Thursday, October 2, 2014
The Supreme Court granted cert in a number of cases today as a result of its long conference, including EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch. The cert question is this:
Whether an employer can be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a “religious observance and practice” only if the employer has actual knowledge that a religious accommodation was required and the employer's actual knowledge resulted from direct, explicit notice from the applicant or employee.
The district court had denied A & F's motion for summary judgment and granted the EEOC's, holding that, as a matter of law, A & F had failed to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an applicant for employment. The Tenth Circuit reversed, remanding and ordering the district court to enter summary judgment for A & F. The applicant, a young Muslim woman, wore a hijab, a head covering, and although the store manager recommended she be hired, a district manager decided that because she wore the hijab, she should not. He determined that the hijab would not comply with the company's "Look Policy."
The Tenth Circuit held that summary judgment for A & F was proper because the applicant "never informed Abercrombie prior to its hiring decision that she wore her headscarf or 'hijab' for religious reasons and that she needed an accommodation for that practice, due to a conflict between the practice and Abercrombie’s clothing policy." Interestingly, the store manager assumed that the applicant wore her hijab for religious reasons and never raised the issue during the interview. She also did not suggest that there might be a conflict between that practice and the "Look Policy," which the applicant otherwise could easily comply with.
The Court also granted cert in another case that might have implications for employment discrimination. The question in Texas Dep't of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusiveness Project is whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. The Fifth Circuit did not consider that question in the case. Instead, it followed its prior precedent that they were cognizable, and held that the legal standard to be used should be the regulations adopted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
So, overall, this term is shaping up to be another blockbuster for employment and labor. Here is a roundup.
Cases that directly deal with employment and labor questions:
- Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean, a whistleblower/retaliation case
- Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, whether time spent in security screenings is compensable under the FLSA as amended by the Portal to Portal Act.
- M&G Polymers v. Tackett, a case about presumptions related to interpretation of CBAs on retiree health benefits under the LMRA.
- Mach Mining v. EEOC, whether and to what extent the courts can enforce the EEOC's duty to conciliate before filing suit.
- Tibble v. Edison, Int'l, an ERISA case involving the duty of prudence and the limitations period for bringing claims.
- Young v. UPS, whether light duty accommodations only for on-the-job injuries violates Title VII as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
And there is one additional case that might have implications for religious accommodations in the workplace. Holt v. Hobbs, which concerns whether a department of corrections policy that prohibits beards violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act insofar as it prohibits a man from growing a one-half-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.
October 2, 2014 in Beltway Developments, Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, September 29, 2014
Thanks to Matthew Fletcher (Michigan State) for forwarding a link to his Turtle Talk post about EEOC v. Peabody Western Coal Co. (9th Cir. 9-26-14), holding that tribal preferences (as opposed to Indian preferences generally) are not national-origin classifications prohibited by Title VII. Here's the syllabus:
The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with respect to its claim that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited the tribal hiring preference contained in Peabody Western Coal Co. leases with the Navajo Nation.
The panel held that the Navajo hiring preference in the leases was a political classification, rather than a classification based on national origin, and therefore did not violate Title VII. The panel concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to defendants Peabody Western Coal Company and Navajo Nation, and third-party defendant Secretary of the Interior....
Friday, September 26, 2014
Must a court read Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557 (2009), to apply to Title VII challenges to affirmative action plans? That’s part of the fight in Shea v. Kerry, a case—now on appeal before the D.C. Circuit (No. 13-5153)—involving a Title VII challenge to the US State Department Foreign Service’s Mid-Level Affirmative Action Plan. (The briefs are in. Oral argument hasn’t yet been scheduled.)
In Ricci itself, the (mostly white) plaintiffs hadn’t challenged an affirmative action plan. Rather, they’d argued that their employer—the City of New Haven— had violated Title VII, section 703(a), by refusing to certify the results of promotion tests. Their employer argued that it had feared that, given the race disparity in those test results, certifying them would subject it to Title VII disparate-impact liability. In ruling that the plaintiffs deserved summary judgment, the Ricci Court described its holding this way: “We hold only that, under Title VII, before an employer can engage in intentional discrimination for the asserted purpose of avoiding or remedying an unintentional disparate impact, the employer must have a strong basis in evidence to believe it will be subject to disparate-impact liability if it fails to take the race-conscious, discriminatory action.”
In Shea, the plaintiff is now represented by lawyers from the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF). They read Ricci to have overruled United Steelworkers of America v. Weber, 443 U.S. 193 (1979), and Johnson v. Transportation Agency, 480 U.S. 616 (1987)—the Supreme Court precedent on when Title VII permits employers making training, promotion, or other employment decisions to consider race or sex pursuant to valid affirmative action plans---and to place the burden on the State Department to justify its affirmative action plan under Ricci’s strong-basis-in-evidence standard. For support, they point to, among other things, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Ricci, and their conclusion that “[n]early all scholarship on Ricci's applicability” supports their reading (citing, as examples, Corrada (2011) and Harris & West-Faulcon (2010)).
In response, the State Department’s lawyers read Ricci to apply only “after an employer invalidates the selection that resulted from a ‘fair opportunity process.’” Ricci doesn’t apply, they argue, because the State Department neither invalidated the results of “an established testing process” nor made any “mid-stream change” to the mid-level placement criteria. Affirmative action plans—including the State Department’s plan—are “governed by Johnson and Weber,” not Ricci, because in adopting such plans, “the employer acts ex ante and ‘in the light of past discrimination,’ and ‘establishes hiring or promotion procedures designed to promote equal opportunity and eradicate future discrimination.’”
