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Employment Law Alert

News and Updates on Employment Law

Category Archives: Discrimination

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New Executive Orders Impact Government Contractors in Their Capacity as Employers

Posted in Discrimination
President Obama recently signed two Executive Orders that impact government contractors in their capacity as employers. Executive Order 13672 (July 21, 2014) amends Executive Order 11246 (September 24, 1965) by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of personal characteristics that cannot be used by government contractors to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment. As originally issued, Executive Order 11246 proscribed discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin – characteristics protected by Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Sexual orientation and gender identity are not specifically identified in Title VII as protected characteristics. These Executive Orders also apply to subcontractors and vendors of government contractors. Executive Order 13672 leaves in tact an earlier amendment to Executive Order 11246 that granted an exemption for government contractors qualifying as religious organizations in terms of the ability of these organizations to hire individuals of a given religion. The Department of Labor is charged with issuing regulations within 90 days implementing the new Executive Order… Continue Reading

EEOC Issues Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination

Posted in Discrimination
On July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) — the agency responsible for the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws — issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (“the Guidance”). The Guidance primarily discusses the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but also addresses additional federal laws that touch upon pregnancy and related conditions, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)… Continue Reading

EEOC Issues Guidance Regarding Religious Dress and Grooming Practices

Posted in Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) -- the federal agency responsible for the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws -- recently issued guidance on religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), specifically focusing on religious dress and grooming practices. The publication, entitled “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities,” along with its accompanying Fact Sheet, are designed to assist employers to comply with their legal responsibilities under Title … Continue Reading

New EEOC/FTC Joint Informal Guidance on Employers’ Use of Background Checks into Workers’ Criminal Records

Posted in Discrimination
On March 10, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued their first joint guidance on employer use of background checks in hiring or firing decisions. The use of background checks by employers in personnel decisions is becoming a more tricky road to navigate. The EEOC enforces the Federal anti-discrimination laws and the FTC enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), all of which can be implicated in the background check process, particularly when a third party credit reporting agency becomes involved. The EEOC/FTC joint guidance is reduced to two brief, non-technical documents -- one for employers and another for job applicants respectively--called “Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know,” and “Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know.” The guidance for employers describes the information and documentation in a background check report that may be used lawfully to make personnel decisions about a job applicant or employee. The document for applicants identifies the employer’s obligations particularly when relying upon a background check to disqualify an applicant or employee… Continue Reading

NJ Supreme Court Grants Leave to Appeal to Employee After NJ Appellate Division Permits Indictment Arising From Her Theft of Employer Documents to Prove LAD and CEPA Claims

Posted in Discrimination
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently granted defendant Ivonne Saavedra’s leave to appeal the Appellate Division’s decision in State v. Saavedra, the subject of a previous post, affirming the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss an indictment charging her with official misconduct for stealing confidential documents from her employer to support her claims under … Continue Reading

NJ Appellate Division Permits Criminal Indictment Against Employee Who Stole Employer’s Documents in Connection with LAD and CEPA Claims

Posted in Discrimination
The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, has held that a public sector employee can be criminally indicted for stealing employer documents to support her claims under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) and New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). In State of New Jersey v. Saavedra, the Appellate Division found, in a 2-1 decision, that a criminal judge is not required to perform a Quinlan analysis when deciding a motion to dismiss an indictment charging the employee with second-degree official misconduct and third-degree theft of public documents. Instead, the State merely must introduce evidence to support a prima facie case that the defendant committed the crime. In dissent, Judge Simonelli disagreed with the majority, concluding that the doctrine of fundamental fairness should be expanded to preclude criminal prosecution of employees for theft or official misconduct for taking confidential employer documents while engaged in protected activity pursuant to the whistleblower and anti-discrimination laws… Continue Reading

New Jersey Gender Equity Notice Requirement

Posted in Discrimination
Beginning on January 6, 2014, New Jersey employers with 50 or more employees (whether those employees work inside or outside of New Jersey) are required to post the new mandatory gender equity notice which was released by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDLWD) in December 2013. The notice implements a September 2012 amendment to the New Jersey Equal Pay Act. It informs employees of their right to be free of gender inequity or bias in pay, compensation, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment under both federal and New Jersey law. Employers are required to conspicuously post the gender equity notice in a place accessible to all employees. In the event that a covered employer has an internet site or intranet site for exclusive use by its employees and to which all employees have access, posting of the gender equity notice on the covered employer's internet site or intranet site will satisfy the conspicuous posting requirement… Continue Reading

NJLAD Amended to Target Potential Pay Discrimination

Posted in Discrimination, Policies/Handbooks
On August 28, 2013, New Jersey Governor Christie signed Assembly Bill No. 2648, amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who disclose to or request information from other employees or former employees regarding job title, occupational category, pay (including benefits), gender, race, ethnicity, military status and national origin for the purpose of investigating or taking legal action against potential pay discrimination. The amendment, effective immediately, does not require employees or former employees to divulge this information… Continue Reading

New Jersey Supreme Court Provides Clarification on the Standards of Proof for LAD and CEPA Claims

Posted in Discrimination, Whistleblower
In a decision clarifying the standards of proof for retaliation claims arising under the Law Against Discrimination ("LAD") and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), the New Jersey Supreme Court held in Battaglia v. UPS that, for purposes of an LAD retaliation claim, a plaintiff need only demonstrate a good faith belief that the complained-of conduct violates the LAD, and need not identify any actual victim of discrimination. As to the fraud-based CEPA claim, the Court held that the plaintiff must have "reasonably believed" that the complained-of activity was fraudulent. Finally, addressing the plaintiff's emotional distress damages, the Court ruled that claims for future emotional distress must be supported by an expert opinion regarding permanency… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Requires “But-For” Causation for Title VII Retaliation Claims

