pretext

Get your story straight—employer’s change in explanation can be evidence of pretext

Posted on July 10, 2015

Yet again, an employer is burned by asserting inconsistent reasons for the termination of an employee.  In a recent case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that an employee had presented sufficient evidence of an unlawful termination based on his use of FMLA leave where the employer offered differing stories as to the reason for the termination.  Hudson v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 8479 (8th Cir. 2015).…

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Transgender former police officer states a claim under Title VII-but fails to show sufficient evidence of discrimination

Posted on June 18, 2015

Last week, the district court ruled that although discrimination based on transgender status was a cognizable claim under Title VII, the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the rejection of her application to be part of a volunteer mounted patrol was discriminatory. Finkle v. Howard County, Maryland, Case No. SAG-13-3236 (D. Md. June 12, 2015).…

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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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What if an employer fails to abide by its own disciplinary process—what’s the harm?

Posted on April 10, 2015

According to a decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year, an employer’s failure to take action in accordance with its own disciplinary process could support a finding of discrimination. Soto-Feliciano v. Villa Cofresi Hotels, Inc., No. 13-2296 (February 20, 2015). Specifically, this failure can support a finding that an employer’s alleged reasons for firing an employee were merely pretext.…

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No FMLA Retaliation Where Employer Can Show Employee Terminated for Improperly Accessing Supervisor’s Email

Posted on October 10, 2014

The decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in the case of Downs v. Winchester Medical Center, et al., No. 5:13cv00083 regarding what constitutes a claim for interference in violation of the FMLA was the topic of a posting from a few months ago. The district court had found that while the plaintiff had properly stated a claim for retaliation in violation of the FMLA based upon these allegations, but that her claims not support a claim for FMLA interference.   Last month, the district court granted summary judgment to the employer, finding that the employer had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the termination of the employee, namely, her inappropriate accessing of her supervisor’s email, and thus that her retaliation claim failed as a matter of law. Downs, Memorandum Opinion (August 18, 2014).…

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No USERRA Claim Where Vet Terminated Based on Threats Made Against Co-workers

Posted on September 26, 2014
Posted in Other

In a recent decision, a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the claims asserted by a United States Army veteran with PTSD that his employer had terminated him in violation of both the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemplyoment Rights Act (“USERRA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Williamson v. Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Inc., Case No. 3:13-cv-704 (July 28, 2014). In this case, other employees had reported that the plaintiff had made a number of threatening statements about taking violent actions against co-workers. The court found that the employer was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff’s claims of discrimination under USERRA and the ADA and his failure to accommodate claim under the ADA.…

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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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Eleventh Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment Ruling in Discrimination Case—Reminding District Court that in Status-based Discrimination Claims, But-for Causation Not Required

Posted on May 30, 2014

This week, the Eleventh Circuit issued a ruling in Barthelus v. G4S Government Solutions, Inc., No. 13-14121 (May 27, 2014), reversing the district court’s award of summary judgment to an employer and finding that there was a material issue of fact regarding whether the employers’ grounds for termination were merely pretext. In so ruling, the Eleventh Circuit pointed out that the claims of the plaintiff were in the “status-based category of discrimination,” and thus the employee was not required to show that the causal link between the injury and wrong was so close that the injury would not have occurred but for the act. Instead, the plaintiff must only show that the motive to discriminate was one of the motives, even if accompanied by other, lawful motives. Barthelus, p. 16.…

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It Isn’t All About the Ultimate Decisionmaker—Fourth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment in Favor of Employer in ADEA Case

Posted on January 8, 2014

As employers, we often focus on what knowledge was in the hands of the ultimate decisionmaker at the time a crucial employment decision is made.  However, as the Fourth Circuit reminds us in its decision in Harris v. Powhatan County School Board, No. 12-2091, the knowledge and intent of those who have the power and ability to influence those decisionmakers also must be considered and can support a claim for discrimination. Alexander Harris was a seventy-two-year-old African American custodial worker whose position as a custodial worker for the Powhatan County School System was eliminated in 2009 after fifty-two years of employment.…

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