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EEOC

As mentioned yesterday, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has either had a stretch of really, really bad luck in court lately, or else it’s been caught out by a series of judges for outrageously aggressive litigation sometimes crossing over into misconduct. Among the recent cases, the Sixth Circuit upheld a fee award of $750,000 to a company that the commission had sued over a purported policy of not hiring convicted felons. Here’s Molly DiBianca of the Delaware Employment Law Blog:

The EEOC “investigated” the Charge, issuing multiple subpoenas and obtaining more than 15,000 pages of documents. Although the evidence did not seem to support the allegations in the Charge, EEOC disagreed and filed suit. The suit, asserted on a class of individuals, alleged that the company’s policy prohibited the hiring “of any person with a criminal record,” which disparately impacted Black applicants.

The trouble, though, was that PeopleMark did not have such a policy. Then the EEOC identified approximately 250 individuals it contended to be within the class of aggrieved persons. Well, as it turned out, PeopleMark had hired 57 of the individuals and some others did not have a criminal background in the first place.

More from Eric Paltell/Kollman & Saucier; DeGroff & Maatman; Greg Mersol, Baker Hostetler; EEOC v. PeopleMark.

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For the fourth time in two months a judge has chastised the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for its high-handed ways, reports Claire Zillman at Fortune:

According to court filings, EEOC personnel arrived with subpoenas in hand, intimidated the small office’s staff, rifled through its confidential personnel and patient files, and illegally took company documents. The EEOC acted “as if it were the FBI executing a criminal search warrant,” HNI said in a court filing.

On September 30, a federal magistrate judge in Atlanta ruled that the commission’s tactics constituted a “highly inappropriate search and seizure operation.” The agency’s “failure to follow its own regulations, its foot-dragging, its errors in communication which caused unnecessary expense for HNI” constituted a “misuse of its authority as an administrative agency.”

Last month federal judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan whacked the agency in a discrimination suit against Bloomberg LP, dismissing most charges and ruling that the agency had failed to shoulder its responsibility to investigate before litigation. [Reuters, NY Post, NY Daily News]

Much more on the agency’s waywardness: Hans Bader; DeGroff and Maatman on 10th Circuit TriCore case.

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EEOC v. Boh Brothers

by Walter Olson on October 2, 2013

EEOC v. Boh Brothers is a new Fifth Circuit en banc decision allowing liability on a theory of hostile workplace environment sex discrimination arising from crude and aggressive locker-room banter in an all-male workplace (on facts differing somewhat from those in Oncale v. Sundowner, the 1998 Supreme Court case countenancing such liability). The dissent by Judge Edith Jones, p. 46 at footnote 3, cites my “Sentence First, Verdict Afterward,” from the July issue of Commentary magazine, on the federal government’s unhealthy interest lately in developing legal doctrines that pressure private institutions into adopting speech codes aimed at protecting listeners’ sensitivities.

Don’t miss the “Etiquette for Ironworkers” parody legal memo on p. 58, either. How many dissents include a parody legal memo?

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  • “Is the main effect of the minimum wage on job growth?” [Tyler Cowen] Minimum wage is transitional wage; most workers who receive it will earn higher rate in the next year if they stay employed [same] “Obama’s Bogus Case for a ‘Decent Wage'”[Ira Stoll]
  • “Equipment manufacturer sues EEOC over email survey trolling for potential class members” [Jessica Karmasek, LNL]
  • Don’t mess with SEIU? “Service Employees Suit Assesses Harsh Penalties against Breakaway Reformers” [Steve Early, Labor Notes]
  • NLRB is fully staffed now, so watch out employers [Rod Kackley, Crain's Detroit Business]
  • Major League Baseball latest to face suit over unpaid volunteer workers [ABA Journal]
  • Dent in lawyers’ business plan? Judge doesn’t think Michigan meatpacking workers’ $1,000 don/doff claim is adequate basis for $140,000 legal fee award [Free Press]
  • Workplace vagrants: many employees quit jobs regularly as garnishment catches up to them [Coyote]
  • EEOC guidance lost big in last week’s SCOTUS employment decisions [Daniel Fisher, Michael Greve]
  • Classification of obesity as a “disease” has huge employment law implications [Jon Hyman]
  • EEOC goes after BMW, Dollar General over criminal background checks on job candidates [ABA Journal, Althouse, Michael Carvin and Eric Dreiband ("The Government Checks Criminal Records. Why Can't Private Employers?"), Employer's Lawyer, earlier] “So the gov’t convicts minorities at a disproportionate rate. Then the gov’t sues companies that checks those records, smart.” [Surya Gunasekara] Why not ban Google too? (Don’t give them ideas, please) [ Mike Riggs]
  • Wage and hour suits soar, record number filed so far in 2013 [Corp Counsel, Overtime Lawyer, I-Sight] Related: what’s wrong with the epithet “wage theft” [Hyman]
  • Employer’s claim: I can’t get due process from Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities [Daniel Schwartz]
  • The First Amendment protects our speech rights against the government, not against those we deal with in the workplace who may disapprove [Schwartz and more on Connecticut employment proposal] NLRB “attempting to sanction a California newspaper despite a federal appeals court’s decision that such a ruling threatened the publisher’s First Amendment rights.” [Washington Free Beacon]
  • “Bergen, Passaic County towns saddled with costs as lawsuits filed by police add up” [Bergen Record via NJLRA]

