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Discrimination Archives

How Far Must an Employer go to Properly and Consistently Accommodate Employee Religious Beliefs?

A recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Case highlighted an example of the uncommon, unique, and potentially high-risk nature of religious accommodations in the workplace.  In U.S. EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10385 (4th Cir.), a longtime employee and evangelical Christian retired under protest after his religious beliefs conflicted with his employer's new time keeping system, and their unwillingness to accommodate his religious objections to it.  A jury found the employer discriminated against the employee and awarded him almost half a million dollars in damages.

Politics and Religion in the Workplace - "Backlash Discrimination" of Muslims and Middle Eastern Employees

Fear, emotionally charged perspectives on the Trump administration's immigration policy and deeply embedded religious views are all topics ripe for disagreements possibly escalating into use of slurs, threats and insults. The workplace, where many of us spend the majority of our weekdays, is one place where these agreements may percolate to a dangerous boiling point.

BREAKING NEWS: Seventh Circuit Becomes First Federal Court of Appeals to Recognize Sexual Orientation Discrimination Under Title VII

In what will certainly be considered a landmark appellate court decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College yesterday concluding that individuals can bring sexual orientation discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By a vote of 8-3, the Court held that discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" (which is not explicitly listed as a protected class under Title VII) is equivalent to discrimination on the basis of "sex" (which is listed as a protected class).

Gender Identity Issues are Front and Center in 2017

From President Trump's Recent Executive Order and the U.S. Supreme Court's Anticipated Decision this spring on Use of Public Bathrooms According to One's Gender Identity, to a Case Pending in Minnesota Federal Court Involving Claims of Discrimination in Health Care under the Affordable Care Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act

EEOC Prioritizes National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace

It is likely pure coincidence that the EEOC issued its position on national origin discrimination within days of the November elections. The guidelines went into effect on November 21, 2016, modifying the EEOC's previous position on national origin discrimination, issued 15 years ago. The current guidelines are consistent with the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for 2017-2021, which identifies the rights of immigrants as a top priority for the agency.

Avoid Religious Discrimination in Your Workplace

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law which prohibits employers (with at least 15 employees) from discriminating in the workplace based on such issues as religion.

Seventh Circuit Appears Reluctant in Determining Title VII Does Not Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Most people are aware of the EEOC's recent and highly publicized position that discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC's position has been applauded by LGBT advocates who have been unable to get Congress to amend Title VII to include sexual orientation as a protected class. Despite the EEOC's position, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the dismissal of a professor's sexual orientation claim under Title VII. And while the Court felt handcuffed by precedent concerning sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII, it did not hold back in addressing the inconsistencies of such precedent. The Court implicitly urged the Supreme Court and/or Congress to resolve these inconsistencies in a way that would protect individuals from sexual orientation discrimination in employment.

Illinois Pregnancy Protections Expanded

On August 26, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 8 (HB8) that amends the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) by placing "new obligations on employers" with regard to their pregnant employees. While the law will not take effect until January 1, 2015, employers should be cognizant of the new obligations imposed upon them.

Here Comes the EEOC!

As most private employers are well aware, numerous federal and state government agencies conduct on-site investigations and have been doing so for a long period of time [for example, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA inspectors) and United States Department of Labor (USDOL inspectors)]. Soon to be joining this array of "government visitors" is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is engaging in a new and more aggressive investigation strategy. It will no longer accept an employer's Position Statement at face value and is now demanding on-site visits to interview witnesses and gather information. It is the opinion of the author that these "on-site visits" are merely "fishing expeditions" conducted by the EEOC to gather any and all harmful information it can find out about an employer, be it for the case at issue or to develop a bigger case in the future. Suffice it to say that during these investigations, the EEOC representative will do everything he/she can to "bait the hook" and catch the biggest fish.

The EEOC - At It Again

We have all seen over the last number of years that the tentacles of government involvement - on both federal and state levels - have drastically increased the costs to business and the potential liabilities of an employer for alleged discriminatory practices. For many employers, credit checks and criminal background checks are absolute necessities, but be it the Federal Trade Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, these agencies have attempted to chip away at the employer's right to perform these checks over the last few years. On or about April 25, 2012, the EEOC released their new Enforcement Guidelines for employers dealing with criminal background checks and the clear emphasis that it is the EEOC's presumption that consideration of a criminal history is patently unlawful unless the involved employer can prove that its policy is narrowly tailored, clearly job-related, and consistent with business necessity.

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