Among other replies, Shea’s lawyers criticize this view as “not useful”: Ricci “could just as easily be described as a forward-looking (ex ante) case. The City of New Haven threw out the test results in order to avoid a future disparate impact.” Besides, Ricci’s strong-basis-in-evidence standard “applies irrespective of whether an employer is ‘avoiding or remedying’ illegal conduct . . . ‘avoiding’ would be forward-looking (ex ante) and ‘remedying’ would be backward looking (ex post). Ricci applies to both.”
Which reading of Ricci will prevail? Which reading should prevail? Which reading(s) of Ricci did both sides miss? (Discuss!) In theory, lower courts aren’t supposed to treat US Supreme Court precedents (here, Weber and Johnson) as implicitly overruled (for discussion, see Shannon 2009). Accordingly, Shea’s PLF lawyers have also asked that if the DC Circuit feels bound to apply Johnson and Weber, that court should “invite” the US Supreme Court to review Johnson and Weber and to “clarify its decision in Ricci.”
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Solon Barocas and Andrew D. Selbst have posted "Big Data's Disparate Impact," which focues on the relationship between big data mining and Title VII. Here's the abstract:
Big Data promises to replace faulty intuitions with facts, granting employers, advertisers, manufacturers, and scientists access to richer, more informed, and less biased decisionmaking processes. But where data mining is used to aid decisions, it has the potential to reproduce existing patterns of discrimination, inherit the prejudice of prior decisionmakers, or simply reflect the widespread biases that persist in society. Sorting and selecting for the best or most profitable candidates means generating a model with winners and losers. If data miners are not careful, that sorting can create disproportionately adverse results concentrated within historically disadvantaged groups in ways that look a lot like discrimination.
This Article examines the operation of anti-discrimination law in the realm of data mining and the resulting implications for the law itself. First, the Article steps through the technical process of mining data and points to different places where a disproportionately adverse impact on protected classes may result from what may seem like innocent choices on the part of the data miner. Decisions such as how to transform a problem into one that a computer can solve, how much data to collect and where to collect it, and how to label examples of "good" and "bad" outcomes, are all decisions that can render data mining more or less discriminatory. Alternatively, in a hypothetical case of perfectly executed data mining, enough information will be revealed so as to accurately sort according to pre-existing inequities in society. A disparate impact resulting from this second option would merely reflect an unequal distribution of the sought-after traits in the world as it stands as of the time of data collection.
From there, the Article analyzes the disproportionate impacts due both to errors and reflections of the status quo under Title VII. The Article concludes both that Title VII is largely ill equipped to address the discrimination that results from data mining. It further finds that, due to problems in the internal logic of data mining as well as political and constitutional constraints, there is no clear way to reform Title VII to fix these inadequacies. The article focuses on Title VII because it is the most well developed anti-discrimination doctrine, but the conclusions apply more broadly as they are based on our society’s overall approach to anti-discrimination.
A related working paper by Sarocas, "Data Mining and the Discourse of Discrimination," is available here.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson) and Malcolm Sargeant (University of Middlesex Business School) have posted on SSRN the page proofs for their article, It’s Complicated: Age, Gender, and Lifetime Discrimination Against Working Women – The United States and the U.K. as Examples, forthcoming at 22 Elder L.J. 1 (2014). From the abstract:
This article considers the effect on women of a lifetime of discrimination using material from both the U.S. and the U.K. Government reports in both countries make clear that women workers suffer from multiple disadvantages during their working lives, which result in significantly poorer outcomes in old age when compared to men. Indeed, the numbers are stark. In the U.S., for example, the poverty rate of women 65 years old and up is nearly double that of their male counterparts. Older women of color are especially disadvantaged. The situation in the U.K. is comparable.
To capture the phenomenon, the article develops a model of Lifetime Disadvantage, which considers the major factors that on average produce unequal outcomes for working women at the end of their careers. One set of factors falls under the heading “Gender-based factors.” This category concerns phenomena directly connected to social or psychological aspects of gender, such as gender stereotyping and women’s traditionally greater roles in family caring activities. A second set of factors is titled “Incremental disadvantage factors.” While these factors are connected to gender, that connection is less overt, and the disadvantage they produce increases incrementally over time. The role of law and policy, in ameliorating or exacerbating women’s disadvantages, is considered in conjunction with each factor, revealing considerable incoherence and regulatory gaps. Notably, the U.K.’s more protective legal stance toward women in comparison with the U.S. fails to change outcomes appreciably for women in that country.
An effective, comprehensive regulatory framework could help compensate for these disadvantages, which accumulate over a lifetime. Using the examples of the U.S. and the U.K., however, the article demonstrates that regulatory schemes created by “disjointed incrementalism” – in other words, policies that tinker along the margins without considering women’s full life course – are unlikely to vanquish systemic inequality on the scale of gender-based lifetime discrimination.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Are unpaid interns protected by American employment law? The latest chapters in this ongoing story come to us from Wisconsin and New York.
In a July 22 decision, Masri v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that it was reasonable for Wisconsin’s Labor and Industry Review Commission to conclude that uncompensated interns are not entitled to the anti-retaliation protections of that State’s health care worker protection statute. The plaintiff was a doctoral student who worked as an unpaid intern at a medical college and, she alleged, was fired for reporting “clinical/ethical concerns.” The statute bans certain health care employers from taking “disciplinary action against . . . any person” who in good faith reports violations of state or federal law, and further defines “disciplinary action” as "any action taken with respect to an employee," but does not define the term “employee.” The Court discussed the text of the statute and related provisions, their purpose, and public policy arguments raised by both sides. The Court’s upshot: The statute applies only to employees, and “the ordinary meaning of ‘employee’ is someone who works for compensation or tangible benefits.”
