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Saturday, March 8, 2014

"A Signal or a Silo? Title VII's Unexpected Hegemony"

The title of this post comes from this upcoming paper by Professor Sophia Z. Lee, the abstract of which states:

Title VII’s domination of employment discrimination law today was not inevitable. Indeed, when Title VII was initially enacted, its supporters viewed it as weak and flawed. They first sought to strengthen and improve the law by disseminating equal employment enforcement throughout the federal government. Only in the late 1970s did they instead favor consolidating enforcement under Title VII and its implementing agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Yet to labor historians and legal scholars, Title VII’s triumphs came at a steep cost to unions. They write wistfully of an alternative regime that would have better harmonized antidiscrimination with labor law’s recognition of workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively with employers. This chapter explains how these impulses played out during Title VII’s uncertain first fifteen years as advocates, legislators, administrators, and workers pursued a more powerful Title VII on the one hand and one more harmonized with labor rights on the other. Empowering Title VII via dissemination proved more costly and less effective than its proponents expected; achieving a more harmonious regime was more complicated than is currently thought. This history provides a cautionary tale to those today who seek to reinvigorate labor rights by incorporating them into Title VII.

March 8, 2014 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Taking Seriously Title VII's 'Floor, Not a Ceiling' Invitation"

The title of this post come from this recent paper by Craig Gurian, Executive Director of the Anti-Discrimination Center and Adjunct Professor at Fordham Law, in which he advocates strengthening civil rights protections through state and local legislation. Here's the abstract:

Civil rights advocates have been insufficiently attentive to the promise of creative state and local legislating as the means by which to counteract the erosion of federal civil rights protections. The promise has not only a defensive component (trying to hold on to doctrine that the Supreme Court has been abandoning) but an offensive one as well (introducing more robust substantive and procedural provisions than Title VII has ever had). This paper examines a so-far successful attempt in New York City to implement a vision that proposed to "meld the broadest vision of social justice with the strongest law enforcement deterrent" (one that, for example, has removed the "severe or pervasive" hurdle to the prosecution of sexual harassment lawsuits). The paper, while recognizing that state and local action is no cure-all, goes on to identify several doctrinal areas that are particularly ripe for state and local legislative innovation.

March 3, 2014 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Origins of Arguments Over Reverse Discrimination: Lessons from the Civil Rights Act of 1866

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor George Rutherglen linking the debates over the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to modern ones over affirmative action policies. Here's the abstract:

Disputes, disagreement, ambiguity, and ambivalence have marked the law of affirmative action since it came to prominence in the Civil Rights Era, nearly 50 years ago. These current controversies might be attributed to modern attitudes, and in particular, the need to delay enforcement of a strict colorblind conception of prohibitions against discrimination until the continuing effects of racial and ethnic discrimination have been eliminated. But a look at the origins of the civil rights law in Reconstruction belies this modernist perspective, which foreshortens debates to the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education rather than rediscovering their origins in Reconstruction. This article attempts to rediscover those origins by re-examining the legislative history and immediate reception of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as it bears upon race-conscious remedies for racial discrimination. The argument proceeds in three parts. The first concerns the 1866 Act itself and the congressional debates over it, which featured charges of special treatment despite the neutral terms of the act. The second compares the act to the legislation authorizing the Freedmen’s Bureau, where arguments of special treatment carried more force, so much so that the authorization for the bureau had to remain temporary and it lapsed well before Reconstruction ended. The third part briefly considers the implications of this comparison for modern civil rights law, and in particular, for constitutional arguments over affirmative action. No one-to-one correspondence exists between the legislative debates in 1866 and constitutional arguments today, but the debates then have left their traces now in concerns over special remedies for discrimination, and in particular, over how long they last.

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February 28, 2014 in Affirmative Action, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SCOTUS's Vance, the formalist dance, and the downfall of employer liability

In Formalism and Employer Liability Under Title VII, Professor Samuel Bagenstos argues that SCOTUS's decision in the employer liability case Vance v. Ball State University fulfilled both standard critiques of formalist reasoning--the "unacknowledged-policymaking critique" and the "false-determinacy critique." Vance's resultant damage, he claims, can only be remedied by a complete revamping of the employer liability structure by Congress. Here's the abstract:

