The federal government issued multiple guidances regarding the use of AI, software and algorithms in employment including hiring, accommodation decisions and medical or other private inquiries. See for example \recent guidances by the EEOC, White House, and DOJ.
The White House summarized its goals for an AI Bill of Rights in employment, as follows:
You should not face discrimination by algorithms and systems should be used and designed in an equitable way. Algorithmic discrimination occurs when automated systems contribute to unjustified different treatment or impacts disfavoring people based on their race, color, ethnicity, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, gender identity, intersex status, and sexual orientation), religion, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, genetic information, or any other classification protected by law. Depending on the specific circumstances, such algorithmic discrimination may violate legal protections. Designers, developers, and deployers of automated systems should take proactive and continuous measures to protect individuals and communities from algorithmic discrimination and to use and design systems in an equitable way. This protection should include proactive equity assessments as part of the system design, use of representative data and protection against proxies for demographic features, ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities in design and development, pre-deployment and ongoing disparity testing and mitigation, and clear organizational oversight. Independent evaluation and plain language reporting in the form of an algorithmic impact assessment, including disparity testing results and mitigation information, should be performed and made public whenever possible to confirm these protections.
The White House’s goal for an AI Bill of Rights includes components regarding data privacy, notices and consent.
The EEOC gives several examples of ways that “an employer’s use of algorithmic decision-making tools could violate.”
The employer does not provide a “reasonable accommodation” that is necessary for a job applicant or employee to be rated fairly and accurately by the algorithm.
The employer relies on an algorithmic decision-making tool that intentionally or unintentionally “screens out” an individual with a disability, even though that individual is able to do the job with a reasonable accommodation. “Screen out” occurs when a disability prevents a job applicant or employee from meeting—or lowers their performance on—a selection criterion, and the applicant or employee loses a job opportunity as a result. A disability could have this effect by, for example, reducing the accuracy of the assessment, creating special circumstances that have not been taken into account, or preventing the individual from participating in the assessment altogether.
The employer adopts an algorithmic decision-making tool for use with its job applicants or employees that violates the ADA’s restrictions on disability-related inquiries and medical examinations.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2023-02-27 16:25:072023-02-27 16:25:07Federal government issues guidances regarding the use of AI, software and algorithms in employment
The EEOC has released a new version of its prior “EEO is the Law” poster, now called a “Know Your Rights” poster. The new poster is available here. The EEOC encourages employers to substitute it for the current poster as soon as possible. The EEOC has not yet set a deadline for when it must be substituted. For additional information about the changes in the new poster, the EEOC summarized its intended changes in its press release regarding the new poster.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2022-10-21 15:18:342022-10-21 15:18:34EEOC releases new poster, no deadline yet set
In a case involving rather significant allegations of misconduct, the Tenth Circuit parsed through the evidence to hold, on summary judgment, that some of the worker’s claims were properly dismissed but other should have been allowed to proceed.
On her claim of discrimination, her case included a claim that an officer of the company said he felt she was “building a case” against the company and was “more trouble than she’s worth,” that he called her and another African-American female employee “Black b*s from Atlanta” and “resident street walkers.” However, the Tenth Circuit rejected the claim because it found no evidence that the officer was a decisionmaker or that he had any input in the adverse employment decision affecting her.
On her claim of retaliation, though, the Court noted that the same officer had allegedly laughed and said, “Let her try,” when the possibility of her re-applying for promotion in the future was discussed.
The court analyzed a number of other claims and multiple other allegations of specific evidence, including an incident involving rather graphic allegations of sexual harassment at a party attended by plaintiff and her co-workers, which the Court held was not sufficient to support a claim because the party occurred well before the time period for filing a charge of discrimination (300 days). But, the Court noted she claimed that she’d been asked multiple questions at work about her breasts, been subjected to “sexual banter,” on a near “daily basis,” much of which was corroborated by other female workers. The Court held this was sufficient to support claims of hostile work environment and constructive discharge.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2022-08-24 10:13:582022-08-24 10:13:58Tenth Circuit reinstates some claims by a worker but affirms dismissal of others
Generally, the purchase of a business can be done in two ways: (1) a so-called “equity deal” where the stock in a corporation (or other ownership interest if the business is not a corporation) is acquired or (2) an “asset deal” in which only the assets of a business are acquired. In an equity deal, the business itself never changes, just its owners, so the business remains liable usually for whatever its liabilities were prior to the transaction; in other words, the acquisition doesn’t affect the business, or its liabilities, just its ownership. Partially for that reason, asset deals are often pursued instead. In an asset deal, the goal is to acquire only the assets of the business, so the buyer can start its own new business fresh. Recognizing that might not be fair to creditors (including victims of wrongdoing by the business) if for example the “new” business is anything but fresh and is instead a simple continuation of the old business even in name, the courts have long imposed a test for successor liability.
The longstanding common law rule outside of the Title VII context has been that “where one corporation sells or otherwise transfers all of its assets to another corporation, the latter is not liable for the debts and liabilities of the transferor.” W. Tex. Ref. & Dev. Co. v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, 68 F.2d 77, 81 (10th Cir. 1933) (citing federal and state cases). There are “four well recognized exceptions” to this general common law rule. Id. Those include: “(1) [w]here the purchaser expressly or impliedly agrees to assume such debts; (2) where the transaction amounts to a consolidation or merger of the corporations; (3) where the purchasing corporation is merely a continuation of the selling corporations; and (4) where the transaction is entered into fraudulently in order to escape liability for such debts.”
When considering whether to impose successor liability, the Tenth Circuit has adopted nine factors, none of which alone should generally be controlling but all of which should be weighed in context of a particular case’s circumstances:
1) whether the successor company had notice of the charge,
2) the ability of the predecessor to provide relief,
3) whether there has been a substantial continuity of business operations,
4) whether the new employer uses the same plant,
5) whether he uses the same or substantially the same work force,
6) whether he uses the same or substantially the same supervisory personnel,
7) whether the same jobs exist under substantially the same working conditions,
8) whether he uses the same machinery, equipment and methods of production and
9) whether he produces the same product.
As one sees, the first factor is whether the successor had “notice.” The Tenth Circuit has cautioned this factor is not controlling, alone, either way, and, further, that in deciding whether “notice” existed, courts should not limit the evidence to cases of actual notice.
In Roark-Whitten, according to the Court’s decision, the sales agreement at-issue contained “a due diligence provision that afforded SGI thirty days in which to investigate, in pertinent part, the liabilities of the business.” The plaintiff claimed that, if the purchaser had properly exercised due diligence, it would have learned of the employment law liability exposures at-issue.
