Wyatt Employment Law Report


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U.S. Supreme Court Sets Forth Test for Evaluating Pregnancy Discrimination Claims

By Michelle High

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), dictates that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same” as other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.”  The Act has two sections.  The first section provides that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy because it would be sex discrimination and the second section provides that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability to work.”  The second section of the law has been the source of repeated questions for employers and employees alike.

pregnancyIn Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., a newly released 6-3 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court has provided a test detailing when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees to extend such accommodations to pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

Peggy Young was a driver with UPS.  When she became pregnant, her obstetrician advised her not to lift more than 20 pounds.   Generally, UPS drivers were expected to carry packages of up to 70 pounds, but the company offered accommodations to those injured on the job; those with conditions recognized as Continue reading


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House Unanimously Passes the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, Bill Now Onto Senate

The House unanimously passed the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HB 218), which would require employers subject to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to provide reasonable accommodations for “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” It would also amend the Civil Rights Act to make it unlawful for employers to “fail to accommodate an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition [and would] require employers to provide notice to all employees regarding discrimination for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” In addition, a “related medical condition” would be amended to include “lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child and has the same meaning as in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. sec. 2000e(k).” The bill is now headed to the Senate.

pregnancy, workAccommodations for pregnant employees is a hot topic in employment news right now. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in Young v. UPS whether employers are required under the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act to provide accommodations for pregnancy–related symptoms. Young had requested light duty due to Continue reading


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2014 EEOC Enforcement and Litigation Statistics

By Courtney Ross Samford

On February 4, 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal year 2014.  A total of 88,778 workplace discrimination charges were filed in 2014, which is down slightly from prior years.  StatisticsRetaliation charges were at an all-time high and comprised nearly 43% of all charges.  Thirty-five percent of charges alleged race discrimination, while 29% claimed discrimination based on sex, which includes pregnancy and sexual harassment.  The EEOC’s enforcement activities resulted in almost $300 million over the last year.

The data also indicates that the EEOC’s Office of General Counsel was busy in 2014, filing a total of 133 lawsuits on the merits against employers across the country.  The EEOC secured $22.5 billion in monetary relief through litigation and mediation.

Finally, the EEOC released updated statistics on a state-by-state basis.  Texas led all states with more than 8,000 charges.   Tennessee charges increased to 3,221, while charges in Kentucky, Indiana and Mississippi decreased to 975, 2,700, and 1,781, respectively.


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EEOC Releases Its FY 2014 Performance Report

By Sharon L. Gold

On November 17, 2014, after the end of EEOC’s fiscal year (FY 2014), the EEOC released its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) that discussed the agency’s goals and outcomes and provided statistics for the past year. Some highlights of the PAR:

  • According to the PAR, in FY 2014, the EEOC met, partially met or exceeded its target results in all 14 measures of its 2012-2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan. The EEOC obtained $296.1 million in monetary damages for claimants alleging employment discrimination in the private and state and local government sector. The EEOC obtained $22.5 million through litigation involving private sector employers and $74 million for public sector employees.
  • There were 88,778 charges in FYI 2014, which was down about 5,000 from FY 2013. The EEOC claims that fewer charges were resolved than in FY 2013 (9,810 less) because of the government shut-down and sequestration. Although there was a hiring freeze early on in the year, the EEOC hired 300 new employees at the end of the year. EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang states in the PAR that she hopes that increased hiring and investments in technological advances will help with the agency more quickly and efficiently investigate charges.
  • In FY 2014, the EEOC’s education and outreach program sponsored 3,512 free trainings and events.    The National Training Institute trained over 18,000 people at 420 events. The NTI focuses on the Strategic Enforcement Plan priorities.
  • The EEOC’s mediation program resolved 7,846 disputes out of the 10,221 mediations that were conducted, resulting in $144.6 million in compensation for the claimants.
  • The EEOC filed 133 lawsuits this year, which included 105 individual suits, 11 non-systemic class suits, and 17 systemic suits.  The 136 merits lawsuits were resolved and obtained $22.5 million for the claimants.   At the end of the year, the EEOC had a backlog of 228 cases on its active docket.
  • The EEOC continued to focus on systematic enforcement, completing 260 systemic investigations that resulted in 78 settlements and $13 million in monetary relief.
  • Systemic lawsuits make up the largest proportion of active suits, consisting of 25 percent of all active merits suits and 13 percent of total merits filings this year.

The main takeaway from the EEOC’s PAR is that it is evident that the EEOC is continuing to aggressively pursue systematic discrimination claims. Also, it is apparent that the EEOC’s backlog continues to be a problem for both parties involved in the dispute. Hopefully the additional staff hired this year will decrease the time a charge is pending.

The Press Release about the Performance and Accountability Report is available at:

http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/11-18-14.cfm

 

The Performance and Accountability Report is available at:

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/2014par.pdf

 


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OSC Finds That Army Harassed Transgender Worker

By Leila G. O’Carra

On October 23, 2014, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced its landmark determination that the Department of the Army engaged in gender identity discrimination against a civilian Army quality assurance specialist after she revealed her intention to transition from male to female. The Army agreed to provide remedial training on prohibited personnel practices, particularly on prohibitions against gender identity discrimination. The Army also agreed to provide workplace diversity and sensitivity training.

This finding marks the latest in a string of federal governmental actions aimed at prohibiting discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed two lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs challenging transgender discrimination.   In both cases, the plaintiffs claim that their employers fired them because they were transitioning from male to female. The EEOC has previously interpreted Title VII to prohibit discrimination on the basis of transgender status, but this new litigation will be the first time that the EEOC tests its interpretation in court.
  • In July 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal government contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • In April 2014, in official guidance on Title IX, the Office of Civil Rights stated that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity…”

Employers must understand that while sexual orientation and gender identity are not listed as protected classes in either Title VII or Title IX, the federal agencies charged with enforcing those laws interpret them to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, employers that are “religious corporations,” and educational institutions that are “controlled by religious organizations,” may be entitled to exemptions if application of the law would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of those organizations.


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Employers Beware: The Lateral Transfer Of An Employee Can Be An Adverse Employment Action

by Michael D. Hornback

On January 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer, finding that a jury should determine whether the lateral transfer of an employee constituted an adverse employment action. Continue reading


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Court Upholds Large Judgment Against EEOC For Bringing Frivolous Lawsuit

By Edwin S. Hopson

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in EEOC v. Peoplemark, ___ F3rd ___, No. 11-2582 (2013) recently affirmed a judgment against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the sum of $751,942 for attorney fees and costs sought by Peoplemark, which claimed that EEOC’s action brought against it was frivolous.  The Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, agreed that EEOC’s claim that the company had a policy of denying employment to convicted felons and that it was unlawful and had a disparate impact on African-Americans lacked merit and was frivolous.  The company early on in the process had established that it had in fact hired convicted felons.  It would not be surprising if the EEOC sought review of this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals decision can be found at:

http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/13a0291p-06.pdf

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