State & Local Employment Law Developments: Q1/Q2 2020

State and local governments are increasingly regulating the workplace. In the first and second quarters of 2020 alone, legislatures were particularly active in passing laws addressing sexual harassment training, discrimination including hair discrimination, criminal background inquiries, salary history, and a variety of unpaid and paid leaves. Although it is not possible to discuss all state and local laws, this update provides an overview of recent and upcoming legislative developments to help you and your organization stay in compliance. (Please note that developments specifically related to COVID-19 are not included in this update.)

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Supreme Court Decides Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court decided three cases, holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender identity.

In each of the three cases, an employee was fired shortly after revealing that he or she was homosexual or transgender. Each plaintiff brought suit under Title VII, alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex. The Eleventh Circuit held that Title VII does not protect against discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, while the Second Circuit held that it did. The Sixth Circuit held that Title VII protects against discrimination on the basis of transgender identity.

For the full alert, visit the Faegre Drinker website.

Coronavirus Lawsuits on the Horizon: Termination and Discrimination

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the country, many employers responded to this unprecedented and uncertain situation by furloughing and laying off some or all of their workforce. These actions already have spurred labor and employment lawsuits. And more are likely on the horizon, including as employees start returning to work.

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New Jersey Law Prohibits COVID-19-Related Employment Discrimination

On March 20, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law meant to protect employees who take COVID-19-related leave. New Jersey Assembly Bill 3848 (the Act) provides protections and remedies for such employees and outlines the complaint process for aggrieved individuals. The Act is in direct response to COVID-19 and is meant to protect employees who need to take time off from work because they are or might be infected with COVID-19. The Act was effective immediately.
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Legislative Alert: New Jersey on A Fast Track to Ban Waivers of, and NDAs relating to, Employment Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Claims

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a number of states are considering legislation that would limit an employer’s ability to use non-disclosure agreements (“NDAs”) when settling sexual harassment claims. New York was the first state to enact such legislation, which was passed as part of a wide-ranging budget bill that takes effect July 11, 2018. New York’s law bans non-disclosure provisions in settlements of claims involving sexual harassment allegations, unless confidentiality is the “complainant’s preference,” provided some onerous procedures are complied with. Washington State passed a similar law. Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania are also considering legislation to restrict the use of NDAs.

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Spotlight on Fair Pay for Female Law Firm Partners: Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Sedgwick

Traci Ribeiro’s class action lawsuit against her employer Sedgwick LLP is the latest in a string of lawsuits in the pay equity battle, which has been highlighted in this year’s Presidential election and through the recent EEOC claim filed by the U.S. womens’ soccer team. Ribeiro is a non equity partner who claims that, as one of the firm’s three highest revenue generating partners, she has been denied equity partnership and was subjected to retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint claiming gender discrimination.  She seeks to represent a class of past and present female attorneys in partnership track positions at the firm; her complaint alleges violations of the California Fair Pay Act, Illinois Fair Pay Act, and Federal Equal Pay, as well as gender discrimination and retaliation under the California FEHA, Illinois Human Rights Act, and Title VII.  Ribeiro claims, in addition to routinely paying women lawyers less than their male counterparts, Sedgwick has denied women equity partnership and membership on its Executive Committee (until 2016, when Ribeiro made a formal complaint about gender discrimination).  She asserts discrimination under both a disparate treatment and disparate impact theory.

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