Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117, makes it unlawful for an employer to "require a medical examination" or to "make inquiries of an employee as to whether such employee is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of the disability, unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity." Id. § 12112(d)(4)(A). According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), this means that an employer should not make disability-related inquiries or require a medical examination of an employee unless the employer "has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee's ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition."Read More
EMPLOYMENT LAW LEGAL RESEARCH BLOG
When an arbitration agreement is in effect, who decides whether an employment dispute—or any dispute for that matter—is arbitrable? The Supreme Court recently released a pair of decisions that address this issue under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., ___ S. Ct. ___, 202 L. Ed. 2d 480, 2019 WL 122164 (Jan. 8, 2019), and New Prime, Inc. v. Oliveira, ___ S. Ct. ___, 2019 WL 189342 (Jan. 15, 2019).
Each case involved an arbitration agreement that contained a clause delegating the issue of arbitrability of disputes to an arbitrator rather than a court. The Supreme Court had previously held that such clauses are enforceable under the FAA. Rent-A-Center W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63 (2010) (applying 9 U.S.C. § 2). Some courts of appeals developed an exception to this general rule, holding that a court need not grant a motion to compel arbitration under § 4 of the FAA if the argument that the underlying claim is within the scope of the arbitration agreement is "wholly groundless."Read More
The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") prohibits covered employers from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). This prohibition against discrimination can apply to certain medical examinations and inquiries.
However, the ADA does not forbid all medical examinations and inquiries. Their permissibility and scope varies depending on the stage of employment. Employers are generally prohibited from making any disability-related inquiries or requiring medical examinations of applicants before offering employment. Id. § 12112(d)(2)(A). After an offer has been made, however, the ADA permits employers to require a medical examination of a prospective employee, and it permits employers to condition a final offer of employment upon the results of the examination under certain circumstances. Id. § 12112(d)(3). The ADA also generally prohibits employers from requiring current employees to undergo medical examinations or inquiries unless the employer can demonstrate they are “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” Id. § 12112(d)(4)(A).Read More
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") applies to all public employers, including those with fewer than 20 employees, a unanimous Supreme Court held in its first merits decision of the October 2018 term. Thus, the 20-employee minimum that applies to private employers does not apply to a state or its subdivisions. The 8-0 decision, Mount Lemmon Fire Dist. v. Guido, ___ S. Ct. ___, 202 L. Ed. 2d 262 (2018), resolves a split of authority between the Ninth Circuit on one hand and the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits on the other.
The case arose when a fire district in Arizona, faced with a budget shortfall, laid off its two oldest full-time firefighters—Fire Captains who were aged 46 and 54. Not surprisingly, the firefighters brought suit against the fire district for age discrimination. In seeking to dismiss the suit, the fire district argued that it was too small to qualify as an “employer” under the ADEA. The district court agreed, granting summary judgment for the fire district, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the 20-employee minimum that applies to private employers does not apply to a state or its subdivisions.Read More
The Equal Pay Act ("EPA") provides as follows:
No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to . . . (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex[ .]
29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) (emphasis added).
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that "[t]he [EPA] stands for a principle as simple as it is just: men and women should receive equal pay for equal work regardless of sex."Read More
A federal district court sitting in Pennsylvania has held that an employer may proceed with its unfair competition suit asserting contract and tort claims against a former employee and the employee’s current employer. The employer adequately stated claims of common-law breach of fiduciary duty and unfair competition against the employee, and of aiding and abetting the same against the competitor. However, the employer’s claim of tortious interference with prospective contractual relationship against the employee would be dismissed because the complaint failed to allege a sufficient likelihood of a prospective contract. Neopart Transit, LLC v. CBM N.A., Inc., 314 F. Supp. 3d 628 (E.D. Pa. 2018).Read More
In circumstances where an employer subject to the workers' compensation mandate fails to obtain the requisite insurance coverage, such noncompliance can have serious legal consequences. By statute in many states, such noncompliance deprives the employer of the standard employer tort defenses barring a defendant employer from asserting (1) an assumption of risk, (2) the fellow servant rule, and (3) contributory negligence in a tort suit brought by an injured worker.
From a policy perspective, this statutory defensive penalty was intentionally enacted so as to materially disadvantage noncompliant employers at trial (by removing an employer’s preferred tort defenses), thereby encouraging employers to participate in the system. Bath Mills v. Odom, 168 F.2d 38, 39-40 (4th Cir. 1948); Blinkinsop v. Weber, 85 Cal. App. 2d 276, 279, 193 P.2d 96, 97 (1948).Read More
On September 20, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by a district court, holding that the failure to provide an employee with long-term medical leave is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The decision, Severson v. Heemployartland Woodcraft, Inc., No. 15-3754, 2017 WL 4160849 (7th Cir. Sept. 20, 2017), rejects the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") position that long-term medical leave may qualify as a reasonable accommodation.
Severson worked for Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., in a position for which heavy lifting was an essential function. In 2013, he took 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave due to back pain. On the last day of leave, he had back surgery, which required that he take another two to three months of leave from work to recuperate. He asked if he could continue his medical leave, but because he had exhausted his FMLA leave, Heartland denied the request and told him that he could reapply for a position once he was medically cleared to work.Read More
In interpreting the coverage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, appellate courts have held that the prohibition against discrimination based on sex does not encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation. E.g., Simonton v. Runyon, 232 F.3d 33 (2d Cir. 2000); Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 936 (5th Cir. 1979). In December 2012, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") took the opposite position in a Strategic Enforcement Plan that prioritized enforcement of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees under the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII. Since that time, the EEOC has filed a number of lawsuits alleging discrimination against gay and lesbian employees and has consistently maintained that Title VII's prohibition of discrimination based on sex protects employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation. See, e.g., Complainant v. Anthony Foxx, Secretary, Dep’t of Transp. (Fed. Aviation Admin.), Agency, EEOC DOC 0120133080, 2015 WL 4397641 (July 15, 2016).
In April 2017, the Second Circuit, relying on Simonton, held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Zarda v. Altitude Express, 855 F.3d 76 (2d Cir. 2017). The court also noted that a separate panel had held that Simonton could only be overturned by a Second Circuit en banc decision.
Similarly, the Eleventh Circuit held in March 2017 that a lesbian employee was not protected under Title VII against discrimination based on her sexual orientation. Evans v. Ga. Reg’l Hosp., 850 F.3d 1248 (11th Cir. 2017). In the Evans decision, the court cited a 1979 case that held that discharge for homosexuality is not protected by Title VII, Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 936, 938 (5th Cir. 1979) (adopted as binding precedent for the Eleventh Circuit in Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981), and found that it was bound to follow the ruling in Blum unless that decision is overruled by an en banc holding of the Eleventh Circuit.Read More
As with most forms of employment discrimination, an employer's retaliation against an employee for asserting discrimination under the Equal Pay Act ("EPA") gives rise to an additional and distinct cause of action for the employee. To state a claim for retaliation under the EPA (as incorporated into the Fair Labor Standards Act), a plaintiff must plausibly allege (1) engagement in protected activity, (2) materially adverse action that might well have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination, and (3) causality.
A showing of the causality element requires either (1) that the retaliation closely followed the protected activity, or (2) that the plaintiff put forth a sufficient explanation for the delay between the protected activity and the alleged retaliation. Where the time between the protected conduct and the alleged retaliation is too great to establish causation based solely on temporal proximity, a plaintiff must present other relevant evidence to establish causation, such as continuing retaliatory conduct and animus in the intervening period. In addition, when there may be valid reasons why an adverse employment action was not taken immediately, the absence of immediacy between the cause and the effect does not disprove causation in a retaliation case.Read More