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!
California’s new Ban the Box regulation became effective last week. Effective July 1, 2017, questions concerning an applicant or employee’s criminal convictions will now be subject to the new regulation that employers can locate here. That regulation raises the bar employers must clear in order to pose criminal conviction-related questions to applicants and employees. And it raises it significantly. We discuss the new regulation below.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court confirmed that federal appeals courts should apply a deferential standard of review to federal district court determinations regarding the legal sufficiency of EEOC subpoenas.
We had such a spirited panel discussion on pay equity at our Third Annual Employment Law Summit recently that we wanted to follow up with a post addressing the current state of play on pay equity legislation, particularly with respect to salary history disclosure laws. This is a rapidly advancing area of the law in which we continue to see new developments.
Over the next two weeks we will release our Year in Review segment, which will look at the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in New York, the DC Metro Area, Massachusetts, and California while offering our thoughts about 2017. Today we kick off this segment with New York. 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.
2016 brought big changes for New York State and City employers, including expansive new discrimination protections and substantial increases in the minimum wage and exempt salary thresholds. While New York employers who successfully navigated 2016’s rush of legislative, regulatory and judicial obstacles might feel they’ve earned the right to shift their focus back from compliance issues to running their businesses, they should not lose sight of the additional challenges expected in 2017.
The Second Circuit recently adopted the “Cat’s Paw” theory of liability in Title VII cases. This was hardly a surprise as other Circuit Courts had done the same after the United States Supreme Court endorsed Cat’s Paw in a USERRA case. But the Second Circuit went even further, allowing for the use of the Cat’s Paw argument in Title VII retaliation cases and in cases where a non-supervisory employee’s discriminatory actions lead the employer to take an adverse employment action against that employee’s co-worker. Until now, Cat’s Paw had mostly focused on employer liability based on the actions of misbehaving supervisors in hostile work environment cases. The decision puts additional pressure on employers to identify and eliminate discriminatory behavior in their workplaces. This post will briefly examine the Cat’s Paw doctrine and explain how the Second Circuit’s expanded its use in Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., No. 15-3239 (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2016).
Being connected to not just your friends, but their friends and their friends’ friends (it’s all six degrees of separation, right?) means that it’s become increasingly hard to stay anonymous when using an online dating platform. Just ask one recent male user of OkCupid who made vulgar and inappropriate comments to a female user. Her response? Post the conversation and the man’s profile picture to her Facebook account. He insulted her, she publicized him. So far, there are no legal implications.
Her friend, an independent recruiter for tech startups, saw the post and recognized the man’s profile picture. As it turns out, it was also his LinkedIn profile picture, and he had just applied for a position with one of her clients. Her response? Withdraw his application from consideration and tell him to treat women better online. He insulted her friend, she withdrew his application for employment. Here is where the criticism started.
The question: Can a recruiter reject a potential applicant based on inappropriate comments made on a dating site?
Many employers are familiar with the fact that the EEOC regularly conducts on-site workplace investigations after receiving charges of discrimination or harassment. A recent federal court decision, however, may lead to an uptick in such on-site investigations – even if the EEOC does not have an administrative warrant for the investigation and even if the employer does not consent.
A federal court in Kentucky recently held that the EEOC has the authority to conduct a warrantless, nonconsensual search of a private employer’s commercial property to investigate a discrimination claim. This marks the first decision in which a federal court confronted this issue. Though this is not a favorable decision for employers, the court delineated several limitations and safeguards that help fetter the EEOC’s on-site inspection authority.
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.
My colleague Tyrone Thomas, was quoted in the Bloomberg BNA article entitled Managing Bias Risks While Increasing Workplace Diversity in which he analyzes the threat of reverse racism claims arising from employer diversity efforts. Thomas notes that diversity strategies should be tailored to the workplace and provides steps for employers to develop well-crafted diversity plans. The article outlines examples of reverse bias claims, methods to avoid these risks, and employers’ options in implementing diversity strategies.