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Long Island Employment Law Blog

Ruling says no protections for gay employees

Individuals in New York who are concerned about gay rights should be aware of a recent ruling by the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appeals court in Atlanta, Ga. The three-judge panel ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not provide protections against workplace discrimination that is based on sexual orientation. The ruling is considered by gay rights advocates to be a setback in the expansion of workplace discrimination protections.

In April 2015, a woman filed a suit against her employer alleging that she was a victim of discrimination and was effectively forced out of her security guard job because she was a lesbian and did not adhere to gender norms. In the majority opinion for the decision, a visiting judge wrote that precedent established by a 1979 case that stated Title VII does not forbid termination for sexual orientation required that the court rule in the same manner.

Wage disparity in the workplace

At some point, New York employees might learn that they are being paid less than another employee who has less seniority than they do. There are a number of reasons this might be the case and several approaches that employers might take if an employee makes a complaint about the issue. It is technically not illegal for an employer to do pay one employee less than another although it could cause morale problems and might leave the employer open to allegations of discrimination if the employee is a member of a protected class.

There might be a number of reasons that a newer employee is paid more. Even though they are new to the company, they might have more years of experience. The new hire might have more education, or they may contribute more to the company.

How to avoid religious discrimination at work

Employers in New York and elsewhere are being encouraged to take religious discrimination in the workplace seriously. While religion is generally a hot topic, attacks on Jewish centers as well as a proposed ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries have put some on edge. Business owners and managers would be wise to understand that events that happen in the public can impact the workplace.

Consideration may need to be made for anyone who holds a sincere religious belief even if that person is an atheist. The same may be true for those who hold beliefs that may not be widely shared by others within a specific religion. However, it is important to point out that hate groups and political organizations do not fall under the legal definition of religion.

Class action discrimination suit filed against jewelry company

New Yorkers are sometimes the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination at their workplaces. A class action claim involving more than 69,000 workers in a private arbitration against Sterling Jewelry Co. demonstrates how pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination can be in some workplace cultures.

According to reports, the attorneys involved in the arbitration agreed to the release of some redacted documents from the longstanding case. The earliest claim in the case dates back to 2008. The matter is being handled through arbitration because of pre-employment agreements to arbitrate claims that were signed by the employees. Arbitration is normally private, so it is unclear why the lawyers agreed to the release of the documents.

Commonly Overlooked Elements of Employment Contracts

 

When individuals debate whether to sign a new employment contract, it can be tempting to focus on salary above all else. This instinct is understandable because salary plays an important role in any worker’s overall livelihood and ability to support a family. However, there are many elements beyond salary negotiation involved in an employment contract that individuals need to consider before signing on the dotted line.

Age discrimination suit against automaker

New York residents who have been victims of age discrimination in the workplace may be interested in the developments of a class action lawsuit that has been filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It is the second discrimination lawsuit that has been filed against the company in two months. The plaintiffs allege that older employees are mistreated during their performance evaluations. This results in fewer promotions and lower pay than their younger co-workers.

One of the allegations is that the employees' photographs are a part of the performance review process at Fiat Chrysler. According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 27, 2017, in a federal court, upper-level managers at the company generally do not work with the employees that they evaluate and maintain a display of the workers' photographs in front of them while giving performance ratings.

Appellate ruling regarding the Dodd-Frank Act

Workers in New York who are considering reporting wrongdoings by their employer may be interested to know that a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has broaden the scope of the Dodd-Frank Act. The ruling, which was issued on March 8, 2017, asserted that employees who internally report potential violations of federal securities laws are protected by the whistleblower provisions of the law, regardless of whether they reported the suspected violations to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

There is currently a split among the federal appeals courts regarding the issue. However, the decision by the 9th Circuit highlights the importance of careful consideration before committing any retaliatory acts against an employee who files an internal complaint that may initiate Dodd-Frank's protections.

Court rules that dreadlocks can be banned in the workplace

New York residents who are looking for a job may be interested to learn that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that a business could refuse to hire someone who has dreadlocks. Essentially, the court argued that traits that are changeable, such as hairstyles, are not protected by discrimination laws even if they are tied to a person's culture.

The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a woman who had her job offer rescinded due to her hairstyle. According to the lawsuit, a human resource manager for the company told the woman that they would not hire her due to her dreadlocks as they "tend to get messy". The EEOC argued that this was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as dreadlocks were often considered to be a "racial characteristic".

More New York dealership staff may be eligible for overtime

In 2012, service advisers working at a California Mercedes-Benz dealership sued their employer for being wrongly classified as being exempt from overtime pay. The employees' case was dismissed in 2013 by the district court. Following an appeal by the employees, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's ruling.

The 9th Circuit's reversal was based on the fact that previous U.S. Department of Labor guidance indicated that service advisers were not included in the same exemption that applies to mechanics and salespeople. This ruling was appealed by the dealership, which led to the case being elevated to the Supreme Court.

Senate bill aims to restore rights to older workers

Older workers in New York and around the country will regain important workplace protections if a bill introduced by two Republicans and two Democrats is signed into law. The U.S. Supreme Court set the legal bar in workplace discrimination cases higher for older workers in 2009, but passage of the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would restore the pre-2009 standards. The bipartisan bill also addresses the type of evidence that may be submitted by older workers who file discrimination claims.

Employees who file workplace discrimination claims based on race, sex, national origin or religion must be able to show that these factors were considered by their employers before some sort of adverse action was taken against them. The number of workplace age discrimination claims soared in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis as millions of Americans were laid off, but the Supreme Court stemmed this flow in 2009 by making it more difficult for older workers to pursue civil remedies.

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