Meanwhile, also on July 22, New York’s Governor signed into law a bill that amends New York’s employment-discrimination statute to expressly cover unpaid interns. Back in October 2013, a federal district court, in Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television, Inc., No. 13 Civ. 218 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 3, 2013), had dismissed an unpaid intern’s sexual harassment claim under that statute. That claim required her to be an “employee.” Although she had argued that, though unpaid, she was still an “employee” under the statute. The district judge concluded, however, that remuneration was a necessary condition for an employment relationship.
The newly-amended New York statute—now in effect—defines a new category of worker—an “intern”—and then separately declares “unlawful employment practices” with respect to interns that parallel the “unlawful employment practices” already identified by the statute. This drafting strategy slightly differs from Oregon’s law, Or. Stat. § 659A.350. Passed last year, Oregon’s law similarly defines “intern” but provides that an intern “is considered to be in an employment relationship with an employer for the purposes of the employee protections provided under” certain specified employment protections in Oregon’s code.
Friday, August 1, 2014
Brad Areheart (Tennessee) and Michael Stein (William & Mary) have posted a new article on SSRN: The Disability/Employability Divide: Bottlenecks to Equal Opportunity, forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review. From the abstract:
Joseph Fishkin’s new book, Bottlenecks, reinvigorates the concept of equal opportunity by simultaneously engaging with its complications and attempting to simplify its ambitions. Fishkin describes bottlenecks as narrow spaces in the opportunity structure through which people must pass if they hope to reach a range of opportunities on the other side. A significant component of the American opportunity structure that is largely unexplored by Bottlenecks relates to people with disabilities. This review applies Fishkin’s theory to explore how disability law and its regulations create and perpetuate bottlenecks that keep people with disabilities from a greater degree of human flourishing. In particular, the opportunity structure of disability policy features a conceptual employability/disability divide that ultimately prevents people with disabilities from passing into a wider array of opportunities. Fishkin’s book, in concert with this review, prompts new and inventive ways of reimagining and implementing structural solutions to these bottlenecks.
Looks like a good read.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Illinois is the latest State to enact “ban the box” legislation, i.e., legislation that restricts when an employer can ask a job applicant about his or her criminal history. (The “box” is the one on a job application to answer the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”) Twelve States now have such legislation on the books, as will over sixty counties and cities.
The Illinois legislation—which takes effect next year—provides that, absent certain exceptions, an employer “may not inquire about or into, consider, or require disclosure of the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until the applicant has been determined qualified for the position” and the employer either has told the applicant that it has selected her for an interview or has made her a conditional offer of employment. The Illinois Department of Labor is the enforcer here—there’s no provision in the bill for a private right of action.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia’s city council has also passed a “ban the box” bill and sent it to the mayor for his signature. That bill prohibits employers from asking about, or asking a job applicant to reveal, "any arrest or criminal accusation made against the applicant, which is not then pending against the applicant and or which did not result in a conviction." Employers can ask about criminal convictions but only after making a conditional offer of employment. Like the Illinois legislation, the D.C. bill makes the D.C. Office of Human Rights the exclusive enforcer here—there’s no private right action.
Among its other features, the D.C. bill provides that if the employer extends a conditional offer, checks the applicant’s criminal history, and then rescinds that offer, and if the applicant believes that the employer did that “on the basis of a criminal conviction,” the applicant can, upon request, get from the employer, within thirty days, “a copy of “any and all records procured by the employer in consideration of the applicant or employee, including criminal records.” In June, the bill had also required that employer to give the applicant a written “statement of denial” that identified the employer’s “legitimate business reason” for its action. Failing to provide that statement would have triggered a rebuttable presumption that the employer had no “legitimate business reason” for its action. The D.C. Chamber of Commerce opposed this provision, and in mid-July, the bill was amended to remove it.
Since 2012, the EEOC has opined that, under some circumstances, employer use of a job applicant’s criminal history may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. For an entry point into the research on how much a job applicant’s criminal history matters, see, for example, Devah Pager, Bruce Western, and Naomi Sugie, “Sequencing Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and White Men with Criminal Records,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 623 (May 2009): 195-213.
The next puzzle on the horizon: Figuring out how and how much these “ban the box” statutes actually affect employer hiring.
Hat tip: R. Michael Fischl
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Although hiring discrimination by employers is infrequently litigated, audit studies—using fictional resumes—continue to show that it persists. A recent contribution to this literature focuses on religious affiliation: Michael Wallace, Bradley R.E. Wright, and Allen Hyde, “Religious Affiliation and Hiring Discrimination in the American South: A Field Experiment,” Social Currents 1(2) (2014): 189-207 (here). Here’s the abstract:
This article describes a field experiment in which we sent fictitious résumés to advertised job openings throughout the American South. We randomly altered the résumés to indicate affiliation in one of seven religious groups or a control group. We found that applicants who expressed a religious identity were 26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers. In general, Muslims, pagans, and atheists suffered the highest levels of discriminatory treatment from employers, a fictitious religious group and Catholics experienced moderate levels, evangelical Christians encountered little, and Jews received no discernible discrimination. We also found evidence suggesting the possibility that Jews received preferential treatment over other religious groups in employer responses. The results fit best with models of religious discrimination rooted in secularization theory and cultural distaste theory. We briefly discuss what our findings suggest for a more robust theory of prejudice and discrimination in society.
