42 U.S.C. §1983, the Supreme Court in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, strengthened free speech rights for public employees by holding a public employee may bring a suit premised on his engagement in protected political activities, even when the employee did not engage in those activities, and the employer was mistaken in its belief that he had.

The Case

The city demoted a police officer (Heffernan) after it believed Heffernan was holding a campaign sign supporting a mayoral candidate and speaking to the candidate’s campaign staff. The demotion was intended as punishment for Heffernan's "overt involvement" in the campaign. However, the city was mistaken about his political activity, because Heffernan was only transporting the challenger's sign to his sick mother, at her request. More ›

Department of Labor's Persuader Rule Convinces No One

Late last month, the Department of Labor published its "persuader" regulation final rule, which significantly strengthens a union's rights under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMDRA"). 

Generally, the LMDRA regulates the public reporting obligations of businesses seeking legal and non-legal counsel to oppose or manage relations with unions. A consultant, known as a "persuader," helps an employer navigate organizing drives and labor disputes. Before this final rule, The LMDRA required "direct" persuader activities to be reported, such as meetings between the persuader and employees, but exempted "indirect" activities, such as the preparation of materials for the employer to provide to its employees. More ›

Whistle while you work… on getting dressed: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules Hormel employees to be paid for time putting on clothing and safety gear

Like most employers, Hormel Foods paid its employees from the time they punched-in to the time they punched-out. Prior to punching the clock, manufacturing employees were required to dress in a clean white jumpsuit, boots, hard hat, eye protection, hearing protection, and hair net. The reverse process was repeated after the employees punched out at the end of their shift. Each employee spent almost six minutes per day off the clock "donning" [putting on] and "doffing" [taking off] required clothing and equipment. More ›

Is Labor Law Putting the Franchise Business Model at Risk?

Over the course of the last year, we have kept you abreast of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case law and Department of Labor (DOL) interpretive/enforcement guidance, how these agencies are changing their view of the responsibility of parent corporations for the employment relationship between employees of temporary agencies and franchises, and how these changes have the potential to drastically alter the benefits and risks of utilizing these relationships.

In what could become one of the most enlightening applications yet of this emerging shift, an NLRB hearing before an administrative law judge began last week in involving allegations by workers that McDonald's is responsible as a joint employer for the alleged labor law violations of its franchisees. The franchisors are alleged to have threatened, disciplined, or fired franchise employees who participated in widely-publicized campaigns for collective bargaining and a $15 minimum wage. More ›

New York District Court Holds Sexual Orientation Not Protected by Title VII

Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") announced filing its first federal lawsuits against private-sector businesses, challenging sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination. Coincidentally, a week later, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc. that, although sexual orientation discrimination is "reprehensible," it does not violate Title VII.  These cases demonstrate the legal community's struggle in defining and interpreting the law as currently written while, at the same time, attempting to ensure equal protections for gay and lesbian individuals. More ›

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