On July 21, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) issued a long-awaited decision giving employers more freedom to discipline employees who engage in abusive, obscene or profane conduct in connection with their work. In General Motors, LLC, 369 NLRB No. 127 (2020), the NLRB rejected three context-specific rules formerly used to assess whether an employee’s inappropriate conduct is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act). Instead, the NLRB will now assess that conduct under the Wright Line standard, which is used to evaluate all other claims of discriminatory conduct under the Act.
In a case of first impression at the circuit level, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed dismissal of a disability discrimination complaint because the plaintiff had plausibly alleged a condition covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on a genetic mutation causing abnormal cell development.
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.)
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.
On June 15, 2020, in the month and year that marks the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ+ Pride traditions, the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the 6-3 decision authored by Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Court said that Title VII’s message is simple: “[a]n individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions . . . [and] it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590 U.S. ___ (2020).
This opinion resolves a circuit split arising from decisions by the Second, Sixth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. In each case, an employer fired a long-time employee shortly after the employee disclosed being “homosexual” or “transgender” and allegedly for no reason other than the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
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.