Phew – it has been a whirlwind of a month in the employment law world! Just in time for spring, new laws are popping up like crocuses just about everywhere we turn.

Here is your monthly rundown of the most recent developments in labor and employment law: The Supreme Court significantly narrowed whistleblower protections under Dodd Frank with its decision in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers.  The Second Circuit became the second circuit court to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination when it issued a decision holding that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII. In New York, just as employers finished preparing for and implementing the New York Paid Family Leave law, New York City passed new legislation requiring employers to grant temporary schedule changes for qualifying personal events, and amending the requirements for employers and employees engaging in a cooperative dialogue concerning a reasonable accommodation. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office issued guidance on the pay equity law scheduled to take effect in July; Austin, Texas became the first Texas municipality to enact a paid sick and safe leave law; and new legislation intending to crack down on sexual harassment has been proposed in several jurisdictions, including Connecticut and New York City. Stay tuned for further updates and more details on these developments which we will be covering more extensively here in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, don’t forget to register to attend our Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit on April 19!

On Monday, for the second time in less than a year, a federal appeals court ruled that Title VII forbids sexual orientation discrimination because it is a form of sex discrimination.  This time, in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. the Second Circuit overturned decades of precedent and ruled that Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of . . . sex” encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation.   The decision is also an apparent rebuke of the position taken by the United States Department of Justice (contrary to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position) that sexual orientation discrimination was never intended to by Congress to be covered by Title VII.  The issue is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court in its next term.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Becomes the Second to Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination

After the Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc last week in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, LGBT advocacy group Lambda Legal announced that it will appeal the dismissal of its client’s complaint to the United States Supreme Court.  Evans will petition the Court to hear the case and to hold that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes a prohibition against sexual orientation discrimination.  The Seventh Circuit created a circuit split on this issue in April when a majority of its judges decided that sexual orientation discrimination is per se sex discrimination; we wrote about that decision here.

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Won’t Rehear Title VII Sexual Orientation Case; LGBT Advocacy Group Will Appeal to United States Supreme Court

The Second Circuit has denied a plaintiff’s request to rehear argument en banc (that is, before all of the court’s judges) in a case alleging that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. As the court is already scheduled to hear argument en banc on this issue in another case in September, the court’s decision is not especially surprising. As we’ve discussed in several posts (see here, here and here), the federal appeals courts are currently divided on this issue and it is likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide whether Title VII’s language prohibiting discrimination “because of … sex” is broad enough to encompass discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Denies Latest Request for En Banc Review in Title VII Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case

We previously discussed the conflict between a Second Circuit panel’s holding in April that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the Seventh Circuit’s landmark ruling the same month reaching the opposite conclusion. The Second Circuit has now ordered en banc review of the April panel ruling, meaning that the entire court will rehear the case, and may be poised to follow the Seventh Circuit in extending Title VII to sexual orientation claims.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Orders En Banc Review of Panel Holding that Title VII Does Not Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination

As we observed in a recent post on the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College extending Title VII to sexual orientation claims, the Supreme Court will probably have to resolve the disagreement among the federal circuit courts over whether the statutory language “because of…sex” should be interpreted to include “because of…sexual orientation.” And sure enough, on the heels of one Second Circuit panel decision late last month that refused to extend Title VII to cover sexual orientation, a different panel of that court again declined last week to reverse its own precedent, finding that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination does not extend to discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees based purely on their sexual orientation.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Panel: No, We Still Can’t Overturn Precedent on Sexual Orientation Discrimination

In a landmark en banc decision rejecting its earlier panel ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appellate court to hold that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. While the employer in the case, Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, No. 15-1720 (7th Cir. April 4, 2017), has indicated that it does not intend to appeal the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, the conflict between the court’s holding and recent Second and Eleventh Circuit decisions makes it likely that this issue will reach the Supreme Court in the near future.

Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Rules Title VII Bars Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Creating Circuit Split and Setting Stage for Likely Supreme Court Review

Today we offer our last installment in our 2016 Year in Review segment, which will cover the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in California. Prior installments for the DC Metro Area, New York and Massachusetts are available here.  In addition, please join us in NYC on April 6, 2017 for Mintz Levin’s Third Annual Employment Law Summit as we address some of the key labor & employment issues impacting employers in 2017.  Register here.

In 2016 employers in California had to adjust to compensation and benefits related changes such as a new state minimum wage, a new method of calculating compensation for “piece-rate employees,” and expanded “kin care” benefits. The California Fair Pay Act, aimed at addressing gender wage discrimination also went into effect, modifying existing laws in a few key ways. The legislature also amended California’s Private Attorneys General Act to grant employers a few new ways to “cure” violations.

In 2017 employers should ensure they are complying with “all gender” bathroom requirements and that when making hiring decisions they do not rely on “juvenile offense history.” Employers should also be aware that there is a trend for cities and/or counties to further limit the kinds of information employers may consider in making hiring decisions. Also on the horizon is the probability that the legislature will revisit a new unpaid parental leave law that would impact smaller businesses.

Continue Reading 2016 California Employment Law Year In Review

In a previous post we discussed the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, in which a three-judge panel concluded that Title VII did not protect an employee from discrimination based on her sexual orientation. The court recently granted the employee’s petition for en banc review and agreed to rehear argument in the case before all of the court’s judges.

The Hively decision was notable for the court’s struggle to follow precedent declining to extend Title VII to sexual orientation claims while acknowledging that district court cases and a recent EEOC ruling that rejected such precedent had actually demonstrated superior legal reasoning. Many observers believe it is only a matter of time until a federal appeals court extends Title VII’s protections to sexual orientation claims. We will be monitoring these developments and will keep you apprised of whether the Seventh Circuit takes the opportunity to become the first U.S. circuit court to do so.

In a carefully reasoned but ultimately restrained opinion the Seventh Circuit held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. While declining to become the first circuit court to extend Title VII to sexual orientation claims, the court acknowledged at length the persuasive force of a recent EEOC administrative decision and similar district court rulings noting the logical fallacy of enforcing Title VII’s protections against discrimination on the basis of gender nonconformity while permitting sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace to continue.

Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Holds Title VII Does Not Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination, But Acknowledges Inherent Flaws in Precedent Underlying its Holding