Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Boys Scouts Revokes Charter For Refusing To Fire Gay Scout Leader

Sometimes you cannnot make this stuff up. The NY Times reports that the Boy Scouts revoked the charter of an affiliate who refused the fire a Scout leader because he was gay. As the article states:

The Boy Scouts of America, whichvoted last year to allow gay scouts but not openly gay scout leaders, has revoked the charter of a church-sponsored troop here for refusing to fire its adult gay scoutmaster.

The decision, which one gay rights organization said was a first since the policy change last year, essentially bars the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church and its 15 scouts from using logos, uniforms or names associated with the Boy Scouts as long as the scoutmaster and Eagle Scout Geoffrey McGrath, 49, remains in charge.

Mitchell Rubinstein

April 21, 2014 in Discrimination Law, Employment Discrimination | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 8, 2013

EEOC's Jackson Office and Mexican Consulate Sign Historic Outreach Agreement

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the New Orleans Consulate of Mexico at the EEOC's Jackson Area Office.  The agreement establishes an ongoing collaborative relationship between these two entities to provide Mexican nationals with information, guidance, and access to resources on the prevention of discrimination in the workplace, regardless of documentation status. A May 21, 2013 EEOC Press Release describing this Agreement is available here.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

July 8, 2013 in Discrimination Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fifth Circuit: Expressing Mom Protected from Sex Discrimination

In a published opinion, the a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel last week, in a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC, reversed summary judgment for an employer that allegedly discharged an employee for expressing milk while at work.  The lower court earlier found, as a matter of law, that discharging a lactating female employee for expressing milk does not constitute sex discrimination.  The Fifth Circuit held that discriminating against a woman who is lactating or expressing breast milk violates federal sex discrimination laws.

The opinion is EEOC v. Houston Funding II., Ltd., No. 12-20220 (5th Cir., May 30, 2013).  The opinion, by Judge Grady Jolly, was unanamous, with Judge Edith Jones concurring.  The Houston Chronicle's story on the case adds this interesting tid-bit.

"You would think there would be reported case law on this," said Jim Sacher, regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Houston, which is handling the case and its appeal on behalf of Venters.

But this is the first definitive decision in the country that firing someone because of lactation is an example of sex discrimination, Sacher said.

Craig Estlinbaum

June 4, 2013 in Discrimination Law, Employment Discrimination, Federal Law, Interesting Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is Maternity Leave Becoming Shorter and Shorter

Maternity Leave? It is More Like a Pause is an interesting July 20, 2012 article from the New York Times. The article points out that more and more executive women are taking short maternity leaves. Sometimes it is measured in weeks-not months. As the article states:

                Like many women, Mrs. Stern has followed the news that Marissa Mayer, the new chief of                 Yahoo, is pregnant with her first child, due in October. Ms. Mayer, 37, told Fortunethat her                 maternity leave would be “a few weeks long, and I’ll work throughout it.”

                With those nine words, she opened a new front in the debate over work-life balance and that                 nettlesome phrase “having it all.” The debate was already simmering in the wake of                 an article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a                 Princeton professor who had been director of policy planning at the State Department but                 found, as she wrote, “that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two                 teenage boys was not possible.”

 I for one do not believe that this is a good thing for society, but I understand.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

 

 

August 21, 2012 in Current Events, Discrimination Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reverse Education Law Discrimination

Reportedly, a male student is suing under Title IX asserting that he has the right to remain on an all girls hockey team. The case is being challenged administratively and the parents are threatening legal action. A copy of a newspaper article in the Boston Herald written by the AP provides additional information, here.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

June 12, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Education Law, Law Review Ideas | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

EEOC rules that Title VII protections extend to transgender employees

The case is Macy v. Holder, Appeal No. 0120120821 (EEOC Apr. 20, 2012). Query whether this is consistent with Title VII. Law review commentary would be welcome.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

June 5, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Employment Discrimination | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

NY Appellate Court Holds That Accusing Someone of Being Gay Is No Longer Defamation Per Se

Yonaty v. Mincolla, ____A.D.3d___(3d Dep't. May 31, 2012), is an exceedingly important case that has not gotten much press. The case was a defamation action and the legal issue was whether or not falsing accusing someone as being gay is defamation per se. This is important because if it is slander per se, then plaintiff has to allege special damages. 

