Today the United States Supreme Court answered the question of whether Title VII, the federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination “on the basis of sex,” protects LGBT employees with a resounding “Yes.” In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that: “The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Argument on LGBTQ Rights
This week the United States Supreme Court commenced its 2019-2020 term, during which it will examine significant questions related to the scope of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yesterday, on October 8th, the Court heard oral argument in a trio of cases on whether Title VII, the federal law…
Landmark Seventh Circuit Decision Interprets Title VII Protections To Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination
“Who will be hurt if gays and lesbians have a little more job protection?” Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals posed this question a few months ago during oral argument in a case involving a teacher who alleged she was fired because she is lesbian. On Tuesday, the en banc Seventh Circuit answered Judge Posner’s rhetorical question in a landmark decision holding that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. The court is the first court of appeals in the country to apply Title VII’s job protections to employees on the basis of their sexual orientation, interpreting the definition of “sex” under Title VII to include “sexual orientation.”
To casual followers of the law, this decision may seem unremarkable after the Supreme Court ruled nearly two years ago that same-sex marriage enjoys constitutional protection. (See our blog on the Obergefell decision here, and our blog on the decision’s impact on employee benefits here.) But it is a watershed decision with ripple effects far beyond the three states within the Seventh Circuit. …
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Labor & Employment Law Under President-Elect Trump
In the wake of the election results, the question on everyone’s mind now is: What impact will President-Elect Trump have on employers? Trump has thus far given few details on his thoughts on labor and employment. But with Republicans maintaining control of Congress, employers could see a lot of changes in the next couple of years. Our experts weighed in with their thoughts on how different areas of labor and employment law may be affected.
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The City of Portland Issues Rules for “Ban the Box”
We previously blogged about Portland, Oregon’s restrictive “ban the box” ordinance. The City of Portland recently issued administrative rules for its ordinance. The administrative rules are available here. The key provisions are:
As explained in our prior blog, you are excepted from the ordinance’s timing restriction (but not its other requirements) if the position you are hiring for has been determined by administrative rule to present public safety concerns or a business necessity. The rules define these positions to include:…
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Developments in Employee Benefits Law: Same-Sex Marriage and Title VII’s Protection for LGBT Employees
A number of recent legal changes will have a notable impact on employee benefits law both now and in the future. Some of the most significant of those changes are the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and the expansion of Title VII’s discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) individuals by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and some federal courts.
Same-Sex Marriage: Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges
In the 2013 Windsor decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of federal law. After Windsor, the federal government issued guidance that it would look to the law of the state where the same-sex couple was married (state of celebration), rather than to the state law where the couple lived (state of residence), in most instances under federal law to determine if the same-sex couple was validly married. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, and mandated that states both permit same-sex couples to marry and recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in other states. As a result of Obergefell, the “state of celebration” test for determining whether to recognize a same-sex couple’s marriage is no longer relevant under federal law.
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EEOC Rules That Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation
In a 3-2 decision published on Thursday, July 16, 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) concluded that intentional discrimination against an employee based on their sexual orientation is sex discrimination- an act strictly prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is premised…
Oregon’s New “Ban the Box” Law Prohibits Criminal History Questions on Employment Applications
It’s been an active legislative session in Oregon this year regarding laws affecting the state’s employers. Hot on the heels of enacting laws relating to paid sick leave, noncompete agreements, and employee privacy on social media, Governor Kate Brown also recently signed into law House Bill 3025. That law will make …
U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch: It’s All About the Motive
Stoel Rives Summer Associate Dexter Pearce co-authored this post.
In a case Justice Antonin Scalia described as “really easy,” the Supreme Court held that an employer can be liable for failing to accommodate a religious practice even if the employer lacks actual knowledge of a need for an accommodation. Writing for the 8-to-1 majority (Justice Thomas dissented), Scalia stressed that Title VII is concerned with motive, not knowledge. Thus, even if an employer has no more than an “unsubstantiated suspicion” of an applicant’s religious beliefs/practices, the employer violates Title VII if it’s action is motivated by a desire to avoid a potential accommodation.
Abercrombie employs a “Look Policy” that prohibits “caps.” Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim, applied for a retail sales position. Elauf wore a headscarf to her interview, but neither the headscarf nor religion were discussed. Heather Cooke, the assistant store manager and interviewer, identified Elauf as qualified for the position, but asked her store manager and the district manager about Elauf’s headscarf, noting that she believed Elauf wore her headscarf because of her faith. The district manager told Cooke that the headscarf would violate the Look Policy and instructed her not to hire Elauf.
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Supreme Court Sends UPS Pregnancy Accommodation Case to Trial
The U.S. Supreme Court handed a defeat to United Parcel Service (UPS) this week. At issue was whether UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) by requiring a pregnant woman with lifting restrictions to go on leave during her pregnancy, while workers in certain other categories (such as those with on-the-job injuries) were allowed light duty. We consider the ruling and the lessons it holds for employer leave and accommodation policies below.
In a decision announced March 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the district court, which had dismissed Young v. UPS (PDF) on summary judgment, must proceed to trial on the question of whether intentional discrimination occurred when a pregnant UPS employee was treated less favorably than others in similar situations.
The Court ruled in Young that under the PDA an employee can make a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that she was denied accommodation, while other sick or disabled workers with a similar inability to work were allowed accommodation. The employer then must show that it had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the difference in treatment to avoid liability, and if it makes such a showing the plaintiff can rebut the showing through evidence of pretext.
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