Despite a strong dissent to the contrary, a 2-judge majority in this panel decision ruled that the plaintiff had adequately pled sufficient facts against at least one of the purchasers at-issue. The case contained allegations of especially unusual and vivid employment law violations, as well as relatively unusual allegations of fact regarding the diligence process itself, and a rather unique and complicated set of facts involving the transactions that were at-issue. Given the dissent, it is arguable that this 2-judge panel holding is likely to be viewed as limited to the constellation of alleged facts at-issue, especially since the case was decided on a motion to dismiss, meaning the issue was only whether the claims were sufficiently pled to start the lawsuit. In other words, the Tenth Circuit did not hold that as an evidentiary matter, issues of fact were raised, must less did its ruling suggest liability might exist.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2022-06-25 15:28:332022-06-25 15:28:33Tenth Circuit expands possible successor liability for a purchaser especially if their purchase agreement contains a due-diligence clause
The EEOC has issued a guidance explaining that employees who act as “caregivers” for their family and friends may be protected by existing anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC does not define the phrase “caregiver” and, therefore, presumably intends it in a general dictionary sense. In other words, readers should note the EEOC is not using that phrase in this guidance to mean medical or other professional caregivers. The EEOC notes that being a caregiver is not itself protected by federal anti-discrimination laws like Title VII, the ADA and the ADEA. Rather, the EEOC cautions, caregivers often fall into those laws’ other existing protected classes.
Caregiver discrimination violates federal employment discrimination laws when it is based on an applicant’s or employee’s sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), race, color, religion, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information (such as family medical history). Caregiver discrimination also is unlawful if it is based on an applicant’s or employee’s association with an individual with a disability, within the meaning of the ADA, or on the race, ethnicity, or other protected characteristic of the individual for whom care is provided. Finally, caregiver discrimination violates these laws if it is based on intersections among these characteristics (for example, discrimination against Black female caregivers based on racial and gender stereotypes, or discrimination against Christian female caregivers based on religious and gender stereotypes).
The EEOC explains it has issued this guidance because many caregivers are facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted employees’ work and personal obligations, creating concurrent and, at times, competing job and caregiving demands. Abrupt changes in work locations, schedules, or employment status required millions of Americans with caregiving responsibilities for children, spouses, partners, older relatives, individuals with disabilities, or other individuals to quickly adjust to vastly changed circumstances.
Even as the pandemic evolves, the challenge of juggling work and caregiving obligations remains. Some workplaces, classrooms, and care facilities may operate on hybrid schedules, request or require employees to work extra shifts, or close with short notice. Employees may need to quarantine unexpectedly if they or household members are potentially exposed to or infected with COVID-19. Some employees who live in households with persons who are immunocompromised, children too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or other vulnerable individuals may be reluctant to return to the workplace.
The EEOC discusses a number of ways it believes that an employee’s off-duty caregiver activities and obligations can implicate each of the existing protected classes under federal anti-discrimination laws.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2022-04-11 14:30:382022-04-06 14:43:14EEOC issues guidance on federal anti-discrimination laws and employees who are caregivers outside work
While most cases of COVID-19 resolve without complication, the EEOC cautions in a new Section “N” added to its on-going COVID-19 guidance, that some cases may be more severe and cause a “disability” that is protected by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
The EEOC advises that anyone who experiences only no symptoms or mild symptoms, including symptoms comparable to a cold or flu, will not be considered “disabled.” Rather that person will have suffered a “transitory and minor” illness that is not a “disability.”
However, a person may experience a protected “disability” if they suffer “ongoing but intermittent” symptoms that “substantially limit” major life activities like “neurological and brain function, concentrating, and/or thinking,” or if they receive supplemental oxygen for breathing difficulties, or if they suffer “heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, and related effects to to the virus that last, or are expected to last, for several months and that “substantially limit” major life activities such as “cardiovascular function and circulatory function.” Likewise “intestinal pain, vomiting, and nausea” that lasts “for many months, even if intermittently” may constitute a “disability” if it substantially limits major life activities. (See. Section N.4). The EEOC explains its guidance is intended to confirm that at least some cases of so-called “long COVID” (more commonly called long-haul COVID) can constitute a “disability.” Likewise even if the person does not experience long-haul COVID, they may nonetheless suffer a protected “disability” if the COVID-19 triggers a different condition (such as diabetes) that is itself a protected disability.
The EEOC cautions that employees may also be protected if “regarded as” so disabled even if they do not have an actual disability of this type, for example, if their employer fires them because it believes their symptoms will continue along such lines. See Section N. 7. And the EEOC cautions they may also be protected if the company has a “record of” them having such a condition even if they do not actually have such a condition and are not “regard as” having such a condition.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2021-12-15 11:53:022021-12-15 11:53:02EEOC cautions some cases of COVID-19 may cause a disability protected by law
Missed my recent webinar on vaccines in the workplace? Email me or send me a message through this website if interested in the complimentary on-demand presentation. In the meantime, check out this article on Law 360 (no subscription required). Interesting topics include a look at some of these new lawsuits, the need to provide certain accommodations, the importance of considering state laws, and the confusion caused by current vaccines EUA status.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2021-07-18 03:40:002021-07-18 03:40:00Vaccine lawsuits rising
The EEOC issued new guidance on religious accommodation obligations imposed by Title VII. The guidance is not regulatory, it was not issued through the formal rulemaking process, and therefore does not enjoy deference in courts, although it is a statement of the EEOC’s opinion of the law for so long as it is in effect. Topics addressed include prayer breaks, contraceptive coverage, LGBTQ+ protections, expression including not only the wearing of religious garb but the expression of religious faith.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2021-07-11 10:30:132021-07-06 10:35:24EEOC issues new guidance on religious accommodation obligations
Earlier this year, the EEOC issued a final rule on conciliation. Conciliation is like a settlement conference in that it is a process in which the EEOC meets with the employer, and usually involved charging parties, and a settlement is possible; however, it is different in that, at a conciliation, unlike at a settlement conference, the EEOC has determined Probable Cause exists to believe there has been a violation and further the EEOC’s goal is not to reach an amicable resolution but to eradicate and prevent ongoing violations. The EEOC’s conciliation process is often unproductive and frequently triggers litigation, as the EEOC’s good faith effort to resolve the case at the conciliation is a prerequisite to its later ability to initiate a lawsuit. In an effort to clarify its conciliation process and to make it more likely to produce a settlement, the EEOC’s final rule requires the EEOC to, among other things, inform the employer of the facts underlying its Probable Cause determination, in more detail than had previously been required, including to describe in more detail any injured parties for whom relief is sought. The EEOC acknowledges there may be an exception if the individual has requested anonymity. The EEOC will also provide a recitation of the legal basis for its claims and a calculation of any remedies sought. The company will be allowed at least 14 days to consider and respond to the EEOC’s initial proposal.