For a companion study, see Bradley R.E. Wright et al., “Religious Affiliation and Hiring Discrimination in New England: A Field Experiment,” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 34 (Dec. 2013): 111-126.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
In the most recent issue of The New Yorker, Louis Menand has this essay on how “sex” got added to the list of protected characteristics in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The standard story: The “sex” amendment was an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the entire bill—a failed poison pill. In contrast, Menand emphasizes how that amendment was partly the result of vigorous efforts by women activists—in particular, Alice Paul of the National Women’s Party—and some female House representatives, especially Michigan Democrat Martha Griffiths.
Menand is openly borrowing here from scholars, including Carl Brauer, “Women Activists, Southern Conservatives, and the Prohibition of Sex Discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, “ Journal of Southern History 49(1) (1983): 37-56, and Jo Freeman, We Will Be Heard: Women’s Struggles for Political Power in the United States (Rowan & Littlefield, 2008) (chapter 12). On the origins and durability of the “failed poison pill” story, see Rachel Osterman, “Origins of a Myth: Why Courts, Scholars, and the Public Think Title VII’s Ban on Sex Discrimination Was an Accident,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 20 (2009): 409-440. In the courts, a fleeting recent reference to this literature appears in Nelson v. James H. Knight DDS, 834 N.W.2d 64, 74 n.8 (Iowa 2013) (Cady, J., concurring specially).
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Post-Hobby Lobby, Court Says Religious Non-Profit Need Not Notify Insurer that It Objects to Coverage
The Court has taken a number of actions already since issuing its decision in Hobby Lobby that suggest future directions on the issue in that case. First, the Court acted on six cert. petitions. As Lyle Denniston notes on ScotusBlog, the court remanded three cases to the courts of appeal, and denied cert in three. All six cases involved employers who objected to coverage for all forms of contraception, as well as sterilization for women, and pregnancy counselling. In the three won by employers, the Court denied cert. In the three won by the government, the Court ordered the courts of appeal to reconsider in light of the Hobby Lobby decision.
And today, the Court issued an additional order. In Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Court granted an injunction to this religious educational institution against enforcement of the women's preventive care provisions objected to, absolving the College from filling out the government's form and delivering notice to its insurer. The government's brief in opposition is here.
Particularly notable was a dissent by Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan. In it, the three justices note that the Court had indicated in Hobby Lobby that the accommodation which required an employer to notify its insurer that it objected to certain coverage was less restrictive, implying that it would satisfy RFRA. As Justice Sotomoayor noted,
After expressly relying on the availability of thereligious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates RFRA as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might . . . , retreats from that position. That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court’s precedents and undermines confidence in this institution.
The whole dissent is worth a read.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Last week, the California Supreme Court decided Salas v. Sierra Chemical. In Salas, that Court declared that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) preempted California employment law remedies to a limited extent. It also concluded that the doctrines of after-acquired-evidence and unclean-hands do not preclude liability, but do restrict otherwise available remedies, under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Here, I’ll describe the opinion. Later, I’ll offer some guesses on how Salas will affect employment litigation.
The facts: In 2007, plaintiff Vicente Salas sued his former employer, Sierra Chemical, under FEHA. He alleged that (1) when employed there, Sierra had failed to reasonably accommodate his disability—multiple back injuries suffered when he had previously worked for Sierra—and (2) after a layoff, Sierra had not rehired Salas because he was disabled and to retaliate for his filing of a workers compensation claim. After the trial date was set, in one of his motions in limine, Salas stated that he would testify at trial and assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination if asked about his immigration status. And he asked for permission to “assert the privilege outside the jury’s presence and that the court and counsel not comment at trial on his assertion of the privilege.”
Thereafter, Sierra sought summary judgment on the ground that Salas had used another man’s Social Security number and card to get his past job with Sierra. This misconduct, Sierra argued, defeated FEHA liability, because of the after-acquired-evidence and unclean hands doctrines. In support, Sierra submitted a North Carolina man’s declaration that it was his Social Security number that Salas had submitted when he had applied for a job with Sierra. Sierra’s president also declared that Sierra had “a long-standing policy” of not hiring people that federal law would not let work in the US and of immediately firing any employee discovered to have provided false information or documents to establish work eligibility in the US. In opposing the motion, Salas submitted, among other things, his declaration that Sierra’s production manager, “after learning that several employees had supplied incorrect Social Security numbers, assured them they would not be terminated as long as the company’s president was satisfied with their work.” The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment, and the California Court of Appeals affirmed.
The California Supreme Court reversed and remanded. First, the Court considered a federal preemption challenge to California Senate Bill No. 1818 (SB 1818). Enacted in 2002 in the wake of Hoffman Plastics, SB 1818 added, among other provisions, this one: “All protections, rights and remedies available under state law . . . are available to all individuals regardless of immigration status who have applied for employment, or who are or who have been employed, in this state.” Cal. Gov't Code § 7285(a) (emphasis added).
The Salas Court found conflict preemption on the ground that it was “impossible” for an employer to comply with SB 1818 and IRCA, albeit only to the extent that SB 1818 allows for an award for lost wages for any time after the employer knew of the employee’s unauthorized immigration status (the “post-discovery” period). Under IRCA, once an employer “know[s]” that its employee is an “unauthorized alien”—ineligible to work in the US—that employer may not “continue to employ” that employee. 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(a)(2); 8 C.F.R. § 274a.3. That prohibition, the Salas Court reasoned, “directly conflicts” with “any state law award that compensates an unauthorized alien worker for loss of employment during the post-discovery period . . . . Such an award would impose liability on the employer for not performing an act (continuing to employ a worker known to be an unauthorized alien) expressly prohibited by federal law.”