Most lawyers, law professors, and judges are familiar with two standard critiques of formalism in legal reasoning. One is the unacknowledged-policymaking critique — that formalist reasoning purports to be above judicial policymaking but instead simply hides the policy decisions offstage. The other is the false-determinacy critique — that formalist reasoning purports to reduce decision costs in the run of cases by sorting cases into defined categories, but that instead of going away the difficult questions of application migrate to the choice of the category in which to place a particular case. Last Term’s decision in Vance v. Ball State University demonstrates that the Supreme Court's complex doctrine on employer liability under Title VII amply deserves each of these critiques. The Court’s formalistic reasoning conceals a series of unacknowledged, undefended, and dubious policy choices. Those choices stand behind the Court’s resolution of the question that triggered substantial debate within the Court — how to define a “supervisor,” whose harassing acts trigger employer liability. They also stand behind the perhaps more important holding, hiding in plain sight, that an employer is liable for harassment by nonsupervisory coworkers only when the employer is itself negligent. To the extent that the Court offered any justification for its decision, that justification was one of crispness and determinacy of application. But, as is often the case with formalist reasoning, the Court’s promises of crispness and determinacy were almost transparently false. In her dissenting opinion in Vance, Justice Ginsburg urged Congress to overturn the Court’s narrow interpretation of who is a “supervisor.” Such an action would solve some of the problems with the Court’s opinion, but it would not go far enough. Rather, Congress should reconsider the entire employer liability structure the Court constructed in the landmark 1998 Faragher and Ellerth cases.

February 26, 2014 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Title VII as Precedent: Past and Prologue for Future Legislation

The title of this post comes from this compelling paper by Professor George Rutherglen exploring the pattern of civil rights legislation since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Here's the abstract:

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after nearly 90 years in which it enacted no major civil rights legislation. The 1964 Act stood out then - as it stands out now - as Congress acting at its best rather than its worst. It confronted the historic problem of race in America, it overcame partisan divisions and sectional obstruction, and it acted to enforce constitutional principles. This is not to say that sponsors of the legislation made no compromises in the 1964 Act. On the contrary, they had to do so, particularly in the Senate, to obtain the two-thirds majority then needed to close off debate and end a filibuster. The resulting legislation, compromises and all, then became the foundation for all employment discrimination law, providing the template for prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of age and disability. Even more remarkably, the legislation was consistently extended and reinforced, often over the narrowing interpretations imposed by the Supreme Court. Long after the Civil Rights Era had ended, Congress continued to pass expansive and progressive legislation, with virtually no examples to the contrary. The few restrictive or qualifying provisions that Congress enacted invariably came as compromises, like those in the 1964 Act, added in order to pass expanded prohibitions against discrimination. This article recounts this pattern of legislation, the role that Title VII played in it, and possible explanations for it. These explanations, like those for passage of the 1964 Act, extend over a wide range: from the simple selection effect of noticing only the statutes that are passed rather than those that fail, to an unholy alliance between plaintiffs’ lawyers and big business, to the moral and ideological force of the principle against discrimination.

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February 13, 2014 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Freedom of Dress: State and Private Regulation of Clothing, Hairstyle, Jewelry, Makeup, Tattoos, and Piercing

The title of this post comes from this paper from Professor Gowri Ramachandran arguing for a "freedom of dress as a fundamental right," which would require re-conceptualizing such a right on its own terms--"rather than treating dress merely as an adjunct to speech." Although published several years ago, it remains an intriguing read. Here's the abstract:

This article proposes a legal right to free dress, encompassing clothing, hair, jewelry, makeup, tattoo, and piercing choices. Neither speech rights nor equal protection provide an accurate account of the importance of self-presentation; instead a new theory of freedom of dress is needed, drawing on its unique location at the blurry border of the personal (as an exercise of control over the physical self) and the political and cultural (as the performance of social identity). Four of the most important applications of this theory are found in public schools, private workplaces, prisons, and direct state regulation. These settings require different balances of individual appearance choices against other interests. 

In the workplace, employers should be required to reasonably accommodate employees' dress choices. Even in the absence of a distinct statutory right, conceiving of freedom of dress as a fundamental right would make viable disparate impact and "sex-plus" claims affecting dress under Title VII. On the street, the paucity of important countervailing state interests supports reviewing infringements on the freedom of dress with strict scrutiny and subjecting them to narrow tailoring requirements - rather than treating dress merely as an adjunct to speech. In schools, too, strict scrutiny is appropriate; carving out freedom of dress as a liberty for students may be easier even than carving out student liberties like speech. In prisons, a reasonable accommodation approach is appropriate, but with a much narrower construction of reasonable accommodation than in other settings.

