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Major League Baseball Umpire Strikes Out in His Assertion of Union Privilege in Discrimination Claim

A Federal District Court in New York recently fielded the issue of whether there is such a thing as a union relations privilege and the extent of that privilege. In Hernandez v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (18 Civ.No.35), baseball umpire Angel Hernandez alleged that Major League Baseball (MLB) had discriminated against him with respect to crew chief assignments and post-season umpiring assignments. There was no evidence Hernandez filed a grievance under his collective bargaining agreement regarding his discrimination claim and this was key to MLB's defense. Hernandez asserted union privilege in order to protect any discussions with representatives of the Major League Baseball Umpires Association (the "Union"). A New York District Court Judge, agreeing with the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, determined that under federal common law, any union relations privilege would only cover communications made in the context of representation by a union representative during disciplinary proceedings under a collective bargaining agreement. More ›

Hair Today…Discrimination Tomorrow? California and New York Adopt Hair Style Protections, Others Surely to Follow

On July 3, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved Senate Bill No. 188 providing legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and in public schools for natural and protective hairstyles historically worn by black people and people of color. This bill expanded the scope of what is considered a protected race category under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to include traits "historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles." Following California's lead, New York then became the second state to ban discrimination based on natural hairstyles on July 12, 2019, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law S.6209A/A.7797A, which amends the Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act. There is now proposed legislation in New Jersey as well, modeled after Senate Bill No. 188. This means employers in other states should take a hard look at their workplace hair and grooming policies to avoid discrimination actions. More ›

Employers Must Comply with FMLA Leave Designation Rules

Employers seeking to juggle employee leave demands with their own regulatory compliance obligations received clarification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Specifically, the DOL published a clarifying opinion letter regarding the issue of whether an employer may delay the designation of leave that qualifies under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and provide employees with leave beyond the 12-week statutory entitlement. The DOL ruled the employer cannot delay the designation. More ›

Seventh Circuit is latest Federal Court to Limit ADA Protection for Obesity

Regulators, judges and academics have all been vexed over the issue of whether obesity, not caused by an underlying physiological condition, is a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Notwithstanding existing EEOC Enforcement Guidance that obesity is in and of itself protected under the ADA, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently weighed in on the issue and held obesity is not an ADA-protected disability unless it is caused by a physiological disorder or condition. More ›

When Taking a Mexican Vacation During Your FMLA Leave is Not Grounds for Termination

A recent decision issued by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court offers up a good reminder that what employers may consider FMLA abuse may not in fact be FMLA abuse under the law. That's exactly the scenario that played out in Richard A. DaPrato vs. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. More ›

Employer Alert: SCOTUS Holds That EEOC Charge Processing Rules can be Waived by a Defendant Since they are not Jurisdictional

On June 3, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling that employers and their legal counsel need to be aware of. In Fort Bend County v. Davis, the Supreme Court ruled that the charge-filing requirements for EEOC discrimination claims filed under Title VII, including that Act's scope of charge and filing rules, are not jurisdictional and instead are claims processing rules which can be waived by a defendant if not timely raised in federal court proceedings. This decision resolves a split among multiple federal Circuit Courts which have confronted the issue. More ›

EEOC Announces Due Date for Collection of 2017 and 2018 EEO-1 Race, Gender, and Ethnicity Pay Data, DOL Files Appeal

The EEOC is immediately reinstating the revised EEO-1 pay data survey previously put on hold by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), even as the U.S. Department of Labor seeks to challenge the court ruling that mandated the data collection. The deadline for filing Component 2 data for calendar years 2017 and 2018 will be September 30, 2019. The EEOC will begin collecting Component 2 data sometime in mid-July, but the precise date is still unknown. The EEOC will notify filers of the opening date "as soon as it is available." More ›

SCOTUS Reverses Ninth Circuit, Finds Class Arbitration Must be Explicitly Authorized in Agreements

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) handed employers a major win in Epic Systems v. Lewis, when it ruled that employees must submit claims to arbitration on an individualized basis when their employment agreements require it, even when those claims could be brought as class or collective action under federal legislation. More recently, in Lamps Plus Inc. et al. v. Frank Varela, SCOTUS addressed the issue of whether a worker can pursue class arbitration when an arbitration agreement does not explicitly address class arbitration. By a 5-4 vote, the court said class arbitration is also barred in such circumstances, holding that "[u]nder the Federal Arbitration Act, an ambiguous agreement cannot provide the necessary contractual basis for concluding that the parties agreed to submit to class arbitration[.]" More ›

Hair today...discrimination case tomorrow?

California is well on its way to unanimously becoming the first state to ban discrimination in schools and workplaces based on hair/hairstyles, hair textures, and protective hairstyles such as twists, braids, updos, and wigs. The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act would prohibit employers and schools from enforcing discriminatory grooming, hair keeping policies, or dress codes that could disproportionately affect people of color. Going forward, California employers should look at their related polices to ensure they are non-discriminatory and do not specifically target hairstyles or hair textures of people of color. More ›

SCOTUS Will Decide Whether Title VII Protects LGBTQ Workers

After considerable anticipation, the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear three cases involving questions of whether Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination encompasses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The first two cases, Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, were brought by employees who alleged their employers terminated their employment after learning they were gay. The Court's decision will resolve a widening circuit split over whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In Altitude Express, the Second Circuit joined the Seventh Circuit in holding it does cover sexual orientation, overturning longstanding precedent in the process. The court reasoned "the most natural reading of the statute's prohibition on discrimination 'because of . . . sex' is that it extends to sexual orientation discrimination because sex is necessarily a factor in sexual orientation." In Bostock, the Eleventh Circuit held it does not, explaining it remained bound by a 1979 case holding "[d]ischarge for homosexuality is not prohibited by Title VII." More ›

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