Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals holding that a multi-month leave of absence is beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiff in Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc. had asked the Supreme Court to decide whether there is a per se rule that a finite leave of absence of more than one month cannot be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Without the Supreme Court stepping in to resolve the split among the federal circuit courts, employers are left without clear guidance as to how to navigate the interplay between the ADA and extended leaves of absence.
Short of a successful (but highly unlikely) appeal, the Obama-era overtime rule is now officially no longer. That rule would have required employers to pay employees a little more than $47,000 annually to qualify under one of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s white collar exemptions. The rule was already in limbo when a Texas Federal district court judge temporarily prevented its enforcement just before Thanksgiving last year, and now that same judge has struck down the rule permanently just before another major American holiday.
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.
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.
Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a seminal ruling in Bulwer v. Mt. Auburn, which clarified the type of evidence an employment discrimination plaintiff needs to defeat a summary judgment motion. In doing so, the SJC lightened plaintiffs’ burden of proof concerning pre-textual terminations and may have changed the rules of the game for Massachusetts employers and employees alike.
Sometimes a judge says what many of us are already thinking. In Rivera v. Crowell & Moring L.L.P., Katherine B. Forrest was that judge.
While we were in the midst of office holiday parties and end of the year celebrations, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals came down with two precedential decisions for employers to ponder in the New Year. In Williams v. Genex Services, LLC, the Court analyzed the FLSA’s learned professional exemption, while in Calderon v. GEICO General Insurance Co., the Court analyzed the FLSA’s administrative function exemption.
In August, we wrote about the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Abril-Rivera v. Johnson, which affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing location-based discrimination and retaliation claims against FEMA. Last week, however, the First Circuit withdrew that decision and issued an amended opinion in the case. It is still a victory for employers, but one with slightly less import.
Recently, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that former employees of a FEMA call center could not proceed in their Title VII location-based disparate impact and retaliation claims against the agency. The case, Abril-Rivera v. Johnson, involved employees who worked for FEMA, a government agency, but the decision has important implications for private sector employers as well.
As a major national company learned recently, employers cannot shirk their obligations to investigate employee complaints of a hostile work environment simply because the identity of the harasser is unknown. Failure to investigate all good faith complaints of harassment can result in serious liability for the employer under the anti-discrimination statutes.