December 30, 2013 in Civil Rights Act, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Title VI and the future of environmental civil rights

In Realizing the Promise of Environmental Civil Rights: The Renewed Effort to Enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Tony LoPresti argues that Title VI will not provide adequate protection Images-5for environmental civil rights until the structural barriers to its enforcement are resolved. LoPresti offers several possible solutions to such problems. Here's the abstract:

The environmental justice movement has long pursued a viable mechanism for federal enforcement of environmental civil rights. No legal tool has inspired such high hopes — and such deep disappointment — as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Without a private right of action to enforce Title VI, advocates have focused on filing administrative complaints with the Environmental Protection Agency. But, after twenty years of “active” enforcement and 247 complaints, EPA has yet to issue a single violation. Complaints alleging severe and discriminatory health impacts routinely languish at EPA’s Office of Civil Rights for years without response, in clear violation of the Agency’s own regulations. 

In spite of EPA’s dismal record, advocates have found cause for optimism in a Ninth Circuit decision chastising EPA for its “pattern of delay,” a scathing audit of the Office of Civil Rights, and some encouraging steps by Administrator Lisa Jackson. While these recent developments have kept advocates invested in Title VI, little has been done to address the structural barriers that have stymied effective enforcement. This article discusses these structural barriers in the context of three controversial complaints, and proposes solutions that EPA can put into place. The solutions — creating effective remedies, building accountability into the Office of Civil Rights’ enforcement system, and easing the tension between federal authority and state autonomy — form the backdrop of any effort to improve enforcement of environmental civil rights. 

EPA’s ability to create a legitimate Title VI program will be pivotal to the future of environmental justice. And, in an administrative state that allocates hundreds of billions in federal assistance each year, Title VI may be the most critical battleground in defining the ongoing legacy of the civil rights movement.

December 26, 2013 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Formalism and Employer Liability Under Title VII

The title of this post comes from this article arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in Vance v. Ball State University demonstrates that legal formalism amounts to a ruse for judicial policymaking. Here's the abstract:

Most lawyers, law professors, and judges are familiar with two standard critiques of formalism in legal reasoning. One is the unacknowledged-policymaking critique — that formalist reasoning purports to be above judicial policymaking but instead simply hides the policy decisions offstage. The other is the false-determinacy critique — that formalist reasoning purports to reduce decision costs in the run of cases by sorting cases into defined categories, but that instead of going away the difficult questions of application migrate to the choice of the category in which to place a particular case. Last Term’s decision in Vance v. Ball State University demonstrates that the Supreme Court's complex doctrine on employer liability under Title VII amply deserves each of these critiques. The Court’s formalistic reasoning conceals a series of unacknowledged, undefended, and dubious policy choices. Those choices stand behind the Court’s resolution of the question that triggered substantial debate within the Court — how to define a “supervisor,” whose harassing acts trigger employer liability. They also stand behind the perhaps more important holding, hiding in plain sight, that an employer is liable for harassment by nonsupervisory coworkers only when the employer is itself negligent. To the extent that the Court offered any justification for its decision, that justification was one of crispness and determinacy of application. But, as is often the case with formalist reasoning, the Court’s promises of crispness and determinacy were almost transparently false. In her dissenting opinion in Vance, Justice Ginsburg urged Congress to overturn the Court’s narrow interpretation of who is a “supervisor.” Such an action would solve some of the problems with the Court’s opinion, but it would not go far enough. Rather, Congress should reconsider the entire employer liability structure the Court constructed in the landmark 1998 Faragher and Ellerth cases.

December 14, 2013 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HUD finds Dallas discriminates against minorities in affordable-housing practices

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a letter stating that the City of Dallas has violated federal civil rights laws by promoting discrimination against minorities and disabled residents in its affordable-housing practices. As The Dallas Morning News reports:

City Council member Scott Griggs, vice chairman of the council housing committee, said the HUD letter confirms the long-standing image of Dallas as a city divided between a northern sector for better-off people who can pay market-rate rents and a southern sector for low-income people who need rent subsidies.

“It sets up that in southern Dallas, we’re going to continue to put low-income housing, but when you get to the north we’re going to use the money that should be used for low- and moderate-income housing but find a way to create market rate.”

The findings could put the city at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funds that are supposed to go to developers for low- and moderate-income housing. The letter delves into a complex system of government subsidies that often flow through city government and then to developers.

The money comes with strict civil rights requirements meant to prioritize benefits for lower-income residents throughout the city and prevent or eliminate blight. In Dallas, most of those lower-income residents are black, Hispanic or disabled.

The letter appears to be the opening salvo in a bureaucratic battle between federal officials and the city government, but it does not mean HUD officials intend to take immediate action to alter housing projects.

