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.
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!
Last month, a California state appellate court issued a decision that, as the dissent characterized, went “where no one has gone before.” In Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., the court held that California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) – California’s anti-discrimination law – requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to a nondisabled employee who associates with a disabled person. This troubling and broad interpretation of the law, which effectively would import a caregiver accommodation requirement into the law, has certainly captured the attention of employers even outside this jurisdiction.
As a recent federal appellate decision confirmed, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require employers to always accommodate a disabled employee. Instead, it is the employee’s burden to first show that he or she can perform the essential functions of the job with said accommodation. Alternatively, if the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the job, he or she may seek, as a reasonable accommodation, a reassignment to a vacant position as long as the employee is qualified for that position. In both cases, the employer is relieved of the accommodation requirement if it can show an undue hardship would result. It was these essential function and vacancy issues that were the focus of the First Circuit’s opinion in Lang v. Wal-Mart Stores.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a series of bills entitled the “Women’s Equality Agenda” that significantly amend the State’s equal pay, sex discrimination, harassment and other laws to provide additional protections for women in and outside the workplace. Among other changes, the amendments broaden the definition of “equal work” for equal pay, add “familial” status as a protected class, require employers to accommodate pregnant workers, authorize treble damages for willful violations, provide sex discrimination plaintiffs with a new right to attorneys’ fees and apply the law’s prohibition on sexual harassment to all employers regardless of size. The amendments, which we briefly summarize below, take effect on January 19, 2016.
I was quoted in a Law360 article entitled High Court UPS Ruling Means Changes to EEOC Guidance, in which I comment on the significance (or lack thereof) of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Young v. UPS decision where it introduced a new “significant burden” standard in pregnancy discrimination cases. The article also outlines the decision’s discussion of the EEOC’s updated pregnancy discrimination guidelines.
The U.S. Supreme Court vacated a Fourth Circuit decision Wednesday, reviving a pregnancy bias case against the United Parcel Service brought by a former delivery driver who was denied a light-duty work accommodation while pregnant. In doing so, the Court for the first time applied the well-known McDonnell-Douglas burden shifting framework to these types of pregnancy discrimination cases. However, this case may have limited impact because Congress has since amended federal discrimination laws to make pregnancy-related accommodations much more likely and because states and other locales have begun to pass laws explicitly mandating pregnancy accommodations.
Written by Jessica Catlow
Back in the summer, we wrote about the Equal Opportunity Commission’s release of its updated enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination claims under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Under the PDA, discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions are a form of sex discrimination. Two recent cases highlight that both juries and the EEOC intend to take pregnancy discrimination claims seriously.
Written by Robert Sheridan
Recently I had a conversation with my father about his options for parental leave when I was born (1979). As a new father myself, I was curious what leave options were open to baby-boomer Dads. My father told me that it was fairly standard to take a day or two off after the birth of a child and to then return to the office, with cigars and tired eyes.
While attitudes and policies towards paid leave for fathers have changed since 1979, paid parental leave for fathers is still relatively rare in the United States. This post will briefly examine the issue of paid parental leave for fathers and address some of the practical and legal principles that a company considering paid parental leave should take under consideration.
Written by Michael Arnold
The EEOC released its updated enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination yesterday — the first time it’s done so in more than 30 years. You can access the guidance and related documents here.