Category: Discrimination

Third Circuit Overturns Summary Judgment Based on the Faragher-Ellerth Defense

Third Circuit Overturns Summary Judgment Based on the Faragher-Ellerth Defense

Employers who are sued for sexual harassment committed by a supervisor may be able to avoid liability, even if harassment had, in fact, occurred, by asserting the so-called Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense, named after the two United States Supreme Court cases that first recognized the defense. An employer may assert the Faragher-Ellerth defense to supervisor harassment when no tangible employment action has been taken against the harassed employee and the employer is able to demonstrate (a) it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior and (b) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, addressed the requirements of the Faragher-Ellerth defense in the context of the assertion of a female employee that she acted reasonably in not taking advantage of the procedures made available by her employer to prevent or correct the harassment against her by her supervisor. In so doing, the Third Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the employer based on the Faragher-Ellerth defense and held on the facts of the case a jury should...

New York City and New York State Pass Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Legislation

New York City and New York State Pass Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Legislation

The New York City Council recently passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act (“NYC Act”), a series of bills that address sexual harassment prevention in the workplace. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the legislation into law in the near future. The passage of the NYC Act coincides with the signing of the 2018-2019 New York State Budget (“the Bill”), which includes comprehensive and significant changes to State anti-harassment laws described as “necessary to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.” STOP SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN NYC ACT Mandatory Anti-Harassment Training The NYC Act would require employers (with 15 or more employees including interns) to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training beginning on April 1, 2019 for all employees, including supervisors and managers. The training is required for all employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year and for new employees within 90 days of hire. The training must cover a range of topics, including a statement that harassment is a form of discrimination under state and federal law; a description of sexual harassment (including examples of what constitutes harassment); internal complaint procedures for an employee to make a harassment complaint; information about the complaint process under...

Governor Murphy Signs New Jersey Pay Equity Legislation

Governor Murphy Signs New Jersey Pay Equity Legislation

Yesterday, Governor Murphy signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act. The new law will go into effect July 1, 2018. For a description of the law and how it will affect New Jersey employers, please see our previous blog post. If you have any questions regarding how to comply with New Jersey’s new pay equity law, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department. Suzanne Herrmann Brock is Counsel in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.

New Jersey Senate Labor Committee Amends Bill Prohibiting Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Employment and Settlement Agreements

New Jersey Senate Labor Committee Amends Bill Prohibiting Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Employment and Settlement Agreements

In response to the recent spotlight on sexual abuse and harassment claims in the workplace and the #MeToo movement, the federal government and numerous states, including New Jersey, have focused attention on the use of nondisclosure provisions in settlement agreements involving claims of sexual harassment and assault. As we previously reported, the Tax Cuts and Job Bills Act was passed in December 2017 and includes a provision that bars any settlement or payment related to claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse from being deducted as a business expense if the payments are subject to a nondisclosure agreement. While the federal tax bill aims to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements, the proposed New Jersey legislation initially provided an outright ban on such agreements. At the time of its first introduction during the prior legislative session in December 2017, Senator Loretta Weinberg’s proposed bill prohibited New Jersey employers from including “a provision in any employment contract or agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.” The bill is unique because it is not limited to sexual harassment or abuse claims, but rather would apply to any type of discrimination,...

Ninth Circuit Holds Salary History Does Not Justify Wage Differences Between Male and Female Employees

Ninth Circuit Holds Salary History Does Not Justify Wage Differences Between Male and Female Employees

In a precedential en banc opinion, Rizo v. Yovino, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that an employee’s prior salary cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees under the Equal Pay Act. Significantly, this decision overrules established prior Ninth Circuit precedent that an employee’s prior salary constitutes a “factor other than sex” under the Act upon which a wage differential may be based. Background The Plaintiff, Aileen Rizo, was hired by the Fresno County Office of Education in 2009 as a math consultant. At the time of her hire, her starting salary was determined in accordance with Fresno’s standard operating policy which provided that the salary for all new hires would be set by adding five percent to their previous salary. In or about 2012, Rizo learned that male colleagues who were hired after her were earning more than she. In 2014, Rizo filed a lawsuit against Jim Yovino in his official capacity as the Superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and California law. At the District Court, Fresno admitted that it paid Rizo less than her male colleagues for the same...