Posted in Discrimination
In a victory for employers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, that employees asserting retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") must establish that the adverse employment action at issue would not have occurred "but for" an improper motive on the employer's part. This "but for" causation standard, as opposed to the more plaintiff-friendly "motivating factor" causation standard used in Title VII discrimination claims, gives employers a better chance at defeating Title VII retaliation claims, particularly at the summary judgment stage… Continue Reading

The U.S. Supreme Court Decides Who is a “Supervisor” for Title VII Purposes

Posted in Discrimination
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Vance v. Ball State University, one of the most-anticipated decisions of the Court's 2012 Term. The Vance case concerns who is considered a "supervisor" for purposes of establishing an employer's liability for hostile work environment harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, from which the case arose, and other lower courts which had defined "supervisor" to include only those individuals who possess the authority to fire, demote, promote, transfer, discipline or take some other tangible action against a harassment victim. The Court rejected the definition of "supervisor" proposed by the federal government, appearing as amicus curiae, and found in the EEOC's Enforcement Guidelines, which links "supervisor" status to the ability to exercise direction over the victim's daily work… Continue Reading

Reminder to NYC Employers: Unemployed in Protected Class Beginning June 11, 2013

Posted in Discrimination
As previously reported, the group of individuals protected by the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL") has been expanded to cover the status of being "unemployed." The Amendment to the NYCHRL -- which goes into effect June 11, 2013 -- prohibits discrimination against job applicants because they are unemployed. The NYCHRL provides for a private right of action against employers… Continue Reading

Mitchell Boyarsky to Speak at Upcoming NJBIA Employment Seminar

Posted in Discrimination
Mitchell Boyarsky, a Director in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department, will speak at the upcoming NJBIA Employment Seminar, "Workplace Harassment & Discrimination: Creating a Culture of Zero Tolerance," on Friday, May 10, 2013 at the Wilshire Grand. Mr. Boyarsky's panel, "Making Training Work," will discuss how to implement internal training programs to prevent harassement. Mr. Boyarsky will also provide insight into how to handle cases that occur when training fails or is neglected… Continue Reading

What to Expect from the EEOC in 2013

Posted in Discrimination
At the Gibbons Second Annual Employment & Labor Law Conference last month, one panel discussion focused on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ("EEOC") recent activity and enforcement priorities. Among the panelists were Corrado Gigante, Director of the Newark Area Office of the EEOC, and Gibbons Directors, Christine Amalfe, Kelly Ann Bird and Susan Nardone… Continue Reading

New York City Prohibits Discrimination Against the Unemployed

Posted in Discrimination
New York City has expanded the scope of its Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL") to prohibit job discrimination based upon a job applicant's status as unemployed. The amendments to the NYCHRL define the term "unemployed" to mean someone "not having a job, being available for work, and seeking employment." The amendments, which will become effective on June 11, 2013, are groundbreaking in that they make New York City the first jurisdiction in the United States to provide a private right of action for discrimination based on an applicant's "unemployed" status. If successful in pursuing such claims, denied job applicants may recover compensatory and punitive damages, as well as their attorneys' fees and costs. In light of this, New York City employers should immediately begin preparing for these coming changes by reviewing their hiring practices, as well as their job advertisements and postings… Continue Reading

Gibbons Director, Susan Nardone, to Speak at Upcoming NAWL Labor & Employment Webinar

Posted in Discrimination
Employee complaints concerning discrimination and harassment occur in nearly every workplace. Susan L. Nardone, a Director in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department, will serve as a panelist for the upcoming NAWL webinar, "Avoiding the Pitfalls that Cost: Highlighting Best Practices in Labor and Employment Internal Investigations," taking place on Wednesday, February 27, at 11:00 am. This webinar will focus on how to handle common, yet complex, issues likely to arise during the internal investigation of an employee complaint… Continue Reading

New Requirements for NJ Employers and for Employers Conducting Business in Newark, NJ

Posted in Discrimination
Beginning November 12, 2012, the State of New Jersey will require employers to post a new "equal pay" notice in the work place, to provide the notice to employees and to obtain an acknowledgment of receipt. Effective November 18, 2012, the City of Newark will impose restrictions on employers conducting hiring in the City with regard to the use of criminal background checks for job applicants… Continue Reading

Employee Participation in Internal Investigation Not Covered by Anti-Retaliation Provision of Title VII, According to Second Circuit

Posted in Discrimination
The Second Circuit, in a case of first impression, ruled that an employee is not protected against retaliation prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") for participating in an investigation of sexual harassment conducted by an employer before a charge of discrimination has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Although under Title VII, employers are duty-bound to appropriately remedy discrimination and harassment in the workplace uncovered by such investigation, employers in the Second Circuit can breathe a modest sigh of relief that a negative employment action affecting an employee who claims protection under Title VII based on "participating" in an investigation following an internal complaint is not actionable… Continue Reading

The EEOC Holds that Title VII Protects Transgender Employees

Posted in Discrimination
In a decision reversing nearly three decades of prior rulings, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has ruled that a "complaint of discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex, and/or transgender status is cognizable under Title VII." In doing so, the EEOC - the agency of the United States Government charged with the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws - has expanded upon the definition of discrimination "because of sex" expressly bringing transgender individuals within its purview… Continue Reading

The New EEOC Guidance Regarding Criminal Background Checks

Posted in Discrimination
On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Community issued its long awaited Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, updating and clarifying its prior guidance on the subject. The good news? Employers may continue to use criminal background checks as a screening tool for applicants and employees. However, employers are specifically discouraged from asking about a criminal record on the application and are encouraged to conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant/employee when job exclusion occurs because of a criminal record. Employers should review their policies to ensure compliance with the EEOC's latest recommendations… Continue Reading
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