The EEOC’s final rule has already proven controversial. Although the rule was welcomed by employers, including by SHRM, the Senate has voted to rescind it.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2021-07-08 10:15:172021-07-06 10:29:09EEOC final rule on conciliation in jeopardy?
Delayed in 2020 so that HR professionals would not have to go into their workplaces during the start of the pandemic, the EEOC has now opened its portal for filing EEO-1 Component 1 data. The deadline for filing Component 1 data is July 19, 2021. The EEOC announced the opening of its portal, as follows:
Update: 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 Data Collection is NOW OPEN
After delaying the opening of the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the EEOC has announced that the 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection is NOW OPEN. Eligible employers have until Monday, July 19, 2021 to submit two years of data.
Filers should visit the newly launched EEO-1 Component 1 website at https://EEOCdata.org/eeo1 for the latest filing updates and additional information. By visiting the Filer Support Center located at https://EEOCdata.org/eeo1/support, filers can request assistance as well as find helpful resources, including fact sheets and FAQs.
Employers are reminded that Component 1 data is the demographic data that employers have been used to filing with breakdowns by various protected classes. In contrast Component 2 data was the paydata previously and controversially under consideration.
Generally, it is larger employers and government contractors who are required to file, as the EEOC explains here:
The following companies are required to file the EEO-1 Component 1 Report annually:
Private employers who are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act with 100 or more employees.
Private employers subject to Title VII affiliated through common ownership and/or centralized management with other entities in an enterprise with a total employment of 100 or more.
Federal government prime contractors or first-tier subcontractors subject to Executive Order 11246, as amended who are not exempt as provided for by 41 CFR 60-1.5, with both 50 or more employees and a prime contract or first-tier subcontract amounting to $50,000 or more.
Employers that serve as a depository of Government funds in any amount or as a financial institution which is an issuing and paying agent for U.S. Savings Bonds and Savings Notes and have 50 or more employees.
Only those establishments located in the District of Columbia and the 50 states are required to submit an EEO-1 Component 1 Report. No reports should be filed for establishments in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or other American Protectorates.
State and local governments, public primary and secondary school systems, institutions of higher education, American Indian or Alaska Native tribes and tax-exempt private membership clubs other than labor organizations are also exempt from the EEO-1 Component 1 Report. However, non-profits and not for profit organizations are required to file the EEO-1 Component 1 Report.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2021-04-28 15:30:532021-04-28 15:30:53EEOC opens portal for filing EEO-1 Component 1 data
A recent Tenth Circuit decision previews courts’ likely analysis when employers begin requiring workers to return to the workplace following the eventual end of the pandemic. In the case, the Court held that making a “transitional duty” permanent is not a reasonable accommodation — in other words is not required by the ADA — especially where it would eliminate an essential function of the worker’s position.
The Court used the phrase “transitional duty” to refer to the employer-prison’s temporary assignment of a disabled worker to relatively light duty that consisted of “sedentary” tasks in the “control room.” The prison provided the transitional duty only as a temporary accommodation of his arthritis pending hip surgery after which he was expected to return to his regular duties as a correctional officer. It was undisputed that the regular duties of a correctional officer included the ability to defend oneself, which he could not do absent successful recovery from surgery. When the temporary transitional duty ended and he was still unable to work as a correctional officer, his employment was terminated. He sued claiming that the ADA required the prison to convert the transitional duty into his permanent assignment. The prison responded and the Tenth Circuit agreed that making his temporary accommodation permanent would not have been a reasonable accommodation, in other words, was not required under the ADA. His job was to work as a correctional officer; the transitional duty was merely a temporary effort to respond to his arthritis and need for surgery.
Just as having permitted that correctional officer to work in the control room was merely a temporary response to the circumstances at the time, one that the ADA did not require to be made permanent, so, now in the context of the pandemic, allowing employees to work remotely, temporarily during the pandemic, does not open the door to ADA lawsuits claiming to make remote-work permanent, at least where attendance is itself an essential function of the job. Readers are reminded that the EEOC similarly recently opined that temporarily eliminating an essential function, in response to specific circumstances such as the pandemic, does not require that elimination to be made permanent under the ADA (or Title VII).
Source: Mannan v. Colorado, 2020 BL 493234, 2020 Us App Lexis 39822 (10th Cir. 12/18/20).
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2021-01-11 11:38:542021-01-11 11:38:54Tenth Circuit previews likely ruling when employers require return-to-work following pandemic
It may become possible, as vaccines begin to be available, for an employer to mandate vaccination as a condition of entry into the workplace if the company can establish business necessity and that failure to impose the requirement would pose a direct threat of harm to others or that employee’s own health.
The EEOC noted it may or may not also be possible for an employer to mandate vaccination as a condition of employment. In other words, the EEOC said that, while some employers may be able to require vaccination as a condition of physically entering the workplace, to terminate an un-vaccinated employee would require a higher showing to prove business necessity and direct threat. For example, such an employer would have to prove the inability to allow the worker to take leave, to work remotely, etc.
In both instances, an employer would have to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee who declines vaccination
Regarding a disability, under the ADA, unless the employer can prove undue hardship, i.e., that “there is no way” to allow the worker into the workplace or just to keep their job without the vaccine, to take leave, if not even to work remotely, and/or
Regarding a sincerely held religious belief, under Title VII, unless it would impose more than a de minimis cost or burden to the company to provide such an accommodation.
The EEOC recommends that employers consider, in all circumstances, using a third-party medical contractor that expertly advise workers, obtain informed consent, and manage any questions as well as the administration of the vaccine, and the exchange of any information regarding genetics, within medical confidentiality, such that the worker would, once vaccinate, simply provide the company with documentation of having been vaccinated, ensuring no confidential information is shared with the company.
Employers should first be aware that the EEOC does not have jurisdiction over and did not opine on other federal or state laws, which may well be thornier restrictions for employers who feel required vaccines are needed in their workplaces. Further, multiple states have already begun the process of debating whether to legislate or simply regulate in this area.
Finally, it should be noted that the EEOC was discussing vaccines that have been “approved or authorized” by the FDA. Currently no vaccines have been “approved” by the FDA, some have received an emergency use “authorization.” The EEOC did not discuss the fact that, in the fact sheet supporting the current authorizations, the FDA specifically stated: “It is your choice to receive or not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.” While that statement seems to be limited to a patient’s choice in terms of their own medical care — not their employment rights — that statement’s importance has not yet been analyzed by the EEOC (or the courts).