City spokesman Frank Librio claims that HUD's letter does not tell the whole story.  On December 2, Librio issued the follwoing statement:

The City complies with HUD guidelines and regulations in its work with affordable housing projects. It is important to note that HUD has given final approval of all projects assisted by federal housing funds, either on the local level and/or from the Washington D.C. office. Any proposed projects assisted by federal housing funds must be approved by HUD before they may be implemented.

Now the Fort Worth Office of HUD has issued a letter where it contends that the City has violated HUD guidelines and regulations.  City staff believes that the letter leaves out key facts presented by the City, did not fully evaluate arguments made by city staff, and reaches unfounded legal conclusions.  City staff looks forward to working with HUD to resolve this matter in the best interests of the public.

As for the 1600 Pacific project referenced in the HUD letter, Curtis Lockey and Craig MacKenzie were the former developers.  They sued the City in federal district court when they did not receive their requested large subsidy for their proposed project.  Their case was dismissed and Mr. Lockey and MacKenzie have appealed the ruling of the district court.  Since that case is currently in litigation, it would not be appropriate for the City to comment further at this time.

The city will have an opportunity to respond to HUD's investigation, and it can request a review of its findings. It also can take voluntary action to remedy the violations.

HUD's letter describes the findings of an investigation begun in 2010 when local developers filed a complaint after the city blocked their proposal to build low-income housing. City officials claimed to have been worried about the proposal's provision for financing the project.

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December 4, 2013 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Categorically Black, White or Wrong: 'Misperception Discrimination' and the State of Title VII Protection

The title of this post comes from this article arguing that denying Title VII protection to victims of "misperception discrimination" in employment settings produces negative and unintended consequences in contravention of the statute's purpose. Here's the abstract:

This Article exposes an inconspicuous, categorically wrong movement within anti-discrimination law. A band of federal courts have denied Title VII protection to individuals who allege "categorical discrimination": invidious, differential treatment on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. Per these courts, a plaintiff who self-identifies as Christian but is misperceived as Muslim cannot assert an actionable claim under Title VII if she suffers an adverse employment action as a result of this misperception and related animus. Though Title VII expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, courts have held that such a plaintiff’s claim of "misperception discrimination" is beyond Title VII’s scope. Accordingly, Title VII protection is only extended to such a plaintiff if she is "actually" Muslim or brings forth allegations of invidious, differential treatment based upon her actual Christian identity. This Article argues that these judicially created prerequisites to Title VII protection are categorically wrong. They impose a new "actuality requirement" on Title VII plaintiffs in intentional discrimination cases that engenders unfathomable results. Plaintiffs who suffer from invidious, differential treatment animated by either their self-ascribed or misperceived protected status will be denied statutory protection against discrimination if they fail to prove their actual religious, gender, ethnic, racial, or color identity upon defendant-employers’ challenge.


Though this Article primarily examines the imposition of an actuality requirement in misperception discrimination cases, this Article also demonstrates that courts have considered and imposed an actuality requirement in conventionally framed discrimination cases as well. Accordingly, this Article is the first to enumerate the development of, and myriad justifications for, the actuality requirement in cases of categorical discrimination. This Article argues that some courts’ imposition of an actuality requirement in misperception and conventionally framed discrimination cases denotes the birth of an unorthodox interpretation of Title VII’s reach and meaning nearly fifty years after its enactment — an interpretative methodology that this Article is first to describe as "anti-anticlassificationist."


This Article also highlights a few critical, negative implications of courts’ anti-anticlassificationist interpretation of antidiscrimination law. Namely, it examines the emergence of a minimalist "actuality defense" and resulting identity adjudication, which obfuscates the chief issue in intentional discrimination cases: whether the plaintiff suffered unlawful, invidious, differential treatment. Additionally, this Article illuminates that courts’ anti-anticlassificationist interpretation and attendant actuality requirement have in fact resuscitated age-old trials of racial determination. They have thereby produced an additional destructive consequence by reifying race as a stable, biological construct.


Consequently, this Article proposes fresh, practical, and theoretical interventions to cease the continued anti-anticlassificationist interpretation of Title VII. In doing so, this Article excavates previously unexplored Title VII statutory provisions, longstanding EEOC directives, Fifth and Third Circuit precedent, and recent Supreme Court precedent. Properly read, these sources will show that a prerequisite showing of actuality in cases of categorical discrimination under Title VII is wrong. Thus, this Article affirms that all categorical discrimination plaintiffs — that is, all individuals who have allegedly suffered discriminatory treatment on the basis of their actual or mistaken religious, gender, ethnic, racial, or color identity — are entitled to vindicate their statutory rights to be free from unlawful discrimination.