Here the court refused to follow 30 year old precedent from another Department which held that making such a false accusation was indeed slander per se. As the court explained:

In regard to New York in particular, we locate "the public policy of [this] state in the law as expressed in statute and judicial decision and also [by] consider[ing] the prevailing attitudes of the community" (Debra H. v Janice R., 14 NY3d 576, 600 [2010], cert denied ___ US ___, 131 S Ct 908 [2011] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Dickerson v Thompson, 73 AD3d 52, 54 [2010]). Rather than countenancing the view that homosexuality is disgraceful, the Human Rights Law, since 2002, has expressly prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, public accommodations, credit, education and housing (Executive Law § 296). Most revealing of the respect that the people of this state currently extend to lesbians, gays and bisexuals, the Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act (Domestic Relations Law § 10-a, as amended by L 2011, ch 95, § 3) in June 2011, which was strongly supported by the Governor and gave same-sex couples the right to marry in New York, thereby granting them all the benefits of marriage, including "the symbolic benefit, or moral satisfaction, of seeing their relationships recognized by the State" (Hernandez v Robles, 7 NY3d 338, 358 [2006]). Even prior to the Marriage Equality Act, this Court had previously explained that "the public policy of our state protects same-sex couples in a myriad of ways" — including numerous statutory benefits and judicial decisions expressing a policy of acceptance (Dickerson v Thompson, 78 AD3d at 54). Similarly "evidenc[ing] a clear commitment to respect, uphold and protect parties to same-sex relationships[,] executive and local orders extend[] recognition to same-sex couples and grant[] benefits accordingly" (id.see Godfrey v Spano, 13 NY3d 358, 380-381 [2009] [Ciparick, J., concurring] [detailing the many statutes and court decisions reflecting a public policy of acceptance of lesbians, gays and bisexuals]).

We note that the most recent Appellate Division decision considering the issue in depth was decided nearly 30 years ago (Matherson v Marchello, 100 AD2d 233, 241-242 [2d Dept 1984], supra). In that case, the Second Department concluded that it was "constrained . . . at this point in time" to hold that a statement imputing homosexuality was defamatory per se in light of the then-existing "social opprobrium of homosexuality" and "[l]egal sanctions imposed upon homosexuals in areas ranging from immigration to military service" (id. at 241 [emphasis added]). Ultimately, the Court held that "the potential and probable harm of a false charge of homosexuality, in terms of social and economic impact, cannot be ignored" (id. at 242). In light of the tremendous evolution in social attitudes regarding homosexuality, the elimination of the legal sanctions that troubled the Second Department in 1984 and the considerable legal protection and respect that the law of this state now accords lesbians, gays and bisexuals, it cannot be said that current public opinion supports a rule that would equate statements imputing homosexuality with accusations of serious criminal conduct or insinuations that an individual has a loathsome disease (see Stern v Cosby, 645 F Supp 2d 258, 273-275 [SD NY 2009];Albright v Morton, 321 F Supp 2d 130, 136-139 [D Mass 2004], affd on other grounds 410 F3d 69 [2005]; [*5]Donovan v Fiumara, 114 NC App 524, 528-531, 442 SE2d 572, 575-577 [1994]; Hayes v Smith, 832 P2d 1022, 1023-1025 [Colo 1991]; Boehm v Bankers Ins. Group, Inc., 557 So 2d 91, 94 and n 1 [Fla 1990], review denied 564 So 2d 1085 [Fla 1990]; but see Gallo v Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane-Societa per Azioni, 585 F Supp 2d 520, 549-550 [2008] [relying, in part, on our decision in Tourge v City of Albany (285 AD2d 785 [2001], supra) in concluding that statements imputing homosexuality remain slanderous per se under New York law]). While lesbians, gays and bisexuals have historically faced discrimination and such prejudice has not been completely eradicated, "the fact of such prejudice on the part of some does not warrant a judicial holding that gays and lesbians [and bisexuals], merely because of their sexual orientation, belong in the same class as criminals" (Stern v Cosby, 645 F Supp 2d, at 275).