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-12-30 14:41:252020-12-30 14:43:33EEOC issues guidance on vaccines
The EEOC, like some other administrative agencies, has historically issued what it calls informal guidances as a way of articulating the agency’s position on issues of law without having to go through the formal notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures required of regulations. The legal consequence, and even informal persuasive value, of these guidances is often litigated. On October 9, 2019, President Trump issued Executive Order 13891 to end the practice, requiring agencies to go through the rulemaking process instead. In implementation of that Executive Order, the EEOC published its final regulations 85 Fed.Reg. 69167, to be codified at 29 CFR 1695.
The EEOC’s new rules will require that all such guidances contain the following disclaimer:
The contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or Commission policies.’
Additionally guidances will be subject to advance review by the Commissioners.
The EEOC’s new rules recognize a a category of guidances with particular “significance,” specifically those that may have an annual effect of $100-million or more or otherwise “aversely affect in a material way the U.S. economy, a sector of the U.S. economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities.” These “significant guidance documents” will have to be issued in accordance with formal rulemaking requirements. It is not clear how the EEOC will interpret this new regulation since, by definition, everything the EEOC does is intended to have an “affect” that is “material” on “jobs.”
Source: EEOC final rules, “Procedural Regulations for Issuing Guidance,” 85 Fed.Reg. 69167.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-11-13 15:11:002020-11-11 15:25:51EEOC publishes final rule regarding its own ability to issue guidances
The EEOC has formally acknowledged its own limitations on its authority to bring a “pattern or practice” lawsuit against an employer. When the EEOC brings such a lawsuit, it is not acting in a representative capacity on behalf of any particular employees (as it does in a so-called sec. 706 claim, citing Title VII’s relevant section), rather it is suing (under sec. 707) as the government itself asserting the employer has a pattern-or-practice of discrimination, which according to the Supreme Court requires it, in short, to prove that the employer’s “standard operating procedure” is to discriminate, quoting Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters v. U.S., 431 U.S. 324 (1977). Previously the EEOC has argued that, when it sues under sec. 707 it does not have to comply with a number of pre-lawsuit requirements. In a recent opinion letter, the EEOC reversed course on that argument and acknowledged that, no, it must comply with those pre-lawsuit requirements.
This opens a number of possible defenses by employers faced with pattern-or-practice lawsuits, including arguments that the EEOC failed to satisfy pre-lawsuit requirements such as the following:
The requirement for an actual charge to have been filed first.
The requirement for an investigation of that charge.
The requirement for good faith conciliation efforts by the EEOC prior to filing its lawsuit.
This also permits employers to assert that
They acted in good faith, and/or
They modified or rescinded the pattern-or-practice.
Arguably the latter gives employers the ability now to moot any pattern-or-practice lawsuit by the EEOC by modifying or rescinding the practice, even after the EEOC has filed its lawsuit.
In its opinion letter, the EEOC also took the position that it can no longer use the pattern-or-practice process to challenge employer actions that are not themselves discriminatory. Specifically this seems to be a concession on its part that, contrary to its litigation efforts to-date, it does not actually have the authority to challenge mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements, even if they ultimately had the effect of limiting a worker’s ability to participate in governmental investigations.
Because the EEOC’s opinion letter was not issued through the formal rule-making process, future EEOC Commissioners could re-reverse course. However, this opinion letters is publicly available and at least establishes a dispute over the EEOC’s jurisdiction in pattern-or-practice cases, which, if re-reversed by an EEOC under the leadership of a Democratic President, could be seen by the courts as arguably at least in part political in nature and therefore deserving of Congressional clarification.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-09-04 12:52:452020-09-04 12:52:51The EEOC has limited its own authority to file “pattern or practice” lawsuits
The EEOC has increased the mediation and conciliation opportunities available to employers as part of its charge-handling procedures.
Mediation is the process employers are most familiar with. Some, but not all, charges are automatically eligible for mediation when a charge is filed with the EEOC. Employers will have noticed receiving a written offer to mediate (instead of investigating) with most charges. Although the EEOC hasn’t yet disclosed details, the EEOC has announced it will increase the types of charges automatically eligible for mediation. Employers are reminded that, when they receive notice of a charge without an offer to mediate, it is often an indication that the EEOC believes the charge raises possibly very severe allegations. Employers are always free to request mediation of such charges too, though the EEOC reserves the right to decline to undertake mediation in lieu of investigation.
Conciliation is less common. The EEOC is generally required to undertake conciliation before, itself, filing suit against employers in court. As part of its new initiative, and again without yet disclosing details, the EEOC has announced it will expand its conciliation efforts, including by requiring management within the EEOC to review settlement demands before they are even communicated to employers.
Employers facing charges of discrimination, or even possible litigation by the EEOC, should consider the availability of mediation and conciliation, especially under these expanded opportunities.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-07-07 15:26:452020-07-07 15:26:51EEOC expands mediation and conciliation opportunities
The EEOC updated its FAQ guidance with Q&A no. A7, advising that an employer may not require coronavirus antibody testing (which is the blood test done to see if the person’s blood suggests they were previously exposed to the virus sufficient to create antibodies) as part of a company’s return-to-workplace program. However the EEOC advised (1) this may change as the science develops and (2) an employer may be able to require active virus testing (which is commonly done with a nasal swab) if such testing is uniformly required and “job-related consistent with business necessity.”
A.7. CDC said in its Interim Guidelines that antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” In light of this CDC guidance, under the ADA may an employer require antibody testing before permitting employees to re-enter the workplace?(6/17/20)
No. An antibody test constitutes a medical examination under the ADA. In light of CDC’s Interim Guidelines that antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace,” an antibody test at this time does not meet the ADA’s “job related and consistent with business necessity” standard for medical examinations or inquiries for current employees. Therefore, requiring antibody testing before allowing employees to re-enter the workplace is not allowed under the ADA. Please note that an antibody test is different from a test to determine if someone has an active case of COVID-19 (i.e., a viral test). The EEOC has already stated that COVID-19 viral tests are permissible under the ADA.
The EEOC will continue to closely monitor CDC’s recommendations, and could update this discussion in response to changes in CDC’s recommendations.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-06-17 15:09:322020-06-17 15:09:39EEOC confirms coronavirus antibody testing not permitted as part of return-to-workplace program, although active-virus testing may be permitted
The Supreme Court held that LGBTQ status is already protected within Title VII’s meaning of the word “sex.”
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 role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.
In authoring the majority opinion, Justice Gorsuch observed that the word “sex” would likely not have been read that way by the drafters of Title VII in 1964, but the majority held that the term is unambiguous as drafted; according to well-established precedent, resort to legislative history is not permitted when a statutory text is unambiguous.
Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.
The majority confirmed that, while Title VII’s “sex” protections directly protect such traits/classes, plaintiffs may also assert sex-stereotyping claims related to such traits/classes, just as plaintiffs can assert sex-stereotyping claims based on male-female cys-gendered status.