 

November 23, 2013 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 21, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

CRL&P Morning Reads: Oct. 28, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Restroom battles emerge in transgender rights cases

The title of this post come from this article about the recent victory of two transgender individuals before the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Although born as men, these two women will now be able to use women's restrooms in public places. The article states in part:

These cases, along with milestones such as the University of Northern Iowa's crowning of transgender student Steven Sanchez as its homecoming queen this month, bring visibility to a new set of rights issues in Iowa.

"Civil rights for black people didn't happen overnight, and it won't happen overnight for trans people, either," said Jodie Jones, an Iowa City transgender who won a dispute over whether she could use the women's restroom at the Johnson County Courthouse. "But I feel like we've moved the ball forward."

Continue reading

October 27, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights History, Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 25, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Oct. 25, 2013

Gun-rights advocates are planning to start collecting signatures in an attempt to recall California lawmakers who supported proposed gun regulations.

Greensborough police captain's civil rights lawsuit alleging discrimination by PD moved to federal court.

American Prospect argues that the Surpreme Court's reliance on two post-Reconstruction decisions have limited available remedies to victims of sexual assualt.

ACLU files amicus brief on behalf of secure email service provider facing contempt charges for failure to cooperate with U.S. government.

N.C. Attorney General and potential gubernatorial candidate speaks out on new voter ID law.

Homelessness among American K-12 students is growing.

 

October 25, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights History, Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Equal Protection Clause, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (0)

Upcoming article draws attention to largely overlooked Supreme Court civil rights decision

In his upcoming article Snubbed Landmar: How United States v. Cruickshank Truncated the Reconsturction Amendments and Racialized Class Politics in America, Professor James Gray Pope argues that traditional narratives about the development of civil rights jurisprudence have failed to account for the precedential case that started it all: United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 546 (1876). According to Pope, the legal academy has created a "tale of progress" largely by ignoring Cruikshank's restriction on the Fourteenth Amendment's mandate to federal actions; its tailoring of the privileges and immunities clause; and, its limitation o the available protection of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to racial minorities. "The results," argues Pope, "have been obfuscation and distortion." In fact, Cruikshank stymied "cross-racial movements" that might have led to a more promising futures. In the end, he urges: "It is long past time for this jurisprudentially inventive, politically pivotal, and socially schismatic case to take its proper place at the heart of the American constitutional narrative and pedagogical canon."

For those interested Supreme Court and civil rights history, this article provides valuable and intruiging insights that are well worth the time.

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October 25, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights History, Election Law, Equal Protection Clause, Right to Vote | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Oct. 24, 2013

Texas voter ID law could cause problems for newly married or divorced women, although Slate observes that there is very little data to support claims of either side.

Civil rights group seeks meeting with Barney's CEO to discuss racial profiling allegations made by two shoppers who had been detained following expensive purchases.

ACLU files lawsuit to compel Missouri to disclose supplier of execution drugs.

BLT notes that federal court judge declined to dismiss former legal secretary's pregancy discrimination against firm.

Michael Steele discusses the institutional obstacles faced by HBCUs.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder dodges questions about his stance on extending civil rights to LGBT community.

October 24, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Right to Vote, Same-sex marriage, Universities and Colleges, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hiding the Statute in Plain View: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar

The title of this post comes from this recent article arguing the Supreme Court's recent decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar used an approach to statutory interpretation different from the standard it had previously required. Here's the abstract:

The Supreme Court decided in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar that the “a motivating factor” level of proof to establish liability set forth in §§ 703(m) and the same-decision defense to full remedies of 706(g)(2)(B) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply to claims of retaliation brought pursuant to § 704(a). Instead, Title VII retaliation must be the “but-for” cause of the adverse action plaintiff challenges. The obvious impact of Nassar is that it makes it more difficult for plaintiffs to prove retaliation. In some ways, Nassar is a surprise because the Court had consistently held for plaintiffs in a number of retaliation cases. In other ways, it was not a surprise that the Court would move its retaliation jurisprudence more in line with its recent pro-employer, anti-civil rightsinterpretation of statutes typified by its decision in Gross v. FBL Financial, Inc. To reach its desired decision, the Court had to forego the plain meaning approach to statutory interpretation that in Gross it said was to be used. The Court reached its conclusion by hiding the terms and the structure of Title VII in plain sight while replacing the actual terms of the statute with terms of its own creation. Further, the majority of the Court was captivated by a hypothetical presented by counsel for the employer of employees gaming retaliation law, a fact pattern that does not appear to have happened in any reported case, with that captivation indicative of the majority’s perspective favoring employers over employees in its recent antidiscrimination decisions. 

October 23, 2013 in Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)