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

June 3, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Law Review Ideas, Litigation, New York Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

4th Circuit Holds ADHD Is Not A Disability

4thseal

Halpern v. Wake Forest University Health Sciences, ____F.3d____(4th Cir. Feb. 28, 2012), is an extremely important case. The court upholds the discharge of a medical student from medical school and rejected his ADHD defense under the Rehab and ADA. Why, providing deference to the medical school, the court held that he was not qualified under the statute because "professionalism" was an essential part of the program. 

The court cited to several employment cases which held that an employee misconduct is not protected even if the disability caused the misconduct.

Law review commentary on this important case would be most welcome. Here that students!

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Hat Tip: Workplace Prof Blog

May 15, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Education Law, Law Review Ideas | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Federal district court grants preliminary injunction ordering Missouri district to halt Internet-filter system blocking websites with positive LGBT messages

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. v. Camdenton R-III Sch. Dist., ___F. Supp.2d___(W.D. Mo. Feb. 15, 2012), is an interesting case First Amendment case. A federal lower court in Missouri granted a preliminary injunction to a group of organizations whose websites provide resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Specifically, the court ordered that the school district disable its internet-filter system that blocked the groups’ websites. The court concluded that the current internet filtering system constitutes viewpoint discrimination. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

February 25, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Education Law, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Supremes Grant Cert. In Affirmative Action Case

On Feb. 21, 2012, the Supremes granted cert to Fisher v. University of Austin, 631 F.3d 213 (5th Cir.). The docket sheet is here.  The University uses race as one factor in the admissions process. CNN coverage is hereAbove The Law believes that the Court granted cert becaus this is an election year. The question presented is as follows:

Whether this Court's decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause ofthe Fourteenth Amendment, including Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003),permit the University of Texas at Austin's use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Education Law, Law Review Ideas | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Questions and Answers on the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 for Students with Disabilities Attending Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

Office of Civil Rights Issues Q and A Guide on ADA Amendents with respect to students with disabilities, here.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

February 19, 2012 in Discrimination Law, Education Law, Special Education Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

8th Circuit Holds Title IX Plaintiff Must Prove Actions Motivated By Gender As Opposed To Sexual Orientation

8thseal

Wolfe v. Fayettesville Sch. Dist., ___F.3d____ (8th  Cir. Aug. 9, 2011), is an interesting case. The Eighth Circuit held that a student, who was subjected to anti-gay taunts by classmates, was not entitled to a jury instruction that Title IX’s requirement that discrimination be “on the basis of sex” was met by such taunts regardless of proof that the taunts were motivated by the student’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. It concluded that Title IX requires proof of  sex-based motivation for a Title IX deliberate indifference claim. The panel rejected the student’s argument that Title IX does not require that the harassment be based on the victim’s gender.

November 10, 2011 in Discrimination Law, Education Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Federal district court in California grants preliminary injunction allowing student with autism to be accompanied by service dog at school

C.C. Cypress Sch. Dist., ___F.Supp. 2d ____ (C.D. Cal. Jun. 13, 2011), is an interesting case. A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction allowing a student with autism to be accompanied by his service dog at school. The court concluded that the student had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of his Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim that the dog is a service dog under the ADA and the school district failed to demonstrate that its educational program would be fundamentally altered if the dog is allowed to accompany him to school. The court also found that the student had satisfied the other three elements required for issuance of injunctive relief.

Law review commentary on this controversial issue would be most welcome.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

 

September 8, 2011 in Discrimination Law, Education Law, Law Review Ideas | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Title IX Abuse

College Teams, Relying On Deception Undermine Gender Equity is an important April 25, 2011 article from the New York Times. The article describes how many universities are padding their woman's sport teams in order to make it look like they are complying with Title IX. As the article states:

At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster failed to run a race in 2009. Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.

At Marshall University, the women’s tennis coach recently invited three freshmen onto the team even though he knew they were not good enough to practice against his scholarship athletes, let alone compete. They could come to practice whenever they liked, he told them, and would not have to travel with the team.

At Cornell, only when the 34 fencers on the women’s team take off their protective masks at practice does it become clear that 15 of them are men. Texas A&M and Duke are among the elite women’s basketball teams that also take advantage of a federal loophole that allows them to report male practice players as female participants.