To be sure, there may be cases in which a gay, lesbian, or transgender individual can make a claim like the one in Price Waterhouse. That is, there may be cases where traits or behaviors that some people associate with gays, lesbians, or transgender individuals are tolerated or valued in persons of one biological sex but not the other. But that is a different matter.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-06-15 11:41:412020-06-15 11:41:48SCOTUS holds LGBTQ status is protected within Title VII’s meaning of “sex”
Last year I co-authored an article for the Colorado Lawyer about Colorado’s new equal pay law (the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, “CEPEWA”), with two of CEPEWA’s drafters, Sarah Parady and Charlotte Sweeney. CEPEWA will take effect January 1, 2021. In our article, we noted that CEPEWA “CEPEWA does not grandfather current pay disparities” and further that “proof of intent to discriminate is not an element of a CEPEWA violation.” We recommended employers consider performing a voluntary internal audit to identify and eliminate any inadvertent pay disparities. Indeed CEPEWA recognizes a possible reduction of exposure if internal audits are done.
A new article was just published in the Colorado Lawyer discussing what such an audit might look like.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-05-21 02:47:322020-05-20 12:07:53Considering a voluntary internal audit to prepare for Colorado’s new equal pay law?
The EEOC updated its prior Q&A re coronavirus, adding three questions (numbered G3-G5) to address the needs of employees who already suffer from an underlying disability that, now, puts them at “higher risk” related to coronavirus.
First in questions G3-G4, the EEOC advises that an employer is obligated to consider whether a reasonable accommodation exists to permit such an individual to return to work once a request is made. Until a request is made, the employer has no obligation to consider the possibility of a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC explains too that the request need not be made formally — it may be made “in conversation or in writing” — and it need not be made by the employee themselves — it may be made by the employee “or a third party, such as an employee’s doctor.” Indeed the request need not even be a request, it is enough if the employee “let(s) the employer know that she needs a change for a reason related to” an underlying disability.
Question G4 confirms that an employer need not consider a reasonable accommodation even when the company knows the worker has an underlying disability that might put them at a “higher risk” related to coronavirus, until such a request is made. However where the employer is itself concerned that the employee’s disability might put them at a “higher risk” related to coronavirus, the employer cannot on its own initiative “exclude” the worker from work unless it can prove a “direct threat” to the worker’s own health (or the health of others) and, further, that the “direct threat” cannot be removed by reasonable accommodation, such as allowing “telework, leave, or reassignment” if reasonable. The EEOC discusses the possibility of showing such a “direct threat,” noting it “is a high standard,” with proof that “if, after going through all these steps (of considering the relevant risk, the possibility of reasonable accommodation, etc.), the facts support the conclusion that the employee poses a significant risk of substantial harm to himself that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation.”
Question G5 discusses possible accommodations that should be considered by an employer and worker in trying to determine if a reasonable accommodation might exist to permit a worker with an underlying disability to work despite a “higher risk” related to coronavirus (emphasis added).
Accommodations may include additional or enhanced protective gowns, masks, gloves, or other gear beyond what the employer may generally provide to employees returning to its workplace. Accommodations also may include additional or enhanced protective measures, for example, erecting a barrier that provides separation between an employee with a disability and coworkers/the public or increasing the space between an employee with a disability and others. Another possible reasonable accommodation may be elimination or substitution of particular “marginal” functions (less critical or incidental job duties as distinguished from the “essential” functions of a particular position). In addition, accommodations may include temporary modification of work schedules (if that decreases contact with coworkers and/or the public when on duty or commuting) or moving the location of where one performs work (for example, moving a person to the end of a production line rather than in the middle of it if that provides more social distancing).
These are only a few ideas. Identifying an effective accommodation depends, among other things, on an employee’s job duties and the design of the workspace. An employer and employee should discuss possible ideas; the Job Accommodation Network (www.askjan.org) also may be able to assist in helping identify possible accommodations. As with all discussions of reasonable accommodation during this pandemic, employers and employees are encouraged to be creative and flexible.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-05-08 14:02:232020-05-08 14:02:23EEOC updates Q&A, specifically re employees with an underlying disability that puts them at “higher risk” re coronavirus
The EEOC has delayed EEO-1 data collection for 2020 until 2021 due to coronavirus. In its press release, the EEOC explained the delay, as follows:
The EEOC recognizes the impact that the current public health emergency is having on workplaces across America and the challenges that both employers and employees alike are now facing. Filers of the EEO-1, EEO-3and EEO-5, which include private sector employers, local referral unions, and public elementary and secondary school districts, are dealing with unique and urgent issues. Delaying the collections until 2021 will ensure that EEO filers are better positioned to provide accurate, valid and reliable data in a timely manner.
EEO-1, EEO-3 and EEO-5 filers should begin preparing to submit data in 2021. Pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) the EEOC would expect to begin collecting the 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 in March 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available. The EEOC would expect to begin collecting the 2020 EEO-3 and the 2020 EEO-5 in January 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available.
In addition to updates to the agency website, the EEOC will be reaching out directly to EEO-1, 3, and 5 filers regarding the delayed opening of the surveys.
The EEOC will formally publish its announcement in the Federal Register, to appear, starting 5/8/2020, here.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-05-07 11:48:472020-05-07 11:48:47Trying to prepare your EEO-1 data filing in the midst of coronavirus pandemic? FYI, the EEOC just delayed EEO-1 data collection for 2020 due to coronavirus
The EEOC published a short 42-minute YouTube video on the ADA, Rehabilitation Act and coronavirus. The webinar fleshes out the EEOC’s recent coronavirus guidance and identifies certain questions that it believes it is currently unable to answer, including the following:
Whether coronavirus (COVID-19) is or could be a disability protected by the ADA?
Questions addressed include, in addition to those raised in the above guidance:
Whether an employer can ask an employee if his/her family has tested positive for coronavirus? Here, the EEOC believes that question is too narrow, because it is limited to questions about the employee’s family and as such the EEOC says it believes the question might implicate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA); therefore, the EEOC urges employers instead to ask if the employee has had any such contact with anyone whom he/she knows to have tested positive.
Whether an employer, when disclosing that someone has tested positive, can disclose that person’s identity? The EEOC repeats its position in its above guidance’s instruction that employers, upon learning of a positive coronavirus test result, have some ability to disclose the same within a true need-to-know basis, and that it may be able to disclose to co-workers that someone has tested positive, but it repeats the employer should not generally report the person’s identity. That is true, the EEOC says, even where coworkers may be guessing or attempting to guess at the person’s identity. It gives as an example that the company may report that a person is teleworking without telling his coworker’s that the reason for his absence from the workplace is a positive test result. Likewise the EEOC addresses the issue where an employer may be faced with a concern that disclosing something as general as “someone at this location” or “someone on the 4th floor” has tested positive, is not sufficient information for concerned coworkers; here too, the EEOC restates its position that, even in that situation, the employer should not disclose the person’s identity.
