Menu
Photo of Employment Law Observer Tom H. Luetkemeyer
Partner
tluetkemeyer@hinshawlaw.com
312-704-3056
View Bio
Tom Luetkemeyer concentrates his practice in the areas of labor and employment law and corporate health care law. Mr. Luetkemeyer represents …

Showing 34 posts by Tom H. Luetkemeyer.

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Section 1981 Racial Discrimination Claims Require But-For Causation

In a unanimous decision issued on March 23, 2020, the United States Supreme Court held that a but-for causation standard applies to claims brought under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The Supreme Court also noted that this standard applies throughout the litigation process, including the initial pleading stage.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, a Reconstruction-era statute, includes Section 1981, which guarantees "[a]ll persons . . . the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens." In Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media, the plaintiff pursued a number of theories, but essentially argued that the Court should adopt the motivating factor test employed in cases arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employment law practitioners often will see complaints including counts for both violations of Title VII and Section 1981. It is important to recognize that the causation standards are different for these two statutes. More ›

Federal Court Allows ADEA Disparate Impact Claims over Employer Policies to Proceed

Ever since the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Smith v. City of Jackson, plaintiff employment lawyers have struggled with how best to assert a viable claim of disparate impact age discrimination. The concept of disparate impact discrimination was recognized by the Supreme Court decades ago in Griggs v. Duke Power, which established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it unlawful—even if facially neutral—for employer practices to have a materially adverse impact on a protected group, unless the neutral practice is supported by business necessity. More ›

D.C. Circuit Instructs NLRB to Revisit its Approach to Balancing Section 7 Rights with Other Employer Obligations

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently remanded a decision of the National Labor Relations Board (the "Board"), thus compelling the Board to revisit and clarify its position on the scope of Section 7 protection for speech or conduct which may subject an employer to liability under other statutes, including Title VII. The D.C. Circuit concluded that the Board failed to consider key arguments raised by the employer, namely, the conflict between the Board's interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and an employer's obligation to provide a workplace free of unlawful harassment under state and federal equal employment opportunity laws. More ›

NLRB Restricts Employee Use of Employer-Provided Email for Section 7 Purposes

Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board ("Board") issued an important decision, returning to its prior precedent with respect to employee use of employer-provided email for Section 7 purposes. In Caesars Entertainment and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council, the Board overruled the Obama-era decision of Purple Communications, Inc. and returned to the rationale the Board had adopted during the George W. Bush era in Register Guard.

The Board held that the Purple Communications decision was out of line with its prior precedent and impermissibly discounted employers' property rights with respect to their IT resources while overstating the importance of those resources to Section 7 activity. In returning to the Register Guard holding, the Board recognized and created an exception to the Register Guard rule in cases where an employer's email system is the only reasonable means for employees to communicate with one another. More ›

NLRB Clarifies "Wright Line" Test

When motive is at issue in resolving certain unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) utilizes the burden-shifting framework established under Wright Line to make a determination. In Tschiggfrie Properties, Ltd., the Board took the opportunity to clarify the initial burden of proof required by the General Counsel in light of what it perceived to be confusion over a number of its recent decisions, as well as criticism from a number of federal courts, including, most recently, the Eighth Circuit. More ›

The Eighth Circuit Examines When Partners are Owners as Opposed to Employees Covered by the ADEA

Earlier this week, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a Missouri district court's decision in Von Kaenel v. Armstrong Teasdale, LLP. This case of first impression for the circuit court involved an equity partner at Armstrong Teasdale LLP, Joseph S. von Kaenel, who was forced out at age 70 at the conclusion of 2014. He alleged that but for the firm's mandatory retirement policy in the firm's partnership agreement, he would have retired at or around 75. He filed suit in federal court, where the central issue was whether he was an employee covered under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The Eighth Circuit concluded that he was not an employee covered by the ADEA.

While this ruling is specific to law firms, all businesses using a partnership model, especially multitiered partnerships, should proceed with caution in applying this decision.

Read our Lawyers for the Profession® alert about the case to learn more.

Seventh Circuit Issues Another ADA Decision Involving Obesity Disability, Finds Future Impairments Are Not Covered

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has issued another ruling regarding an obesity-related disability accommodation request under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Earlier this past summer, we reported on another Seventh Circuit case, in which the court held that obesity is not an ADA-protected disability unless it is caused by a physiological disorder or condition. In Ronald Shell v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, the Seventh Circuit reversed a district court's decision, and ruled that an obese applicant for a safety-sensitive position—who was not hired due to his obesity—cannot claim discrimination under the "regarded as" prong of the ADA. More ›

Federal Court in Montana Rules Demand for a Supervisor Reassignment is not an Appropriate Accommodation under the ADA

If you do not like your boss, can you demand your employer provide you with a new one? A federal district court in Montana recently rejected such an accommodation request in a well-reasoned case involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related state law. While the court did not rule out the requested accommodation as unreasonable as a matter of law, it did find the request was not appropriate under the facts of the case. More ›

NLRB Provides Section 7 Guidance to Employers Regarding Drafting of Arbitration Agreements

There is an ongoing tension between the National Labor Relations Board (the "Board") and employers who seek to expand the use of an arbitration forum to resolve employment disputes. The U.S. Supreme Court has continued to endorse the idea that arbitration is both an important part of national labor policy and a reasonable alternative to litigation in court for employment-related disputes. As the Board issues new opinions and interprets guidance from the Supreme Court, employers are in a position to gain better insight and avoid problematic drafting mistakes in arbitration agreements. More ›

The Suggestion Box: Useful Management Tool or Unlawful Solicitation of Grievances

T-Mobile USA, Inc. ("T-Mobile") in 2015 created T-Voice, a nationwide program through which customer service representatives could submit "pain points" regarding certain aspects of the job, including ideas to improve customer service. The majority of these pain points addressed customer service issues, such as billing, fraud procedures, access to computer programs, and at times, the type of music customers were subjected to while on hold. Some of the suggestions have led to action being taken by T-Mobile, like requests for device-charging stations, which resulted in T-Mobile installing three stations. More ›

Search
Subscribe via Email

Blog Editors