Melissa Legault

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U.S. Supreme Court Adopts Broad Interpretation of the “Ministerial Exception,” Protecting Religious Schools Against Employment Discrimination Claims (US)

The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission. Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those … Continue Reading

DOL Update: COVID-19-Related Guidance and New Opinion Letters (US)

During the week of June 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) issued three Field Assistance Bulletins, each providing guidance to WHD field staff regarding three unique compliance issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, on June 25, 2020, the DOL released five fact-specific opinion letters discussing various … Continue Reading

Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Prohibits Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity-Based Discrimination In Employment (US)

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable … Continue Reading

The Customer May Not Always Be Right When It Comes To Sexual Harassment (US)

We all know that employers have a legal obligation under federal law, as well as under various state and local laws, to provide their employees with a safe work environment free from sexual harassment, and that under certain circumstances, an employer can be held legally responsible for harassment directed at its employees. However, do companies … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Clarifies That A Disability Must Be Both “Transitory and Minor” To Qualify Under The Exception To The “Regarded-As” Prong of The ADA (US)

With the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) now 30 years old, most people, and certainly all HR professionals and employment lawyers, know that it is unlawful to discriminate against employees (and applicants) on the basis of a physical or mental disability. What is less widely known, however, is that the ADA not only prohibits discrimination … Continue Reading

Wardrobe Malfunctions, Zoombombing, and Other Torrid Tales from the Home Front (US)

With more of us working from home than ever during the COVID-19 public health crisis, employers and employees face unique challenges. Videoconferences have replaced in-person meetings, and our pets, kids, and partners are now our temporary “coworkers.” From the occasional mild annoyances, like barking dogs and ringing doorbells, to the truly humiliating examples trending on … Continue Reading

Employer’s After-the-Fact Discovery of Lack of Job Qualification Sinks Employee’s ADA Discrimination Claim (US)

Sunny Anthony worked for TRAX International as a technical writer.  During the course of her employment, she asked TRAX to accommodate her disabilities–post-traumatic stress disorder and related anxiety and depression—by letting her work from home, which TRAX denied or otherwise declined to allow.[1]   So Ms. Anthony sued TRAX, alleging that it violated the Americans with … Continue Reading

Arbitration Agreements Lacking Employer’s Signature Can Be Enforceable, Says Texas Appellate Court (US)

On April 16, 2020, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the First District Court of Texas held that an employer could compel a former employee to arbitrate her wrongful termination case, even though it had not signed the arbitration agreement, because the evidence demonstrated that the employer intended to be bound by … Continue Reading

Update on Federal Agency Activity – EEOC, NLRB, OSHA, and DOL – Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis (US)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on all aspects of life for all Americans and we are all still adjusting to this new “normal,” which is anything but normal.  Federal administrative agencies and their employees of course have not been immune to the effects of the current crisis and they, like private sector … Continue Reading

EEOC Reminds Employers: Antidiscrimination Laws Continue to Apply During the COVID-19 Pandemic (US)

The United States currently is experiencing an unprecedented public health emergency due to the COVID-19 virus.  The economic fallout of this crisis has been sudden and brutal on US employers, with vast numbers of businesses ordered to close and nearly 1 million new unemployment claims filed in the past two weeks alone.  In response, Congress … Continue Reading

US Department of Labor Publishes Regulations Clarifying Various Aspects of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (US)

Some questions answered, many still remain On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released new regulations (29 CFR Part 826), attempting to clarify certain provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  As we previously reported here, under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provision of the FFCRA, certain public employers and … Continue Reading

OFCCP Exempts New Federal Contracts Entered Into to Provide COVID-19 Relief From Certain Equal Employment Opportunity Requirements (US)

On March 17, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a temporary, three-month exemption from certain equal employment opportunity requirements for new supply and services and construction contracts “entered into specifically to provide Coronavirus relief.”  In the National Interest Exemption Memorandum (NIE Memorandum), the OFCCP provided modified equal … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit: Obese Employee Not Disabled Under the ADA (US)

As discussed in our prior posts on obesity and disability law, there is continuing disagreement in the courts concerning whether obesity alone constitutes a disability, or whether obesity must result from a physical disease or condition in order to be a disability.  On February 27, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit … Continue Reading

Inability To Perform A Specific Job Is Not A Substantial Impairment On Ability To Work, Says Second Circuit In ADA Case (US)

In Woolf v. Strada, decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in February 2020, the court considered whether the plaintiff’s inability to perform his particular job as a result of migraines and stress arising from the circumstances surrounding his job gave rise to a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities … Continue Reading

Update: Obesity as a Disability in the Ninth Circuit (US)

As we previously reported here, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Washington Supreme Court have been wrestling with whether obesity qualifies as a disability under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”). The dispute involves an applicant for a position with a railway company who sued in 2010, alleging that the … Continue Reading

SPB In-Depth:  Service Animals as Reasonable Workplace Disability Accommodations (US)

Many individuals with disabilities use service animals to help them fully engage in everyday life.  Animals, particularly dogs, can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks to help people with disabilities, and the number of tasks these specially trained animals can perform continues to grow. As a result, more applicants and employees are … Continue Reading

Can an Employer Implement a Nicotine-Free Hiring Policy?— It Depends on State Law (US)

Nicotine products are highly addictive and have been linked to a variety of serious health issues, including lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.  In addition to the numerous health risks associated with nicotine use, there is also a causal connection between employee nicotine use and lower productivity in the workplace, as well as higher healthcare … Continue Reading

EEOC Withdraws Policy Against Mandatory Arbitration of Workplace Discrimination Claims (US)

On December 17, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) rescinded its 22-year-old policy statement disapproving of mandatory employment arbitration agreements for workplace bias claims.  The agency’s 2-1 decision to retract this policy was in direct response to numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that support the use of such agreements. … Continue Reading

Title VII Pay Bias Claims Do Not Require Evidence of Unequal Pay for Equal Work (US)

On December 6, 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (which hears appeals from federal district courts located in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont) unanimously held that employees can allege gender-based pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act even if they cannot show that a … Continue Reading

Employers Can Expect a Trio of Joint Employer Rules in December 2019 (US)

In recent years, there has been increasing attention to the standard applied by regulators when determining when two unrelated business entities share sufficient control over a group of employees such that they may be considered “joint employers.” On November 20, 2019, the federal government released its Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions – … Continue Reading

EEOC Must Continue Collecting Pay Data Until January 31, 2020 (US)

On October 29, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that the EEOC must continue to take all steps necessary to complete EEO-1 Component 2 data collection for calendar years 2017 and 2018.  As we recently discussed here, the EEOC filed a motion on October 8, 2019 asking the court to … Continue Reading

Update on EEOC Pay Data Reporting:  EEOC Asks Court to End EEO-1 Component 2 Data Collection (US)

As we most recently reported here and here, as of September 30, 2019, employers with 100 or more employees  (and federal contractors with 50 or more employees) were required to report to the federal government pay data for 2017 and 2018 for their workforce (known as “Component 2” data), broken down by race/ethnicity, sex, and job … Continue Reading

Implicit Bias and Disparate Impact Claims: A Primer for Employers (US)

Employers are generally familiar with the complex web of federal and state statutes that prohibit workplace discrimination on grounds including sex, race, color, national origin, religion, genetic information, age, and disability and they are, by and large, vigilant to prohibit explicit forms of discrimination on these protected bases. But rare is the case where direct … Continue Reading

A Divided U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Trio of LGBT Employment Discrimination Cases (US)

On October 8, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in three employment discrimination cases involving what protection, if any, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of, among other things, sex – affords against sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination.  As we previously discussed … Continue Reading
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