In contrast, the Court concluded, federal immigration law does not prohibit an employer from paying an employee wages for employment “wrongfully obtained by false documents, so long as the employer remains unaware of the employee’s unauthorized status.” Accordingly, to the extent SB 1818 “allow[s] lost wages” for the pre-discovery period---the time the employer did not yet know of the employee’s unauthorized status— it is “not impossible” to comply with immigration law and SB 1818.
Moreover, the Salas Court rejected conflict-preemption on the ground that allowing lost wages for the pre-discovery period would unduly frustrate IRCA’s purposes. SB 1818 at best only “minimal[ly]” encourages unauthorized aliens to seek a job in the US or use false documents to get a job. “[T]he typical unauthorized alien wage earner is not familiar with the state law remedies available for unlawful termination and . . . job seekers rarely contemplate being terminated in violation of the law.” And even if they did, they would know that by pursuing such State law remedies, “they would risk discovery of their unauthorized status,” and with that, prosecution and deportation. If undocumented workers could not recover even pre-discovery lost wages, the Salas Court reasoned, employers in effect would enjoy immunity when they illegally discriminate, retaliate, or commit illegal wage-and-hour practices against undocumented workers, thereby undermining IRCA’s goal of “eliminating employers’ economic incentives to hire such workers.” (In a separate “concurring and dissenting” opinion, Justice Baxter disagreed with this ruling, relying on Hoffman Plastics to conclude that if Salas is an unauthorized alien, IRCA preempts any State law award to compensate him for the loss of employment.)
Second, the Court declared that the after-acquired-evidence defense from McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352 (1995), “applies with equal force to” FEHA claims. McKennon was a lawsuit under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for an illegal firing. The defendant-employer discovered---during a deposition—that the plaintiff had stolen confidential company documents while she was on the job. The US Supreme Court held that this misconduct did not defeat her ADEA claim, but that Court also read the ADEA to require taking “due account of the lawful prerogatives of the employer in the usual course of its business and the corresponding equities that it has arising from the employee’s wrongdoing.” Accordingly, it declared, if the defendant-employer proves that the plaintiff-employee’s misconduct was so severe that “the employee in fact would have been terminated on those grounds alone if the employer had known of it at the time of the discharge,” then the plaintiff cannot get certain remedies in its ADEA suit: reinstatement and front pay, as well as any back pay otherwise owed for the time after the employer in fact discovered the employee’s misconduct. The trial judge could then further adjust the back pay award based on “extraordinary equitable circumstances that affect the legitimate interests of either party.”
However incomplete and incoherent its reasoning, many appellate courts have read McKennon into other employment discrimination statutes. In Salas, the California Supreme Court joined this herd by reading McKennon’s defense into FEHA. This, in turn, required a remand. The McKennon defense demands that Sierra show that, had it rehired Salas, it would have subsequently fired him once Sierra learned that “his name did not match the Social Security number he had provided.” This was a triable issue of fact, the Court concluded, because some evidence suggested that Sierra “deliberately chose to look the other way when put on notice of [other] employees’ unauthorized status,” and thus would have likely done the same for Salas.
Similarly, the Court concluded that although unclean hands doctrine was not a “complete defense” to Salas’s FEHA claims, “equitable considerations may guide the court in fashioning relief in cases involving a legislatively expressed public policy.” In support, the Court referred to cases applying equitable principles “to reduce ordinary tort damages imposed for violation of antidiscrimination laws.” It did not explain how, if at all, these equitable considerations differ from the McKennon defense.
Coming up next—four guesses about the world after Salas.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The analyses here of yesterday's decisions, Jeff's in Harris v. Quinn and Charlie's in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby were spot-on and highlighted many of the legal implications of the cases going forward. There were some interesting facets that they did not discuss that I would like to think through a bit more.
One of the things that struck me about both decisions is their effect on women and particularly women of color. The workforce at issue in Harris is primarily female and heavily women of color. Similarly, lack of contraceptive access affects women most directly, and has larger impacts on women of color. Nearly half of the pregnancies in this country are unintended (a higher rate than other developed nations), and result in a large number of abortions and poorer health and economic, workplace-related consequences for the women who choose to continue their pregnancies and the children they deliver. The rates of unintended pregnancies among African American and Hispanic women are significantly higher than for white women because of lack of access to low cost, highly reliable contraception. And the health risks of pregnancy are significantly greater for women of color -- African American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than are white women. Easy access (financially and logistically), reduces these effects significantly.
Unionization has been good, in general, for the home health care workers in Illinois. These are workers not covered by safety net statutes like the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, nor are most covered by anti-discrimination statutes like Title VII. They are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act, either, which is one reason that these workers have had little luck bargaining for better wages or working conditions. These workers who were allowed to organize in Illinois and to bargain with the state have seen their wages increase significantly, nearly tripling for some (from as low as $3.35 to now over $11 and set to reach $13 by the end of the year). They also have health insurance and other workplace benefits. The result has been good for the majority of those women, although the named plaintiff, a woman who cared for her own son at home, perceived the deduction from her paycheck as a reduction in medicaid benefits for her son. Overall, most people who need in home care, like the elderly -- who again, are disproportionately women, although white women, based on aggregate life expectancy data -- and people with disabilities, also benefitted by being able to retain workers long-term who can be reliable (able to rely on this as their primary income and not look for other or better paying work) and better trained. Those people who need care could remain in their homes and not have to live in institutional settings.
To the extent that the gender pay gap and the racial pay gap (and the racialized gender pay gap) are driven by horizontal labor force segregation, organization seemed the most promising force for change. The decision in Harris seems to minimize the effects of that progress. To the extent that these pay gaps are driven by either horizontal or vertical workplace segregation that results from pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities, or by the higher cost of health care for one sex, easy access to contraception seems a way to reduce those indirect and direct effects. The decision in Hobby Lobby seems to threaten that. If insurers do not continue to agree to absorb the costs of contraceptives, who will? And finally, aside from the effects on individuals (workers, those who need home health care, and the families of both), to the extent that these pay gaps lead to wealth disparities, health outcomes disparities, and an inability to live independently, the states face greater expenses in supporting those who need help.
The Court's opinion in Hobby Lobby contained some additional food for thought on the interaction of RFRA and other federal laws. The Court stated in the early part of its opinion that the decision was confined in a number of ways, including that it was confined to the contraceptive mandate of the ACA. But the logic of the opinion and the language in the bulk of it has few bounds. As Justice Ginsburg's dissent pointed out, the logic of the opinion would allow any corporation, regardless of it's organization or corporate purposes, to challenge any federal law of general applicability, including, for example, Title VII. While the majority explained that Title VII's prohibition on racial discrimination in hiring was the least restrictive means to ensure equal opportunity in employment on the basis of race, the court left its analysis at that. Title VII also prohibits classifying and segregating employees in any way that would tend to deprive them of opportunities based on race. Is that narrowly tailored enough? Is the way that language has been interpreted to include disparate impact narrowly tailored enough?
Moreover, what about the other classes protected by Title VII? Sex is notably absent from that language. Is the Court anticipating the Title VII action brought by Hobby Lobby's female employees or the EEOC itself challenging a lack of access to contraception as sex discrimination? Such a suit could be a ways off if insurers will go along with the accommodation worked out for nonprofit religious entities and religious organizations in this context. However the process to take advantage of that opt-out is also currently being challenged. And based on the Court's decision, the Eleventh Circuit has suggested that it thinks that process will definitely fail. Yesterday, just hours after the Court's decision, the Eleventh Circuit granted the Eternal Word Television Network an injunction against complying with the opt-out because signing or indicating to an insurer or the government in any way that the Network would refuse to comply with the mandate would trigger that coverage to be provided in another way, thus facilitating the Network's employees in possibly engaging in acts the Network finds immoral--including having sex for any reason other than for procreation. Judge Pryor's concurrence quoted the majority's language at length, stating that it was clear the requirement would violate RFRA. It is no real stretch to extend that to for-profit corporations as well.
Moreover, what of the burgeoning case law on sex as including gender identity and sexual orientation at least when what is at issue is gender nonconforming behavior by the employee? Is that cut off at the knees for any company asserting that it finds gender nonconformity immoral for religious reasons?
These are just some preliminary thoughts of the additional effects of the two cases--and I didn't even get into the government efficiency, corporate law, corporate personhood, or issues of religion also running through the one or the other decisions I'd love to hear thoughts on any of this in the comments or follow-up posts.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Talk has been swirling for months that, while ENDA stalls in Congress, the President would sign an executive order barring LGBT discrimination for federal contractors. Today, the White House announced that he will sign the order. No word on when it will occur.
One interesting aspect of this is that the majority of the biggest federal contractors already ban such discrimination. Of course, the order is important for workers of the other contractors. It also has major symbolic significance and, hopefully, is a step towards ENDA's passage. It seems inevitable that it will pass at some point, but unclear how long it will take.
Hat Tip: Patrick Kavanagh
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Just a friendly reminder from conference organizers, Melissa Hart and Scott Moss at the University of Colorado Law School, that the deadline to register to attend, and/or present a paper at, the 9th Annual Labor and Employment Scholars Colloquium is Friday, August 1, 2014. The Colloquium is scheduled in Boulder between September 11-13, 2014.
You can register and submit a paper proposal at this link:
June 12, 2014 in About This Blog, Arbitration, Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Teaching, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The AALS is hosting a Workshop June 22-24 in Washington DC on Transnational Perspectives on Equality Law. The full program is here, and this is a summary:
Workshop on Transnational Perspectives on Equality Law
Sunday, June 22 - Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel
Antidiscrimination law is an American invention that has spread all around the world. During the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, antidiscrimination law promised radical social transformations towards equality for women and minorities in the workplace, in politics, and in education. But recent developments in Equal Protection and Title VII doctrine have paralyzed this trajectory. Meanwhile, the last decade has seen the unprecedented globalization of antidiscrimination law, as well as its expansion and alternative development outside the United States, catalyzed largely by the European Union's two directives in 2000, on race equality and on equal treatment in employment. Over the last few years, a new body of equality law and policy experimentation has emerged not only in the EU and in European countries, but also in South Africa, Canada, Latin America, and Asia. There is a range of public policies adopted to mitigate the disadvantages of vulnerable groups such as racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, women, the disabled, the elderly, and the poor, constituting an "equality law" that goes beyond norms prohibiting discrimination.
At the same time, antidiscrimination law in the United States seems to be changing. U.S. Supreme Court decisions over the last several years (Ricci v. DeStefano, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, Wal-Mart v. Dukes, and Shelby County v. Holder) have signaled the end of antidiscrimination law as envisioned by the civil rights movement in the United States. In response, there is growing scholarly interest in finding new approaches to the persistent problem of structural inequality. Comparative reflection is a productive tool, particularly when energy and optimism surrounds the trajectory of antidiscrimination law and equality policy outside of the United States. Now that there is over a decade's worth of new antidiscrimination activity in the EU countries following the 2000 equality directives, the time is ripe for scholarly reflection and evaluation of these developments. From an intellectual, practical, and strategic perspective, antidiscrimination scholars in the United States can no longer ignore developments in antidiscrimination law in other countries.
While a growing number of American legal scholars are lamenting the limits of antidiscrimination law, the recent growth of this body of law outside of the United States has largely gone unnoticed. The central purpose of this mid-year meeting is to widen the comparative lens on U.S. equality law - its failures, its achievements, and its potential - across a variety of subject areas. The meeting will provide a unique and much-needed opportunity to bring together scholars from various fields - constitutional law, employment discrimination law, comparative law, comparative constitutional law, election law, education law - to deepen and enrich the scholarship and teaching of equality. The meeting will also provide a unique opportunity for U.S. scholars to interact with a wide, varied, and stimulating group of antidiscrimination scholars working around the world.
Additionally, law schools are increasingly making their curricula more transnational and comparative. This conference will assist teachers in integrating comparative perspectives to illuminate constitutional law, employment discrimination law, employment law, and other traditional subjects.
This Workshop will explore a number of critical questions including what is at stake in looking comparatively when doing equality law; how affirmative action is understood in other legal systems; understanding disparate impact, accommodation, and positive rights. There will be discussions of religion, profiling, and equality and social movements. Transnational perspectives on equality law will be a greater component of antidiscrimination scholarship going forward. This meeting should not be missed.
AALS Planning Committee for 2014 AALS Workshop on Transnational Perspectives for Equality Law
Timothy A. Canova, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center
Guy-Uriel E. Charles, Duke University School of Law, Chair
Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School
Reva B. Siegel, Yale Law School
Julie C. Suk, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Yeshiva University
May 28, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Religion, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Please welcome guest blogger Joseph Seiner from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Joe teaches Employment Discrimination, Principles of Labor Law, Individual Employment Law, a workshop in ADR in Employment Law, and a seminar in Comparative Employment Discrimination. From his faculty bio:
Joseph Seiner received his B.B.A., with High Distinction, from the University of Michigan in 1995, where he was an Angell Scholar. Professor Seiner received his J.D., Magna Cum Laude, Order of the Coif, from the Washington and Lee University School of Law, in 1998. Professor Seiner was a lead articles editor for the Washington and Lee Law Review.
Following law school, Professor Seiner clerked for the late Honorable Ellsworth Van Graafeiland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. After his clerkship, he practiced law with Jenner & Block, LLP, in Chicago, Illinois, where he focused on labor and employment matters. In September, 2001, Professor Seiner accepted a position as an appellate attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C., where he presented oral argument as lead counsel in the United States Courts of Appeals in employment discrimination cases.
Prior to joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Professor Seiner was an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he developed and taught a seminar on comparative employment discrimination. Professor Seiner's articles have been selected for publication in numerous journals, including the Notre Dame Law Review, the Boston University Law Review, the Iowa Law Review, the Boston College Law Review, the William and Mary Law Review, the University of Illinois Law Review, the Hastings Law Journal, the Wake Forest Law Review, and the Yale Law and Policy Review. Professor Seiner's work has been featured in a number of media sources, including The Wall Street Journal. Upon invitation, Professor Seiner has submitted written testimony to committees in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Professor Seiner teaches courses in the labor and employment law area.
Joe is also a prolific scholar. You might check out his most recent article, now on SSRN, The Issue Class. From the abstract:
In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), the Supreme Court refused to certify a proposed class of one and a half million female workers who had alleged that the nation’s largest private employer had discriminated against them on the basis of their sex. The academic response to the case has been highly critical of the Court’s decision. This paper does not weigh in on the debate of whether the Court missed the mark. Instead, this Article addresses a more fundamental question that has gone completely unexplored. Given that Wal-Mart is detrimental to plaintiffs, what is the best tool currently available for workers to pursue systemic employment discrimination claims?
Surveying the case law and federal rules, this paper identifies one little used procedural tool that offers substantial potential to workplace plaintiffs seeking to pursue systemic claims — issue class certification. Rule 23(c)(4)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the issue class, allowing common issues in a class case to be certified while the remaining issues are litigated separately. The issue class is typically used where a case has a common set of facts but the plaintiffs have suffered varying degrees of harm. This is precisely the situation presented by many workplace class action claims.
This paper explains how the issue class is particularly useful for systemic discrimination claims. The paper further examines why traditional class treatment often fails in workplace cases, and addresses how the plaintiffs in Wal-Mart could have benefited from issue class certification. Finally, this Article discusses some of the implications of using the issue class in employment cases, and situates the paper in the context of the broader academic scholarship. This paper seeks to fill the current void in the academic scholarship by identifying one overlooked way for plaintiffs to navigate around the Supreme Court’s decision.
May 20, 2014 in About This Blog, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty News, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, April 28, 2014
A relatively rare thing is happening in St. Louis beginning today. A high profile sex discrimination trial begins. It's Katz v. Anheuser-Busch, which I posted about back in October of 2009 when the case was filed. Francine Katz, former Vice President of Communications and Consumer Affairs and part of the company's "Strategy Committee," is suing Anheuser-Busch for discrimination in compensation and support during her tenure at the company. She discovered that she was paid less than every man on the Strategy Committee when A-B was bought by InBev, an international company.
Katz has sued only under the Missouri Human Rights Act and not under Title VII. The MHRA has a standard more plaintiff friendly--protected status need only be a "contributing factor" to an employer's decision--and Missouri courts tend to let things get to trial more frequently. In fact, one of the reasons that this case has taken so long is because A-B sought to enforce an arbitration clause in Katz's contract. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the arbitration provisions that A-B argued would apply were not in fact enforceable.
There has been more wrangling, including a request by local news to have a camera in the courtroom. As events unfold, I'll post any interesting developments and observations, but mostly I'm looking forward to getting to watch when my schedule permits.
Update: Local investigative reporters have been tweeting from the trial. Follow @leisazigman and @LisaBrownSTL if you are interested.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
From conference organizers Scott Moss and Melissa Hart, at the University of Colorado Law school comes word that registration is open for the Ninth Annual Colloquium on Labor and Employment Law Scholarship. The dates will be September 11th to the 13th in Boulder.
As many of you already know, this is a terrific opportunity to get to know colleagues in an informal setting and exchange ideas as we discuss works-in-progress. Past participants likely would agree that the friendly, low-key atmosphere and productive sessions, as well as the chance to socialize with our colleagues, make this gathering especially fun and valuable.
The Colloquium will follow the familiar format. We will workshop papers all day Friday through Saturday afternoon. Exact times TBD; check the event webpage for updates as the Colloquium approaches.
To register, click here.
April 24, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, International & Comparative L.E.L., Labor Law, Labor/Employment History, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Religion, Scholarship, Wage & Hour, Worklife Issues, Workplace Safety, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Sixth Circuit just handed a resounding defeat to the EEOC in its disparate impact challenge to Kaplan Higher Education Corp.'s use of credit history to select employees, including those who will have access to student financial information. The opening paragraph signals the result by noting that the EEOC itself "runs credit checks on applicants for 64 of the agency's 97 positions." Apparently, hypocrisy isn't an asset for a federal enforcement agency.
But that point, however interesting, isn't the most provocative aspect. That honor goes to the court's treatment of the expert report upon which the EEOC based its claim that use of credit checks screen out African American applicants at a greater rate than whites. Upholding the district court's findings that the expert report was inadmissible under Daubert, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the EEOC complaint: without the report, the EEOC couldn't prove the requisite disparity of impact.
As the case was presented, the Commission seemed to have data on all applicants screened by one of Kaplan's vendors, so it was a simple matter to identify the exclusionary effect of the credit checks by name of applicant. The catch was, of course, that the data did not identify race, which meant that racial impact remained to be proved.
The EEOC subpoenaed state driving license records. Eleven states identified the race of license holders, but 36 states responded by providing color copies of photographs of license holders. This is where expert Murphy (or maybe I should now call him non-expert Murphy) came in. He set up a procedure for "race rating" by five raters who were experienced in "multicultural, multiracial, treatment outcome research." If 4 of the 5 agreed on a particular race for each applicant, he or she was so classified. The raters were unable to reach such a 4/5's consensus on 11.7% of the photographs, but the remainder were rated.
Now there were some technical problems with the expert report. For example, Murphy provided applicant names to the raters, which could obviously have influenced their ratings. And the racially-identified individuals were drawn from only a sample of those subjected to credit checks by one vendor, which meant that other vendors' checks were simply excluded. Add to that, there was some objective reason to doubt that the sample was in fact representative -- although Murphy did do limited "anecdotal" cross-checking of his raters' identifications with racial data provided by a state DMV, finding a 95.7% agreement.
The Sixth Circuit, however, focused not only on these kinds of problems by finding neither peer review of the technique or theory Murphy employed nor standards controlling the technique's operation. The latter referred to Murphy's failure to provide the raters with any particular standard: "they just eyeballed the DMV photos." Since the Daubert test was failed, Murphy's report was excluded, and with him went the EEOC's disparate impact case.
While it's possible to dismiss the case as another EEOC litigation failure, that's too easy a reaction. Practically speaking, the disparate impact theory obviously depends on proof of impact on different races, which means that there has to be some way to identify the races of those affected. Putting aside genetic testing (which has its own conceptual problems not to mention being clearly infeasible), the only obvious ways are self-identification or appearance.
The 11 states that provided racial data were almost certainly providing self-identified race. I suppose the EEOC could have written to all the applicants in the other states and asked them what race they were. Not likely to get much of a response -- other than predictable howls of outrage.
In any event, if those states having racial identity data didn't generate enough cases to reach statistical significance, the EEOC's "race rating" technique seems not implausible, the problems with Murphy's study aside.
But this takes us to deeper questions as to who counts as black (or white or any other race). There's been some interesting scholarship on "regarded as" discrimination, and I concur with most of the writers (albeit not all courts) that, for purposes of Title VII disparate treatment liability, what matters is the perception of the putative discriminator, not the "real" race of the victim.
But we're talking about disparate impact, and regarded as analysis seems inapposite: no one is regarding anyone as of any race is a pure impact case. The only question is whether the challenged practice falls more heavily on one racial group than another. It would seem, then, that we'd need to figure out who belongs in which group, and, for that purpose, appearance is the obvious marker. It remains to be seen whether Kaplan will be an outlier or a precursor for what has rarely been a problem in the past: who counts as what for purposes of impact analysis.