Without a doubt sexual harassment has always been a serious issue for employers. Given the recent headlines relating to celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill O’Reilly, and others, sexual harassment is now front and center in the consciousness of the American public in ways that it was not just a short time ago. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal hit the news, Actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter and posted the following tweet: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Her tweet caught fire and “#metoo” peppers all vehicles of social media. In fact, CBS News reported that more than 45% of U.S. Facebook users had friends who posted #metoo.
In the past month, there have been several important Federal Appellate Court decisions regarding sexual orientation discrimination. On March 20, the Eleventh Circuit reaffirmed its prior precedent that Title VII does not extend protection to individuals harassed on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court noted that claims for gender nonconformity are allowed, but stated that there were not sufficient facts for such a finding in the present case. The Court also stated that it cannot reconsider prior precedent without a hearing in front of all the judges of the Eleventh Circuit—potentially signaling that the Court is willing to reconsider its position on sexual orientation discrimination.
The United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) is the federal agency charged with enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. In recent weeks, the EEOC issued the final version of its long anticipated Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, (the “Guidance”) which provides loads of helpful information about the elements of proof for retaliation suits filed under EEO laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Employers take note.
On May 13, 2016, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Department of Education (“DOE”) issued a joint directive to school districts nationwide titled the “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.” The correspondence “summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the [DOE] and the [DOL] evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.” The letter makes clear that “[a]s a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities.” (Emphasis added). While the information applies directly, through Title IX, to school districts, private employers on a much broader scale must also be cognizant of the new interpretation of “sex” discrimination.
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
I am never without it (anywhere i go you go my dear;
and whatever is done by me is your doing, my darling) i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever sun will always sing to you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
It’s February, and it’s time for my annual “Cubicle Cupids” article. With Valentine’s Day approaching, your employees may have romance on their minds. Let’s face it – the workplace is a convenient venue to find that special someone given the amount of time many employees spend together in the workplace, and of course, the shared experiences. Office romances always have some impact on the workplace, and smart employers must be equipped to handle the issues which arise from these relationships. So, what arrows can you use to fill your quiver?
When dealing with their employees’ needs for accommodations due to religious, disability, or family leave reasons, it’s necessary for employers to know some personal information about their employees. But, simply asking for information can be considered a violation of certain employment laws. What’s an employer to do?
Here’s to the bright New Year,
and a fond farewell to the old;
here’s to the things that are yet to come,
and to the memories that we hold.”
The New Year is often a time to reflect on the past year and to set resolutions for the coming one. Not only is this a perfect time to work on personal growth, but it is also the perfect time to work on how you manage your relationship with your employees. Here are five considerations as you enter the New Year:
Like most statutes prohibiting discrimination, Title VII also outlaws retaliation so that individuals will not be inhibited from asserting claims under the statute. Thus, Title VII prohibits retaliation against anyone who opposes an act made unlawful by it. The question, therefore, becomes what constitutes opposition to a practice unlawful under Title VII and to whom may such opposition be addressed?
On May 21, 2015, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified a plaintiff’s burden of proof in retaliation cases under Title VII, making it more challenging for employers in the Fourth Circuit to dispute a plaintiff’s prima facie case of retaliation. A prima facie case is the legally sufficient amount of proof of the elements that form a claim.
Traditionally, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court – which encompasses the West Virginia – has been regarded as being an employer-friendly jurisdiction when it comes to deciding cases arising under federal employment laws. However, that gradually has been changing over the last handful of years, and there’s no greater example of that trend than the recent case of Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., 786 F.3d 264 (4th Cir. 2015), when the Fourth Circuit ruled that a single, isolated instance of harassment may give rise to an actionable hostile work environment claim under Title VII. Because the opinion lowered the standard for when employers may be liable for sexual harassment, it’s very important for employers to be familiar with it.