Whether allowing workers to telework during the coronavirus crisis may be later used by a disabled worker requesting the right to telework after the coronavirus crisis? The EEOC answers flatly, no, the fact that an employer allows teleworking during this coronavirus crisis cannot be used as evidence that teleworking might be a reasonable accommodation outside the coronavirus crisis. However in an unhelpful muddling of its answer, the EEOC added that it “could” be somehow relevant to showing that telework was in general feasible at least in some circumstances, theoretically.
The EEOC says that, while teleworking, HR professionals and others with a need-to-know medical information must store information, even at home, in a confidential manner, including not leaving notes where they can be seen. In a frankly absurd moment, the EEOC actually recommends HR professionals consider writing their notes while teleworking “in code.”
The EEOC noted that, during the coronavirus crisis, employers may be having difficulty obtaining doctor’s notes related to ADA accommodation requests and suggests that employers consider whether other documentation might suffice — arguably at least until a doctor’s note becomes available — such as a “health insurance record” or “a prescription.”
While not particularly robust or helpful on some of those difficult questions — and adding to the confusion on some questions — the webinar is nonetheless recommended for HR professionals to review as soon as possible.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-03-27 16:12:432020-03-27 16:13:57EEOC publishes YouTube webinar on ADA, Rehabilitation Act and coronavirus
Before an influenza pandemic occurs, may an ADA-covered employer ask an employee to disclose if he or she has a compromised immune system or chronic health condition that the CDC says could make him or her more susceptible to complications of influenza?
Are there ADA-compliant ways for employers to identify which employees are more likely to be unavailable for work in the event of a pandemic?
Below is a sample ADA-compliant survey that can be given to employees to anticipate absenteeism.
ADA-COMPLIANT PRE-PANDEMIC EMPLOYEE SURVEY
Directions: Answer “yes” to the whole question without specifying the factor that applies to you. Simply check “yes” or “no” at the bottom of the page.
In the event of a pandemic, would you be unable to come to work because of any one of the following reasons:
If schools or day-care centers were closed, you would need to care for a child;
If other services were unavailable, you would need to care for other dependents;
If public transport were sporadic or unavailable, you would be unable to travel to work; and/or;
If you or a member of your household fall into one of the categories identified by the CDC as being at high risk for serious complications from the pandemic influenza virus, you would be advised by public health authorities not to come to work (e.g., pregnant women; persons with compromised immune systems due to cancer, HIV, history of organ transplant or other medical conditions; persons less than 65 years of age with underlying chronic conditions; or persons over 65).
Answer: YES______ , NO_______
May an ADA-covered employer send employees home if they display influenza-like symptoms during a pandemic?
During a pandemic, how much information may an ADA-covered employer request from employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in sick?
ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA. …
When an employee returns from travel during a pandemic, must an employer wait until the employee develops influenza symptoms to ask questions about exposure to pandemic influenza during the trip?
During a pandemic, may an ADA-covered employer ask employees who do not have influenza symptoms to disclose whether they have a medical condition that the CDC says could make them especially vulnerable to influenza complications?
Employers should take the time to review the EEOC’s guidance and familiarize themselves with the nuances of the EEOC’s carefully worded answers. In the foregoing summaries, for brevity’s sake, only the EEOC’s conclusions (like “No”) are cited, but the EEOC’s answers, as indicated by the ellipses (“…”) proceed to qualify its answers.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2020-03-18 14:10:142020-03-18 14:10:14EEOC issues guidance re Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace
Interesting article from SHRM on post- #MeToo statistics at EEOC for sexual harassment charges.
On the one hand, there still has not been a flood of sexual harassment charges. In fact, their number remains lower than pre- #MeToo 2010-13 numbers but are slowly climbing back from their post- #MeToo 2014-17 dips.
The number of sexual-harassment charges filed with the EEOC dipped slightly in fiscal year 2019 from 2018 levels but remained much higher than in the immediately preceding years:
The number of sexual harassment charges were at a high level before that, though they dropped from the beginning of the 2010s:
One has to wonder if these numbers aren’t the product of the the country becoming more educated on Title VII’s sexual harassment legal requirements; in other words, understanding what the law does and does not prohibit, fewer unsupported claims are being filed. Indeed, the EEOC’s recent statistics do suggest that the charges, which are being filed post- #MeToo, may be, by and large, the stronger claims, at least in the sense that they are producing higher dollar-amount settlements.
The monetary benefits from the agency’s sexual-harassment settlements have steadily risen over the past four years:
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2019-07-29 15:58:152019-07-25 15:58:49EEOC releases additional information for filing EEO-1 pay information for 2017 and 2018 — reminder, the deadline is September 30, 2019
Resolving a split among the Circuits, the Supreme Court sided with the Tenth Circuit‘s recent approach, ruling that an employee’s failure to exhaust the statutory prerequisites for filing claims of discrimination and most kinds of EEO (equal employment opportunity), i.e., Title VII claims, is a procedural affirmative defense, not a jurisdictional defect. This means the defense can be waived by employers who fail to assert it.
Employers should ensure that they review all available defenses and assert viable ones throughout their defense of such claims.
Source: Fort Bend County v. Davis, — Sup.Ct. —, case no. 18-525 (6/3/19).
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2019-06-03 14:43:102019-06-03 14:44:19Supreme Court sides with Tenth Circuit, resolving split in Circuits, holding failure-to-exhaust is a procedural affirmative defense, not a jurisdictional defect
The Tenth Circuit has reversed longstanding precedent to, now, hold that a plaintiff’s failure to exhaust the administrative charge requirements of a Title VII claim is a mere affirmative defense, not a jurisdictional defect. What’s the difference? The courts have jurisdiction to hear the circumstances surrounding the failure to exhaust when it is asserted as an affirmative defense. In this case, the plaintiffs apparently had failed to exhaust; however, they pointed to a prior stipulation by the defendant in which the company had agreed that they had in fact exhausted. The trial court had originally ruled, in line with the Tenth Circuit’s longstanding precedent, that a failure to exhaust is jurisdictional and that it, therefore, lacked jurisdiction over the claims and could not, as a result, entertain argument over the stipulation. The Tenth Circuit remanded, holding that the failure to exhaust was merely an affirmative defense, and as such the trial court is authorized to consider the stipulation.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2018-08-28 15:10:562018-08-23 15:11:46Tenth Circuit holds that failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense not a jurisdictional defect in Title VII claims
Employers should steer clear of “zero tolerance” policies according to the EEOC. A “zero tolerance” policy provides that any form of proscribed behavior (typically sexual harassment or discrimination) will result in immediate discharge.
