On Wednesday this week, all nine justices agreed that the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provision does not extend to an individual who has not reported a violation of the securities laws to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). In other words, making only internal complaints does not shroud an employee in whistleblower protection under the Dodd-Frank Act.
In the case of DiFiore v. CSL Behring, LLC, the Third Circuit ruled for the first time that the more demanding “but for” causation standard applies to retaliation claims under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), rejecting the lower “motivating factor” (also commonly known as the “mixed-motive”) standard. The Third Circuit’s ruling is a welcome result, especially for employers who deal with the federal government and may, therefore, be exposed to FCA retaliation claims. But, employers need to be mindful that different causes of action have different causation standards. For example, the more stringent “but for” standard applied by the Third Circuit to FCA retaliation claims also applies in Title VII retaliation and ADEA cases, but the lower “mixed motive” standard applies in other cases, including “status based” Title VII and ADA discrimination claims. So, employers are left with a mishmash of different causation standards to consider when assessing risk around employment decisions and defending cases.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.