Title VII

Shifting explanations result in employer liability in Title VII retaliation claim

Posted on June 12, 2015

So a supervisor offers a couple of different explanations for action taken against an employee—how much does that matter? Maybe quite a bit, according to an opinion issued by Judge Jackson last week. See Mohammed v. Central Driving Mini Storage, Inc., Case No. 2:13cv00469 (E.D. Va. 2015). In this case, the court awarded a former employee of the storage company $150,730.19 in back pay and his attorneys’ fees and costs based on a claim that he was fired after he complained about having to work on his Sabbath.…

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Employers face possible claims for failure to accommodate even where there is no actual knowledge of a need for accommodation

Posted on June 5, 2015

Back in March, I posted about the case before the United States Supreme Court involving a girl who claimed that she was discriminated against because of her religion when Abercrombie & Fitch didn’t hire her because of her headscarf. The Tenth Circuit had found that because the plaintiff did not inform Abercrombie before its hiring decision that her practice of wearing a headscarf was based on her religious beliefs and that she would thus need an accommodation. On Monday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, holding that to prevail in an disparate treatment claim under Title VII, an applicant must only show that her need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, and not that the employer actually knew of her need. EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, Inc., 575 U.S. ___ (2015).…

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Look out—possibly more hostile work environment claims ahead

Posted on May 15, 2015

Following the recent ruling of the Fourth Circuit after an en banc rehearing, employers may face more claims for hostile work environment. In Boyer-Liberto v. Fountainebleau Corp., No. 13-1473 (4th Cir. May 7, 2015), the Fourth Circuit overturned a prior decision by its own panel and the district court and found that an extremely serious instance of harassment, even if it is isolated, can support a claim for hostile work environment and also provide a basis for a claim of retaliation if the isolated incident is physically threatening or humiliating.…

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Can the EEOC come after your company without at least trying to resolve the matter?

Posted on May 8, 2015

Not without at least complying with its duty to attempt to conciliate the matter. In a unanimous decision issued last week, the Supreme Court held that courts have the authority to review whether the EEOC has fulfilled its obligations under Title VII to attempt conciliation. Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, No, 13-1019 (April 29, 2015). This is important for employers and gives them more of a legitimate chance to resolve a matter if the EEOC has found cause in a Title VII case. However, the review permitted is fairly limited.…

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Does an employee have to specifically ask for a religious accommodation?

Posted on March 6, 2015

The United States Supreme Court heard argument this past week on this very issue in the case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., a case appealed from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Samantha Elauf was a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma who applied to work at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in 2008. Elauf, a Muslim, wore her headscarf (“hijab”) to the interview. Abercrombie has a “not hats” policy for sales associates and thus did not hire Elauf. Of course, Title VII prohibits denying employment based on a religious practice, unless accommodating the practice would impose a substantial burden. The EEOC brought a lawsuit on Elauf’s behalf and won in federal district court, but then the Tenth Circuit reversed the decision, agreeing with Abercrombie’s argument that it was not required to give Elauf a religious accommodation because she had not specifically asked for one (basically never told Abercrombie that she wore her hijab for religious reasons).…

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Punitive Damages Allowed in Title VII Case Even Where Only Nominal Damages Awarded

Posted on January 23, 2015
Posted in Title VII

Title VII allows both compensatory and punitive damages and there is a statutory cap that applies, depending upon the size of the employer ($300,000 in the case of employers with more than 500 employees). 42 U.S.C. § 1981a. In a sexual harassment case before the Ninth Circuit, the question was whether punitive damages are available in a case where a jury has awarded only nominal damages in the amount of $1.00 and not compensatory damages. The Ninth Circuit, ruling en banc, overruled a prior panel decision and decided that an award of punitive damages in this case would be permissible and would not violate due process. Arizona v. ASARCO LLC, No. 11-1784 (9th Cir. Dec. 10, 2014).…

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Walmart Sanctioned For Destroying Evidence in Title VII Retaliation Case

Posted on January 9, 2015

What happens if a critical piece of evidence has been destroyed—even if allegedly unintentionally and in the course of regular business? In a recent decision out of the Northern District of Georgia in a Title VII and ADEA retaliation case, the court found that the destruction of the evidence created a presumption that the stated reason for the termination of the plaintiff was pretextual and that retaliation was the but-for cause of the termination. Abdulahi v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., Case No. 1:12cv4330 (N. D. Ga. December 18, 2014).…

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District Court Has Jurisdiction over Retaliation Claim Related to Prior Charge, Even Prior Charge that was Untimely

Posted on October 31, 2014

The Fourth Circuit recently ruled that the district court properly ruled that it had jurisdiction over a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII asserted by an Old Dominion University professor, even though the retaliation claim was not contained within her initial EEOC charge and that charge was, in fact, untimely. Hentosh v. Old Dominion University, No. 13-2037 (4th Cir. September 24, 2014). The Fourth Circuit’s ruling was based on the fact that the retaliation was reasonably related to the initial charge and its own prior decision that a claim for retaliation can be asserted for the first time in federal court.…

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Threat to Discipline Based on False Report to EEOC Could Support Retaliation Claim

Posted on August 22, 2014

In Cox v. Onondaga County Sheriff Department, No. 12-1526 (2d Cir. July 23, 2014), the Second Circuit recently held that threats made by an employer to charge employees with making a false report to the EEOC could establish a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII, shifting the burden of proof to the employer to show a non-retaliatory purpose for the action.…

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Ninth Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Issue of Whether Policy Prohibiting Male Deputies from Supervising Female Inmates is Discrimination

Posted on August 8, 2014

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit found that there were material issues of fact in dispute precluding summary judgment in favor of a county where male deputies claimed a policy prohibiting male deputies from supervising female inmates in the housing units of the jails operated by the County was unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. Anderson v. City & Cnty of San Francisco, No. 11-16746 (9th Cir. July 2, 2014).…

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