Zero tolerance policies can “chill reporting,” cautions EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum (a Democrat appointee). According to Commissioner Feldblum, individuals may choose not to report harassment when they know it might result in the accused’s discharge: “A lot of people don’t want their co-worker to be fired, they just want the conduct to stop.”
It’s not just one EEOC Commissioner who doesn’t like zero-tolerance policies. It’s also the position taken by the EEOC’s 2015 task force on harassment. Its July 2016 report called “zero tolerance” policies “misleading and potentially counterproductive.” Like Commissioner Feldblum, the task force cautioned that such policies “may contribute to employee under-reporting of harassment.”
Instead, the EEOC recommends a policy that reserves to employers the ability to determine the appropriate level of discipline, up to and including, but not necessarily, immediate discharge.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2018-07-11 14:56:002018-07-11 14:56:46“Zero Tolerance” policies go too far according to … the EEOC?
Recent developments at the EEOC reflect a mixed fallout from the #MeToo movement.
Despite massive social change seen at many levels from #MeToo, with celebrities, politicians and business leaders all being called to answer for allegations of sexual harassment — and despite many lawyers who anecdotally report seeing increased charges in their own practices — EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic reported June 11 that the EEOC has yet to see a significant increase in sexual harassment charges.
Notwithstanding a lack of increased charges, the EEOC is determined not to be left behind by the #MeToo movement. The agency itself has formed a task force to study sexual harassment and, immediately following the task force’s meeting, the EEOC filed seven lawsuits (on and and about June 11, 2018) involving allegations of sexual harassment. Additionally, the EEOC has identified sexual harassment as one of its 2017-21 strategic enforcement priorities.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2018-07-02 16:20:472018-07-24 16:45:38The EEOC and a mixed fallout from #MeToo
By 7-2, the Supreme Court ruled for the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. All seven of the judges that formed the majority were struck by comments from the Colorado Civil Rights Commissioners that evidenced an anti-religious bias among the Commissioners when they decided the case. The Supreme Court called those comments “inappropriate,” “dismissive,” and “disparag(ing) of religion.”
What were these unacceptable comments? Well, in short, they included what can only be described as a gratuitous rant by one Commissioner about how, in her opinion, “religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust … we can list hundreds of situations.” It really didn’t help when the Commission, faced with three different cases involving bakers who refused to sell anti-gay marriage cakes, held for each of those bakers. The Supreme Court held that, pulling that all together, it seemed the Commission had made its decision not on the evidence and law but “the government’s own assessment of offensiveness.”
Along those lines, Justice Gorsuch, in his concurrence, noted that, if the government could make decisions on the basis of what it deems offensive, freedome of speech and expression would be lost. This is the oft-recognized principle that the only speech that really needs Constitutional protection is offensive speech.
The Constitution protects not just popular religious exercises from the condemnation of civil authorities. It protects them all.
In reversing based on the Commission’s own bias, the Supreme Court never reached the underlying question whether/when does a baker/florist/other expressive craftsman have a First Amendment right to refuse to sell their good/service to a consumer for religious reasons. Instead, the Supreme Court held that the baker had at least been entitled to a fair hearing of that issue, and that the Commission’s own bias had stripped him of that right.
(T)he delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in the balance the State sought to reach. That requirement, however, was not met here. When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.
Justice Kennedy — who has been the Court’s champion of both gay rights and speech rights, as well as religious liberty rights — wrote the majority opinion. He acknowledged that the Court was dodging the real question of how to balance those rights.
The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts….
Still, his opinion suggested how he thought the Court should rule in future cases.
Some examples of cases where he suggested future bakers/florists/etc. might lose on the merits included the following:
A baker who “refused to sell any goods or any cakes for gay weddings”
Some examples of future cases where bakers/etc. might win included the following:
A “refusal to put certain religious words or decorations on the cake”
A “refusal to attend the wedding to ensure that the cake is cut the right way”
A “refusal to sell a cake that has been baked for the public generally but includes certain religious words or symbols on it”
Separate opinions in Masterpiece Cakeshop seemed to preview how the Justices might vote:
Justice Gorsuch wrote suggesting that he is likely to rule broadly for future bakers/florists/etc.
Justice Thomas wrote along such lines as well, though his opinion suggested concern over the concept of even trying to protect the rights of a gay couple in this type of circumstance.
Justices Kagan and Breyer, who joined the majority in this case, suggested they would lean split on future cases, ruling against bakers/etc., where there is no evidence of anti-religiouis bias among the state agencies.
Justice Ginsburg joined by Justice Sotomayor wrote to express their concerns that the anti-religious comments by the Commission, while unacceptable, were simply not so substantial as to warrant reversal; they would have ruled on the merits, and in doing so, for the gay couple who wished to buy the cake.
That means future cases are likely to have 4 Justices inclined to rule for and 4 Justices inclined to rule against the bakers/florists/etc., and as was expected here, Justice Kennedy is likely to be the swing vote. Expect to see him flesh out his balancing test based on those examples.
As for future cases, Justice Kennedy gave one word of warning — frankly simply restating the concern most of America seemingly has had and had hoped the Supreme Court would wrestle with in this decision — that these rights must be balanced such that religious liberty is not so broadly defined that it becomes an easy excuse for discrimination:
And any decision in favor of (a future) baker would have to be sufficiently constrained, lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying “no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,” something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons.
Readers of course will note that this concern exists not only as to LGBTQ individuals (which is all that quote discusses) but also individuals on the basis of race, gender, age, etc., and, yes, even religion. It simply cannot be the law that a business may refuse to do business on the grounds that a consumer is of a different race, color, gender or even religion.
Readers should also note that this line of cases isn’t just about consumers, and it certainly isn’t about just cakes. This line of cases has potential to touch all aspects of American life. It cannot be, for example, that a business has a right to refuse to hire someone simply because they assert a religious belief against that person’s sexual orientation, gender preference, race, gender, religion, etc.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2018-06-04 12:28:282018-06-04 12:30:25SCOTUS rules for baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop
There is a general requirement that parties not destroy evidence; bolstering that, there is a specific requirement in EEOC regulation 29 CFR 1602.14 that employers preserve personnel records for 1 year and that the parties in an EEOC charge preserve evidence until final disposition of the charge.
In this case, the EEOC and plaintiffs argued that an Excel file contained information that was allowed to be destroyed as the file was routinely updated. Additionally notes of a meeting were at-issue. The employer’s witnesses testified that they did not know how the records had been lost and, further, that, even if they hadn’t been destroyed, they had never contained evidence relevant to the case at-issue. The EEOC argued it should, nonetheless, be entitled to a presumption that the records would have been helpful to its case, and further that the jury should be so instructed. Such an instruction is called a “spoliation” instruction.