New Jersey Legislature Passes Sweeping Pay Equity Legislation

New Jersey Legislature Passes Sweeping Pay Equity Legislation

Yesterday, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed comprehensive pay equity legislation. The legislation passed both houses with significant bi-partisan support and it is expected that Governor Murphy will soon sign the legislation into law. Once in effect, the legislation, which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“the LAD”), will be the most wide-ranging pay equity law in the United States. Significantly, unlike most pay equity laws passed in recent years by other states which target unlawful pay discrimination of women, the New Jersey law will prohibit pay discrimination of employees in any protected class. Specifically, the legislation makes it an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against a member of any protected class by compensating the employee at a lesser rate of pay, benefits, or other forms of compensation than an employee who is not a member of the protected class for “substantially similar work.” The “substantially similar” standard, which diverges from the “equal work” standard of the federal Equal Pay Act, mirrors the California Fair Pay Act. Moreover, the legislation provides that comparisons of wage rates shall be based on wage rates in all of an employer’s operations or facilities regardless of where located. An employer will be...

Gov. Murphy’s First Executive Order Prohibits State Government from Asking Applicants about Salary History

Gov. Murphy’s First Executive Order Prohibits State Government from Asking Applicants about Salary History

Governor Phil Murphy has signed an executive order which bars state workers from asking job applicants seeking positions with the state about their previous salaries in his first official act after his swearing-in on January 16, 2018. State entities may now only inquire as to an applicant’s past salary history after the entity has made a conditional offer of employment, which includes an explanation of the compensation package being offered to the applicant. The goal of the executive order is to eliminate wage inequalities that result from female employees who accept lower starting salaries and then remain on a lower compensation track, with pay disparities compounding over time. Significantly, at the signing ceremony, the Governor stated that he would sign a bill that extended these same provisions to private sector employers which the legislative sponsors vowed to move quickly to his desk. In fact, legislation has already been introduced that prohibits an employer from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. Assembly Bill 1094 was introduced on January 9, 2018 by Assemblywoman Joanne Downey (D-11) and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. Senate Bill 559 was introduced by Senator Nia Gill (D-34) on January 9, 2018 and referred to...

Tax Bill Effects the Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Settlements of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Abuse Claims

Tax Bill Effects the Use of Nondisclosure Provisions in Settlements of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Abuse Claims

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“the Act”), signed into law today, has received considerable media coverage, a provision included in the Act that affects the ability of employers to deduct settlement payments and attorney’s fees for claims involving sexual assault or sexual harassment has received little attention. Nonetheless, this provision will have a significant impact on how employers resolve claims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Specifically, the Act provides that any settlement or payment related to claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse may not be deducted as a business expense if the payments are subject to a nondisclosure agreement. The Act also provides that any attorney’s fees incurred related to such a settlement with a nondisclosure agreement may not be deducted. The new law applies to “any settlement or payment related claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse” whether or not a lawsuit has actually been filed. Importantly, these provisions are effective immediately, and thus all payments made after the effective date of the Act in connection with the settlement of a sexual harassment or a sexual assault claim are subject to these new provisions. Read literally, the new law precludes employers from deducting the amounts...

The Push for Pay Equity Legislation in New Jersey

The Push for Pay Equity Legislation in New Jersey

Equal pay for equal work is by no means a new concept. Achieving pay equity, defined as eliminating sex (and other) discrimination in the wage-setting system, has been debated for decades. Recently, however, pay equity has become a significant public issue, prompting many state and local governments to enact legislation aimed at eliminating pay disparities, with a strong focus on closing the gender wage gap. To date, attempts to pass pay equity legislation in New Jersey have been unsuccessful. However, with the recent election of Phil Murphy as governor, pay equity legislation in New Jersey appears almost certain. In this recent article published by the New Jersey Law Journal, Suzanne Herrmann Brock, Elizabeth Cowit, and Brittany E. Grierson provide insight into the most recent developments in state and local pay equity laws and discuss legislation on the horizon for New Jersey.

The Third Circuit Goes Its Own Way on ADEA Disparate Impact Claims

The Third Circuit Goes Its Own Way on ADEA Disparate Impact Claims

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects from discrimination of employees who are at least 40 years of age. Recently, in Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit departed company with three of its sister Circuits by holding that plaintiffs asserting a claim of “disparate impact” under the ADEA may establish a disparate impact with comparisons between subgroups of employees and need not show that a challenged employment practice has had an adverse impact on employees 40 years of age or older compared to its impact on employees under 40. Thus, the Court permitted to go forward with a disparate impact claim based on a comparison between employees at least 50 years of age with employees under 50. The decision will have a profound impact on employers’ assessments of their potential ADEA liability for disparate impact claims and on the way ADEA disparate impact claims are litigated in the Third Circuit. Background To establish a claim of disparate impact discrimination under the ADEA, a plaintiff must show, through statistical evidence, that the employers implemented a facially age-neutral employment practice that fell more harshly on the protected group. If this showing is...