Lots to talk about in the Labor & Employment world!  The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on April 1, 2018, imposing stricter non-discrimination rules on employers of pregnant workers. The U.S. Department of Labor launched the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program, which encourages employers to self-report wage and hour violations. The Sixth Circuit issued a decision in EEOC v. R.G. & R.G. Harris Funeral Homes, holding that transgendered employees are protected under Title VII, even mounted against an employer’s religious objections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts lost a step in the legal challenge to the contraceptive mandate exemptions in the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that it did not have standing to assert the relief it sought. Still on the federal landscape, Congress added an amendment to the FLSA in the recent omnibus budget bill, providing that an employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purpose. The Supreme Court issued an important ruling holding that service advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements and rejecting the principle that FLSA exemptions should be narrowly construed.   The State of Washington followed suit with many other states, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, becoming the most recent state to add an updated Equal Pay Act, and a “Ban the Box” law.  In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Washington also barred nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment suits.  As always, stay tuned for further updates and more details on these developments which we will be covering more extensively here in the coming weeks, including a post on the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act coming up later this week.

Finally, there’s still time! Don’t forget to register to attend our Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit on April 19.

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.

Continue Reading Clearly Defining the Essential Functions of the Job Can Make or Break An ADA Case

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a series of bills entitled the “Women’s Equality Agenda” that significantly amend the State’s equal pay, sex discrimination, harassment and other laws to provide additional protections for women in and outside the workplace. Among other changes, the amendments broaden the definition of “equal work” for equal pay, add “familial” status as a protected class, require employers to accommodate pregnant workers, authorize treble damages for willful violations, provide sex discrimination plaintiffs with a new right to attorneys’ fees and apply the law’s prohibition on sexual harassment to all employers regardless of size.  The amendments, which we briefly summarize below, take effect on January 19, 2016.

Continue Reading New York State Employers Face Strict New Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Laws

I recently read in the NY Times that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled a charge with Time Warner, Inc., the parent company of CNN and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. where a former employee alleged that Time Warner’s parental leave policy discriminated against him as a biological father.  I encourage employers to read the article, as it reemphasizes the shifting attitudes in this country on family-friendly leave policies, and from a legal perspective, it serves as yet another reminder that employers should review their parental leave policies to make sure they are up to date and do not discriminate against fathers.

Continue Reading Time Warner-EEOC Settlement Provides a Cautionary Tale to Employers Who Provide Mothers More Parental Leave Than Fathers

I was quoted in a Law360 article entitled High Court UPS Ruling Means Changes to EEOC Guidance, in which I comment on the significance (or lack thereof) of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Young v. UPS decision where it introduced a new “significant burden” standard in pregnancy discrimination cases. The article also outlines the decision’s discussion of the EEOC’s updated pregnancy discrimination guidelines.

Written by Robert Sheridan

Recently I had a conversation with my father about his options for parental leave when I was born (1979). As a new father myself, I was curious what leave options were open to baby-boomer Dads. My father told me that it was fairly standard to take a day or two off after the birth of a child and to then return to the office, with cigars and tired eyes.

While attitudes and policies towards paid leave for fathers have changed since 1979, paid parental leave for fathers is still relatively rare in the United States. This post will briefly examine the issue of paid parental leave for fathers and address some of the practical and legal principles that a company considering paid parental leave should take under consideration.

Continue Reading Daddy Dearest?: Some Considerations Concerning Paid Parental Leave for Fathers in the United States

Written by Michael Arnold

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the agency responsible for enforcing most of the federal discrimination laws – is preparing to issue new guidance addressing an employer’s obligation to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers. Will the guidance offer a new interpretation of the law or just cement what we already know?

Continue Reading EEOC Will Release Enforcement Guidance Addressing an Employer’s Obligation to Reasonably Accommodate Pregnant Workers; Employers Should Continue to Pay Careful Attention to These Accommodation Requests

Written by David Katz

Similar to recent legislation passed in New York City, the New Jersey Senate unanimously passed a bill on Monday that would explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth.

Continue Reading Bill to Ban Pregnancy Discrimination Unanimously Passed by New Jersey Senate