Title IX, passed in 1972 at the height of the women’s rights movement, banned sex discrimination in any federally financed education program. It threw into sharp relief the unequal treatment of male and female athletes on college campuses.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

April 30, 2011 in Discrimination Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Affirmative Action For Veterans

OFCCP recently proposed an affirmative action rule for veterans. That rule can be found 

 here

 

Interestingly, the affirmative action here is more like simply outreach, record keeping and non-discrimination. I did not see anything expressly mentioning preference. It is the notion of preference which makes affirmative action so controversarial. 

 

 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hat Tip: Workplace Prof Blog

 

 

 

 

April 27, 2011 in Discrimination Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Common Law of Disability Discrimination

Weber

DePaul Law School Professor Mark Weber, just wrote an excellent article entitled The Common Law of Disability Discrimination which will appear in Utah Law Review. Professor Weber argues that common law claims sounding in breach of contract and tort are viable despite statutory remedies under the ADA. He believes that such claims would not be preempted and that causes of action for breaches of promises to accommodate or in violation of public policy (as well as others) are viable and can fill in the gaps where the ADA does not provide adequate coverage such as with respect to damage issues, coverage issues and statute of limitations issues. 

I know from personal experience that common law torts such as assault and battery are often asserted in sexual harassment cases. I see know reason why some disability discrimination claims cannot also assert common law causes of action.

This is a must read article. The abstract provides:

In many cases alleging race and sex discrimination, plaintiffs append common law claims to cases asserting federal or state statutory causes of action. In other race and sex cases, plaintiffs put forward these common law claims without making any federal or state statutory claims. Less frequent, and much less frequently discussed by scholars, are common law claims for conduct constituting disability discrimination. Nevertheless, there are sound theoretical and practical reasons to develop a common law of disability discrimination. 

On the theoretical side of the discussion, federal statutory disability discrimination claims are not exclusive, and the common law can both draw from and influence statutory developments. The evolution of the common law can be part of the adaptation of the social and legal environment that is needed to achieve equality for people with disabilities. Practically speaking, there are numerous obstacles to statutory disability discrimination claims; the common law may provide redress when statutory remedies are blocked. Common law claims may face difficulties of their own, however, and the law may need to be reformed to facilitate just results in common law cases. 

Existing scholarship includes several prominent discussions of disability and the law of torts, but there has been little development of the most important tort and contract remedies for disability discrimination. This article seeks to contribute to the scholarly discussion by considering common law remedies for disability discrimination in a systematic way and discussing how to align the remedies more closely with the goal of protecting civil rights of individuals with disabilities.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 


March 16, 2011 in Discrimination Law, Law Review Articles | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Does The NYS Division of Human Rights Have Jurisdiction Over Claims By Students Against Schools?

Discrimination, of course, can occur in all phases of life. Query whether a student can bring a discrimination case against a school district for race discrimination. The answer, which you would think would be clear, is completely unsettled. 

The issue has arisen because of the language of the statute. Executive law § 296 (4) states in pertinent part, as follows:

[i]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an education corporation or association which holds itself out to the public to be non-sectarian and exempt from taxation pursuant of the provisions of article four of the real property tax law to deny the use of its facilities to anyone person otherwise qualified, or to permit the harassment of any student or applicant, by reason of his...sex.... 

The legal issue is whether a school district is an education corporation or an association. Matter of Union Endicott v. NYS Division of Human Rights, ___Misc. 3d____(Broom Co. July 26, 2010), contains a nice summary of the applicable case law. In the above decision, the court punts the issue and says that it is for the NYSDHR to examine the issue in the first place. Thus, the case was dismissed because of his failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Law review commentary on this important issue would be most welcome. 

 

 

January 4, 2011 in Discrimination Law, Law Review Ideas | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Parking valet does not establish cause of action for sexual harassment aganist Casino

8thseal
 

Cross v Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, Inc, ___F.3d____(8th Cir, August 12, 2010), demonstrates that it is not easy to establish a cause of action for sexual harassment.  Here, the allegations did not rise to the level of a hostile work environment. Additionally, plaintiff could not establish that the casino knew or should have known about other alleged incidents of harassment that she failed to report. 