The Tenth Circuit reviewed its precedents and held that, first, a litigant must show the destroying party did so in bad faith. Merely allowing records to be destroyed is not sufficient to warrant a spoliation instruction. The EEOC responded that, unlike general litigants, it should, even despite the lack of bad faith, be entitled to a spoliation instruction because, whatever the employer’s intent had been, it had allowed the records to be destroyed in violation of that regulation. The Tenth Circuit rejected the argument that a spoliation instruction should be a remedy for such a violation absent bad faith, noting that was especially true where, as here, the EEOC and plaintiffs failed to produce any evidence countering the employer’s evidence that, if the records had been preserved, there was nothing helpful to the EEOC and plaintiffs in them.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2018-04-03 11:04:162018-03-12 11:07:03Bad faith required for spoliation instruction, holds Tenth Circuit
As previously reported, the NLRB recently shifted to a majority of Republican-appointees. Next, with President Trump’s appointments of Janet Dhillon (to be Chair) and Daniel Gade, it will be the EEOC’s turn. Their confirmation (expected by the end of October) will create the first Republican-majority at the EEOC in a decade.
President Trump is expected to nominate a new EEOC General Counsel soon, as well.
These changes will likely have significant impact on issues including LGBTQ protections and equal pay, as well as the EEOC’s recent practice of issuing, without undertaking the requirements for rulemaking, guidances and other non-regulatory publications.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2017-10-17 19:18:232017-10-12 12:20:55EEOC is about to shift to majority of Republican-appointees
The OMB rejected the EEOC’s new EEO-1 form, which would have become effective March 31, 2018. The OMB reviews agency forms like this pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act and determined that the EEOC’s new EEO-1 had been unlawfully developed by the EEOC had underestimated the burden on employers it its published estimate. The PRA was enacted into law in 1980 and since then has required agencies to estimate the paperwork burden any new bureaucratic action would require. Here the OMB determined that the EEOC’s previously published estimate was simply, and significantly, too low. Specifically the new EEO-1 form would have required employers who are subject to EEO-1 reporting (typically employers of 100 or more) to report wage and hours worked for all employees by race, ethnicity and sex, all within 12 specified pay bands. The OMB determined that the public had not been properly apprised by the EEOC of the burdens such a requirement would entail.
The OMB’s ruling comes after much controversy over the new EEO-1 form. Commentators criticized the EEOC’s approach not only as being overly burdensome but also as overly simplistic. Commentators noted it would have created the impression that workers within the same pay bands should be paid the same amounts (irrespective of their gender, race, etc.) despite the fact that they may work in very different positions within those bands. Likewise it has been noted that the EEOC’s approach overly simplified compensation practices by not properly allowing for articulation of base wages versus bonuses, commissions, overtime and non-wage benefits that form part of a compensation package.
Although a part of the White House, the OMB is often seen as a non-partisan watch dog.
The OMB’s ruling leaves the EEOC’s proposed EEO-1 for 2018 dead in the water. The OMB has invited the EEOC to continue the OMB’s examination of the proposed EEO-1 form if it believes the form defensible. The OMB has also noted the EEOC’s prior EEO-1 would be acceptable for use. The EEOC has announced it is considering its options. Employers must wait for the EEOC’s decision to determine what form to use in the future.
Source: OMB Memoradum re EEO-1 Form, Review and Stay (8/29/17)
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2017-08-31 09:52:482017-08-31 09:52:48Office of Management and Budgets (OMB) rejects EEOC’s revised EEO-1 Form
An employee filed an EEOC charge in 2009 for sexual harassment, but did not sue when he received his administrative right to sue. Instead, he continued to work, then filed another charge in 2011. When he sued for sexual harassment after the second charge, the employer challenged his claim as timely. The trial court held that he could not include in his claim any events preceding 300 days (the applicable statute of limitations) prior to the 2011 charge, in other words, all of the 2009 charge’s allegations (and potentially a period thereafter into 2010). The Tenth Circuit reversed. The Tenth Circuit said that, under the Supreme Court’s 2001 decision, Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, any events constituting the “the same actionable hostile work environment practice” are admissible in the lawsuit, irrespective of whether they occurred before the 2011 charge’s time period. In other words, a plaintiff is allowed to “double file” EEOC charges for the same conduct.
In so ruling, the court noted its 2005 precedent in Duncan v. City and County of Denver, outlining the relevant factors to determine if events do or do not constitute part of “the same actionable hostile work environment practice” under Morgan: They must be “related by type, frequency, and perpetrator” without any “intervening action by the employer” that might break the relationship.
The case is Hansen v. SkyWest Airlines, 844 F.3d 914 (10th Cir. 2016).
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2017-06-28 11:59:102017-06-05 12:00:57Tenth Circuit confirms employees may “double file” EEOC charges
In a decision that probably surprised no one except the often-reversed and reversed-in-this-case Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court held that a trial court, not an appellate court, is in the best position to review the particulars of a subpoena.
Interestingly, the decision, which can be seen as reinforcing the EEOC’s ability to issue subpoenas – or at least reducing judicial scrutiny over EEOC subpoenas – was technically a loss for the EEOC. The EEOC had issued a subpoena for contact information for employees who’d taken a certain test, nationwide. The company objected, and the trial court agreed with the company, holding the EEOC’s nationwide request was overly broad. The EEOC then appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which ruled it could review the trial court’s ruling de novo (from scratch) without having to give the trial court any deference. The Supreme Court disagreed and sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit. Now, the EEOC will decide if it still wants the information, and if so, it will have the heavy burden of proving not only that it is entitled to the information but that the trial court was so wrong when it decided otherwise that it abused its discretion.
While the EEOC lost the Supreme Court case, companies should be mindful of the overarching lesson: The EEOC has broad subpoena power, and a trial court may now be the only judicial body with substantial authority to hear a challenge to an EEOC subpoena.
For an example of how EEOC subpoenas are analyzed for enforceability, see this posting.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2017-05-01 19:26:502017-06-01 11:04:03Supreme Court holds that trial court analysis of EEOC subpoena’s enforceability is entitled to discretion, not de novo review.
The Tenth Circuit refused to enforce an EEOC subpoena denied where the EEOC’s subpoena requested information regarding the employer’s treatment of other employees. The request exceeded the scope of the purely individual-oriented charge, no EEOC charge had been filed and the employer had not put its treatment of other employees at-issue in its position statement.
https://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.png00Bill C. Bergerhttps://l2slegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo-orig.pngBill C. Berger2017-05-01 19:28:422017-06-01 11:02:43Tenth Circuit refuses to enforce EEOC subpoena