A recent Fourth Circuit ruling in a case handled by Mintz Levin provides some comfort to employers concerned about terminating an employee who they believe has made a false complaint of discrimination. In Villa v. CaveMezze Grill, the Court ruled that an employer who fires an employee based on a good faith belief she engaged in misconduct is not liable for retaliation even if it later turns out that she had not, in fact, engaged in the misconduct. Affirming the lower court’s entry of summary judgment in a unanimous published opinion, the court opined that the employer could not be liable for retaliation because it lacked a retaliatory motive when it terminated a former employee. That is because the employer did not terminate the employee in retaliation for reporting the alleged harassment, but rather because it genuinely – albeit mistakenly – believed she had fabricated the report.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Holds Complaining Employee is not Protected From Termination if the Employer Terminates Her Because It Believed Her Complaint was Fabricated

In a previous post we discussed the significant new obligations New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” imposes on employers that retain the services of freelance independent contractors. On May 15, these requirements became effective for all freelance contracts executed on or after that date. Some of the law’s key provisions include the requirements that freelance services in excess of $800 be detailed in written contracts and that employers provide payment for freelance services within 30 days, and a prohibition on retaliation against freelancers who exercise their rights under the law.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Labor Policy Standards has issued some limited initial guidance on the law but, as we discussed in our earlier post, numerous questions remain concerning the law’s practical implications. Please stay tuned to Employment Matters for updates as we continue to monitor this law’s impact on companies that rely on freelance workers.

The Fifth Circuit recently held that a third party witness who was fired after providing information in response to her employer’s investigation of a coworker’s harassment allegations had to demonstrate she had a “reasonable belief” that the conduct she reported violated Title VII in order to prove her retaliation claim.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Holds Third Party Witness’ Retaliation Claim Requires “Reasonable Belief” That a Title VII Violation Has Occurred

Beginning April 1, 2016, new California regulations (§11023 specifically) will require all California employers with more than five employees to have written policies regarding harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.  For some employers, this may mean drafting a specific policy for the first time; for others, it may require some tinkering with an existing policy.  Below we address the new regulations.

Continue Reading Notice to California Employers: New Rules Dictate Precisely What Must Be in Handbooks Regarding Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation

To prove retaliation a plaintiff must show that he or she suffered an “adverse employment action” – an issue that is often conceded by employers defending against such claims.  However, the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision in Brandon v. The Sage Corp. is a great reminder as to why employers should not overlook this issue.

Continue Reading An Unrealistic Threat Of A Pay Cut To A High-Level Employee Is Not An Adverse Action, So Says The Fifth Circuit

The so-called “manager rule” addresses a concern that employers may face a “litigation minefield” if a manager whose very job duties required them to report discrimination complaints could later sue for retaliation if they were adversely affected by the making of that report.  Employers argue that the manager is not really “opposing” a discriminatory practice sufficient to invoke Title VII’s anti-retaliation protections, when they are in essence just doing the job the employer assigned them.  Last month, the Second Circuit (in Littlejohn v. City of New York) and Fourth Circuit (in DeMasters v. Carilion Clinic) addressed the “manager rule,” and while both courts rejected its application, the Second Circuit did adopt a somewhat employer-friendly variation.  A brief discussion of these cases and their implications for the manager rule follows below.

Continue Reading The Second Circuit (Sort of) and the Fourth Circuit (Completely) Refuse to Apply “Manager Rule” to Title VII Retaliation Claims

In Precia Jones v. SEPTA, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals last week joined six sister courts in finding that a suspension with pay typically does not constitute an “adverse employment action” within the meaning of Title VII and analogous Pennsylvania law.

Continue Reading Third Circuit Joins Sister Courts in Finding Suspension with Pay is not an “Adverse Employment Action” Within Meaning of Discrimination Laws

Written by Michael Arnold

$113.6 million and counting – that’s the total amount donated to the ALS Association since July 29 as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Just to put that fundraising number into perspective, the Association raised around $3 million in the same period last year – a staggering 3,500%+ increase.

Continue Reading Employment Law Summer Recap 2014: Part 2 of 11 – What do the Ice Bucket Challenge and FMLA-Related Lawsuits Have in Common?

Written by Jill Collins

Federal contractors must be straining their necks to see if they have an actual target on their backs. Last week, President Obama signed an executive order that requires federal contractors to disclose labor and employment law violations dating back three years. This latest Order follows a number of other executive directives from President Obama this year that target the labor and employment practices of government contractors, including a hike in the minimum wage, an expansion of overtime eligibility, and a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Order also requires government contractors to give their employees information concerning their hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and any additions to or deductions made from their pay. The stopgap measures come in a year where Congressional gridlock has thwarted many of the President’s more wide-reaching labor law initiatives.

Continue Reading A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year: President Obama Targets Federal Contractors Again, This Time on Labor Law Compliance

Written by Brandon Willenberg

I’m not quite sure why California felt it was necessary to effectuate key changes to employment laws in the middle of summer when most of us are trying to break away from work and enjoy our vacations. As we recently discussed here, California’s minimum wage goes up to $9.00/hr starting July 1, 2014, and now California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) law is making the “family” bigger starting July 1, 2014 as it expands the definition of family member to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and parent-in-laws.

Continue Reading The Family is Getting Bigger: Starting July 2014 California’s Paid Family Leave Expands