The  plaintiff worked as a parking valet. She claimed that a fellow valet, who was male, sexually harassed her via unwanted touching and sexual comments. In addition, she claimed two of her supervisors contributed to a hostile work environment by engaging in unwanted touching and making derogatory comments about women and sexual jokes. She did not report a number of these incidents to management or HR. 

The Eighth held that the reported harassment was not so severe or pervasive that it met the “high threshold” for a hostile work environment. The employee reported four discrete incidents over a period of two years, noted the court. First, she complained to a traffic supervisor that the coworker had grabbed her hair and pulled her out of the valet shack. Second, she reported that the coworker brushed the back of his hand across her breast in a purported effort to wipe something off her shirt. Third, she alleged that he responded in an angry and physically threatening manner when she rebuffed his request that they be “more than friends.” Finally, she reported that the coworker spread a rumor that she had performed oral sex on him. Taken together, these four incidents over two years were “insufficient to establish that the work environment was so permeated with discriminatory conduct that it altered a term, condition, or privilege of her employment,” the court determined. 

Even if these incidents had risen to the level of a hostile work environment, the employee failed to show that the casino did not adequately respond to the complaints. The traffic supervisor heard conflicting reports regarding the first incident, and his admonition to the valets to avoid horseplay was sufficient action under the circumstances, the court concluded. Although the traffic supervisor “would have been well advised” to take the second and third incidents more seriously, those incidents were isolated acts, rather than repeated ongoing instances of misconduct, the court explained. Moreover, because she had been given a copy of the casino’s sexual harassment policy upon hire, the employee knew there were additional avenues of relief that she could pursue if she was unsatisfied with the response to her complaints, but she failed to pursue them.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 

 

 

December 23, 2010 in Discrimination Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Supremes Hold No 1983 Liability Unless Municipal Custom or Policy Involved

Supreme Court

 Los Angeles County, Calif. v. Humphries, 562 U.S. ___(Nov. 30, 2010) was just decided by the Supremes. In a short decision, the Court held that a municipality is not liable for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §1983 regardless of whether the relief sought by the plaintiffs is prospective or for monetary damages unless the plaintiffs can show that their injury was caused by a municipal policy or custom. The case involved two plaintiffs who continued to be listed on a California registry of persons investigated for child abuse even though the plaintiffs were exonerated some time after the initial accusations of child abuse. They challenged the state law, which requires listing persons in the registry who have been reported as child abusers and for whom the relevant state agency finds the allegations "not unfounded" even if the allegations are "inconclusive or unsubstantiated." The Ninth Circuit held the state law deprived the plaintiffs of constitutional rights by failing to include a procedural mechanism through which the plaintiffs could contest inclusion in the registry. Los Angeles County, who was sued along with the state attorney general and other local officials, argued it should not be liable for damages under § 1983 because it was state policy, not county policy, that deprived the plaintiffs of their rights. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for a unanimous court, applied Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and ruled that Monell's dictate that a municipality only be liable under §1983 where an injury is caused by a municipal "policy or custom" applies even when the plaintiffs are seeking prospective relief such as an injunction or a declaratory judgment. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 30, 2010 in Discrimination Law, Public Sector Labor Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Captain with shy bladder failed to take advantage of accommodation

2dcircseal

Kinneary v City of New York, ____F.3d____(2d Cir. March 19, 2010), is an interesting 2d Circuit employment discrimination case. A sludge boat captain with a shy bladder, by not providing an adequate physician's note, failed to take advantage of the accommodation he sought and thus he was unable to make out a claim under the ADA. In his position at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the captain was subject to federally regulated random drug testing. At the time of his first drug test, the captain could not urinate on command, even after staying at the lab a full day and drinking water. Returning to the lab the next day, he eventually provided a sample. The captain had similar problems with random drug tests throughout his employment. He asked DEP if he could instead take a blood test and was told to get a doctor's note. The DEP did not accept the note and he was ultimately discharged. The DEP gave the captain the accommodation he sought and the opportunity to have his drug test cancelled based upon his physician's evaluation. However, the captain failed to take advantage of the accommodation. The physician's note did not constitute a basis for his test to be cancelled because it did not say the captain had a medical condition that could preclude him from providing a sufficient amount of urine for the test.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

July 1, 2010 in Discrimination Law, Employment Discrimination | Permalink | Comments (1)