Discrimination & Harassment

Welcome (almost) to the New Year: a time of renewal, a fresh start, a clean slate, and a time to make and hopefully keep resolutions. A “New Year’s Resolution” is, of course, a commitment in the coming year to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a goal or otherwise make a material improvement.

Toward this end, we thought it appropriate to launch a mini-series of some compliance-related resolutions employers might consider for 2018. In fact, we can’t think of a better way to close out 2017 than with a series devoted to a collective resolution to make 2018 a year devoted to cleaning out the cobwebs and achieving (better) employment law compliance.

We recognize, given the complexity of our legal landscape and the challenges of managing human relationships in the workplace, complete employment compliance is a worthy but perhaps unattainable goal. But that doesn’t mean 2018 can’t begin on the right foot.

We thought it appropriate to start our resolutions mini-series with this headline: Don’t let your workplace BE the next headline.

Continue Reading An Employer’s Resolutions for the New Year – A Mini-Series from the Employment Matters Blog. Resolution #1: Don’t let your Workplace be the Next Headline: Review and Refresh your Non-Harassment Policies and Training.

As 2017 starts to wind down, Massachusetts employers should start reviewing and revising their employment policies and practices so they are prepared for the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which goes into effect on April 1, 2018 and requires employers with six or more employees to provide written notice to their employees of their right to be free from pregnancy discrimination.

Continue Reading MA Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Goes Into Effect April 1, 2018

Recent cases in New York and Pennsylvania demonstrate that, at least in some jurisdictions and under some circumstances, a plaintiff can state a valid claim for unlawful gender discrimination based on a spouse’s jealousy.

Continue Reading Spousal Jealousy Can Lead to a Viable Claim of Unlawful Gender Discrimination

The federal courts in D.C. have long held that denial of a lateral transfer does not violate Title VII for the reason that, unlike where a promotion is denied, there is no adverse employment action when an employee is denied a purely lateral transfer. A panel of the D.C. Circuit recently decided otherwise where the employee proffered evidence that the employer’s discriminatory denial of his lateral transfer request would have an “adverse impact on the employee’s potential for career advancement.”

Continue Reading Does Denial of a Lateral Transfer Violate Title VII? In Some Cases, Yes, Says D.C. Circuit.

California has joined a growing list of jurisdictions, including New York City, Massachusetts, Delaware and Oregon, among others, banning salary history inquiries from job applicants. Governor Brown signed the law into effect last week and it becomes effective on January 1, 2018.

Continue Reading California Bans Salary History Inquiries

Beginning on October 31st, New York City employers will be prohibited from inquiring about or relying on salary history during the hiring process. As a reminder, this ban makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, employment agency, or employee or agent of the employer to: (1) inquire about the salary history of an applicant; or (2) rely on salary history of an applicant to determine salary, benefits, or other compensation for such applicant during the hiring process. Employers should revise their hiring processes in order to comply with the new law as soon as possible.

Recently, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released guidance regarding the ban on salary history inquiries in the form of two “Fact Sheets.”  Both Fact Sheets answer the same questions, one from the perspective of employers, the other from the perspective of job applicants. The Fact Sheet for Employers provides the following questions and answers:

Continue Reading Reminder: New York City Ban on Salary History Inquiries Takes Effect October 31st

Last month, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Estee Lauder in a Pennsylvania federal court alleging that Estee Lauder’s parental leave policy discriminates against employees on the basis of gender by providing unequal benefits to biological mothers and fathers. What’s notable about this lawsuit is that it involves a policy which, on its face, uses a “primary” and “secondary” caregiver distinction that provides different amounts of leave to employees based on that distinction without regard to their gender – a practice used by many employers in their parental leave policies. This lawsuit has left many employers wondering whether such a policy is at risk of being unlawful. We do not think it is at this time.

Continue Reading What Does the EEOC’s Lawsuit Against Estee Lauder Mean for Parental Leave Policies?

What is happening in employment law? We will be providing you with quick employment law updates on a bi-monthly basis in a new series called “The Bubbler.”  It will let you know what’s what and who’s who in the continually-evolving, ever-important, hard-to-keep-track-of employment law world. The Bubbler delivers current events and other important news to our readers without the time or the interest to piece through the recent legislation, the ever-growing release of regulations and other agency guidance and the lengthy court decisions. We’re your colleagues at the water cooler who tell you just enough to pique your interest (but then provide links to satisfy your curiosity). Enjoy!

Continue Reading The Bubbler: September 6, 2017

In a recent series of articles, we asked whether “class arbitration” — meaning the utilization of a Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 class action protocol in an arbitration proceeding — is ultimately viable. Given the nature of arbitration, we suggested that it arguably is not. We noted that the United States Supreme Court and various Courts of Appeal had examined several related procedural questions, but that they had not gotten to the core issues that would ultimately determine the viability of a class arbitration award.

Continue Reading Is “Class Arbitration” an Oxymoron — a Shoe Drops in the Second Circuit

As our readers know, we have been monitoring decisions regarding the ability of employers to take disciplinary action against employees for using marijuana at work (like this decision here). The most recent high court to weigh in on this topic is the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which looked at whether an employer may violate that state’s anti-discrimination law when it fires an employee because of a failed drug test based on the employee’s use of medical marijuana. The Court concluded that employers must accommodate medical marijuana users in the normal course under these circumstances to avoid a violation of that law.  We discuss this important new decision – Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC – below.

Continue Reading Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana as a Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace