A few weeks ago, the public comment period for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) proposed guidance on unlawful workplace harassment closed, drawing mixed responses from commentators. The purpose of the proposed guidance, which was issued this past January, is to educate practitioners, employers and employees on the agency’s position toward the different types of harassment that Title VII prohibits. (more…)

How the court got there and what to do about it

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits covered employers from discriminating against an employee because of her race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Until this month, no federal court of appeals had ruled that discrimination based on an employee’s sex included treating the employee differently because of her sexual orientation. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit changed that on April 4. (more…)

  1. “Bathroom Bills” Apply to All Public Facilities, Including Showers and Locker Rooms.
    Despite being commonly referred to as “bathroom bills,” the laws and policy statements regarding transgender individual’s bathroom access apply equally to locker rooms and showering facilities.  Bathroom bills are laws that seek to restrict access to public facilities on the basis of the sex that an individual was assigned at birth.  These regulations, whether merely proposed or actually enacted, are intended to apply to facilities other than just bathrooms.
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  1. Persistent failure to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, or update the employee’s records to reflect the preferred name, may constitute harassment.

    The EEOC in Lusardi v. Dep’t of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133395, 2015 WL 1607756 (Mar. 27, 2015), held that intentional misuse of a transgender employee’s new name and pronoun may constitute sex-based discrimination and/or harassment. In Complainant v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133123, 2014 WL 1653484 (E.E.O.C.) (Apr. 16, 2014), the EEOC held that an employer’s year-long failure to revise its records pursuant to changes in gender identity was severe or pervasive enough to constitute a claim of sex-based harassment.
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It took them more than 46 years but the OFCCP finally released updated guidelines for federal contractors regarding sex discrimination (the last update was in 1970).  The new guidelines are consistent with Title VII and the EEOC’s current interpretation of the statute and provide federal contractors with direction regarding OFCCP’s position on compensation, pregnancy, and harassment, as well as a listing of Best Practices to prevent sex discrimination in the workplace. (more…)

It seems like an odd place to wage a civil rights war, but right now across the country there is a serious debate over public bathroom use. The LGBT community, backed by the U.S. Department of Labor (OSHA), has taken the position that a person should be able to use the bathroom of the gender to which he/she identifies, regardless of their anatomy. In response, the Minnesota-based retailer Target is now transitioning to gender-neutral restrooms. Not everyone agrees with this position. (more…)

March for Life, et al. v. Sylvia M. Burwell, et al., No. 14-CV-1149 (D.D.C. August 31, 2015) available at https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2014cv1149-30

Hobby Lobby took on the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that it must provide female employees certain contraceptives on religious grounds and won. March for Life, a pro-life organization, is trying to reach the same result but on different grounds: It objects to providing certain contraceptives based solely on moral grounds. And it has successfully completed the first leg of its journey. (more…)

On Monday, June 1, the Supreme Court decided a religious discrimination case involving Abercrombie & Fitch and the EEOC. The Court held that “[a]n employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.” The Court also re-affirmed that to succeed on a disparate treatment discrimination claim (i.e., a discrimination claim related to a specific person), one must satisfy the motivating factor standard. The motivating factor standard requires a showing that the protected characteristic (e.g., one’s religion, race, etc.) was a “motivating factor” in the at-issue employment decision. A full copy of the Court’s opinion may be found here. (more…)