News for December 19, 2016

Featured this week:

In state law news:

Featured this week:

Jury to decide if female professor’s disparate pay and class assignments due to gender, retaliation
A female professor who claimed she was paid less than her male counterparts, denied promised raises that would have put her on equal footing with them, and not assigned high-level classes despite being qualified to do so, defeated summary judgment on her Equal Pay Act, Lilly Ledbetter, and Title VII claims of pay discrimination, a federal court in Louisiana ruled. A jury would also decide if the university unlawfully retaliated against her for complaining internally about wage discrimination and the male dean’s sexual harassment, and for filing an EEOC charge (Wallace v The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, MDLa, December 6, 2016, Dick, S.).

If true, forcibly kissing, then demoting resistant employee supports Title VII claims
Though many of an employee’s allegations of sexual harassment included conduct that was not objectively offensive (e.g., compliments on her appearance), she also alleged two incidents in which her boss forcibly kissed her and that supported her Title VII hostile work environment claim, held a federal court in Nevada. Summary judgment was also denied on her quid pro quo harassment and retaliation claims based on her demotion the day after she resisted his kiss. The employee’s tort claims for emotional distress and battery would also go to trial, as would the boss’s counterclaim for defamation. The court described this case as a classic he said, she said situation better left to a jury (Dubric v A Cab, LLC, DNev, December 8, 2016, Jones, R.).

Ex-wife/manager’s harassment could be ‘because of’ sex, not divorce
Allegations that an employee’s ex-wife, who was the facility manager and daughter of the CEO, used her position to harass the employee because he refused to renew their intimate relationship, were sufficient to support a Title VII claim that he was subject to a hostile work environment based on his gender, ruled a federal district court in Pennsylvania. Denying the employer’s motion to dismiss, the court explained that while the employer argued that her actions in having the employee arrested, falsely accusing him of beating their daughter, and disparaging him were based on a family legal dispute and not his gender, discovery would be needed to resolve that issue (Reiser v Concordia Lutheran Health and Human Care, WDPa, December 8, 2016, Bissoon, C.).

Staffing firm’s client may be liable in EEOC’s suit on behalf of deaf job applicants
A temporary staffing firm’s client may be liable for rejecting hearing-impaired applicants and failing to accommodate them during the interview process by providing a sign language interpreter, held a federal district court in Texas in an EEOC enforcement action. The company insisted it had no duties to the deaf applicants under the ADA because it was not their prospective "employer"—the staffing firm was—but a reasonable jury could find that it was either their prospective employer or prospective joint employer, so the company’s summary judgment motion was denied (EEOC v S&B Industry, Inc dba Fox Conn S&B, NDTex, December 8, 2016, Fitzwater, S.).

New resources delineate ADA protections for applicants/employees with mental health conditions
A new resource document issued by the EEOC underscores that under the ADA, job applicants and employees with mental health conditions are protected from employment discrimination and harassment based on their conditions and also may have a right to reasonable accommodation at work.

2017 standard mileage rates released
The IRS has released the 2017 optional standard mileage rates that employees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers can use to compute deductible costs of operating automobiles (including vans, pickups and panel trucks) for business, medical, moving and charitable purposes.

Growing number of millennials in U.S. workforce combined with new technologies lead employers to modernize employee benefits
Even as U.S. election results set the stage for potentially major changes in health care, U.S. employers are likely to continue efforts to modernize benefits in 2017. The mission: attract and retain young talent by offering more choice in benefit programs and improving the employee experience through technology.

CPI for all items rises 0.2% in November as gasoline and shelter indexes continue to rise
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported December 15. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.

In state law news:

EO barring sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination in state contracts shot down
A state court in Louisiana has come down against Governor John Bel Edwards, ruling that he unconstitutionally side-stepped the state legislature, creating law, when he took action to protect state employees from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by issuing Executive Order No. JBE 2016-11, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office reported. The court concluded that the EO is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

Philly City Council tackles gender-wage gap
The Philadelphia City Council has passed legislation to tackle the gender-wage gap by banning salary history inquiries and disclosure requirements in the hiring process. Passed by the Council on December 8, File #160840 has been sent to Mayor Jim Kenney for approval.

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Employment NetNews is a broader look at labor and employment law issues, with both attorneys and HR professionals in mind. Delivered to you every Monday, Employment NetNews offers timely coverage of breaking legislative developments, regulatory activity, state law changes, key case law and expert commentary by wkl&b editors.

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Special Report

4th Circuit court rules city’s social networking policy infringed on police officer’s First Amendment rights

A city’s social networking policy was unconstitutionally overbroad and disciplinary measures taken against two police officers pursuant to that policy were also impermissible, ruled the Fourth Circuit. The officers alleged that the policy under which they were disciplined for making Facebook comments while off-duty infringed on their First Amendment rights. As an initial matter, the appeals court found that regulations on social media questions were amenable to the traditional analysis set forth in Connick and Pickering. Further, noting the "astonishing breadth" of the social networking policy’s language, the court found its patent overbreadth negated a police chief’s qualified immunity defense. On the other hand, the appeals court found no merit to the officers’ retaliation claims, which involved investigations for alleged police misconduct independent of any issues of free speech (Liverman v. City of Petersburg, December 15, 2016, Wilkinson, H.).

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