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“A group of Spanish-speaking custodial workers in Colorado have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver discriminated against them by failing to provide Spanish translations.” [Caroline May, Daily Caller; Denver Post]

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  • Gov. Christie vetoes bill enabling workers and job applicants to sue employers who asked about Facebook use [NJLRA, Star-Ledger, more]
  • “Shockingly a British pub might want to hire British employees,” NYC Human Rights Commission sees things differently [Amy Alkon]
  • Anticlimax: despite fears, NLRB won’t ban at-will disclaimers in employee handbooks [Jon Hyman]
  • “Equally injurious to the children of the laboring classes is their utilization by their parents in theatrical and operatic shows” [Kyle Graham]
  • Senate confirms plaintiffs’ class action attorney as newest appointee to EEOC [Stoel Rives]
  • Public accounting: “Two advances for pension transparency” [Josh Barro]
  • At least there’s one category of young worker for whom job prospects remain bright, namely kids of Andrew Cuomo’s friends [David Boaz]
  • Great moments in union contracts: “Many Suburban Cops Allowed To Work ‘Half Drunk'” [NBC Chicago]
  • California high court imposes arbitrary damage-splitting rule on mixed-motive firings [Cheryl Miller, The Recorder]
  • More tales of much-forgiven Broward County bus drivers [Sun-Sentinel, background]
  • Sixth Circuit: SEIU robocalls to harass hospital CEO don’t violate TCPA [Littler]
  • Judge rejects EEOC position against alcohol testing of steelworkers in safety-sensitive posts [Paul Mirengoff, PowerLine, Reuters]
  • “NYFD made written test impossible to fail, but diversity recruits in Academy can’t meet physical standards either.” [Ted Frank/PoL]
  • “The March Toward a Bullying Cause of Action Continues” [Michael Fox, Employer's Lawyer; TheDenverChannel.com]
  • T’wasn’t easy for White House to find a new Labor Secretary to the left of Hilda Solis, but meet Tom Perez [WaPo]

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Labor and employment roundup

by Walter Olson on February 28, 2013

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“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice on behalf of a former office assistant who claims disability discrimination over a lifting requirement.” The job’s requirements, at the firm’s North Carolina headquarters, allegedly included moving heavy boxes of documents; according to the complaint, the law firm did not adequately consider accommodations such as letting her divide up the contents of the boxes and use push carts. Womble Carlyle declined to comment. [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]

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Labor and employment roundup

by Walter Olson on February 12, 2013

  • “Lying to Doctors for Fitness for Duty Exam Can Still Get You Fired …But Only If You’re a Police Officer” [Connecticut cop smashed into two cars during epileptic seizure; Daniel Schwartz]
  • “Emotional labor”: is having to be cheerful to customers a form of capitalist slavery? [Tim Noah v. Andrew Sullivan]
  • CalPERS: “The pension fund that ate California” [Steve Malanga, City Journal]
  • Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), other “worker centers” on the rise: “Will ‘alt-labor’ replace unions?” [Salon; critical anti-ROC site via Matt Patterson/CEI]
  • Without benefit of an act of Congress, EEOC is interpreting the law to prohibit transgender bias [Workplace Prof]
  • “The Nation: Government-Mandated Lunch Breaks are Somehow Libertarians’ Fault” [Shackford, Reason]
  • Historian challenges received account of Haymarket Affair [Ron Radosh]

Discrimination law roundup

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2013

  • After being slapped down by courts, EEOC concentrates on filing fewer but bigger cases [Sue Reisinger, Corporate Counsel] EEOC scores in Cintas, UPS cases [Legal Times]
  • SCOTUS grants certiorari in retaliation mixed motives case [University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, SCOTUSBlog via Marcia McCormick, Workplace Prof]
  • False Claims Act could be potent weapon for discrimination plaintiffs [Texas Law Review student note by Ralph Mayrell, PDF via Bagenstos]
  • Religious liberty compatible with gay rights so long as ambitions of anti-discrimination law aren’t allowed to run wild [Eugene Volokh as part of UCLA conference on Roe's 40th and Lawrence's 10th anniversary] Case of Ocean Grove, N.J. pavilion is still regularly cited as infringement on church autonomy, but it’s not that simple, since it hinges on untypical “public use” covenant of property in question [Box Turtle Bulletin]
  • For a more genuine menace to religious liberty, however, watch out for the notion of taking the Bob Jones University precedent — in which courts upheld the stripping of an educational institution’s tax exemption due to its backward racial views — and extending it into a weapon for denying tax exemption to the much broader class of institutions said to contravene “fundamental public policy” [Caroline Maia Corbin, Concurring Opinions]
  • More on the deaf lifeguard case [Jon Hyman, earlier]
  • New York Gov. Cuomo seeks one-way fee awards in state bias cases [Reuters]

Labor and employment roundup

by Walter Olson on December 21, 2012

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Discrimination law roundup

by Walter Olson on November 20, 2012

  • In DC today? I’ll be commenting at Cato on new Russell Nieli book on affirmative action [details]
  • EEOC continues to pressure employers over use of criminal background checks in hiring process [Hans Bader, Daniel Schwartz, Jon Hyman, earlier]
  • Bill in Congress would require employers to make ADA-like accommodation for pregnancy/childbirth [Hyman]
  • “Religious freedom and the nondiscrimination norm” [Rick Garnett, Prawfs] What is supposed to make discrimination so tempting, anyway? [Bryan Caplan, EconLib]
  • Lawsuit alleges that group car rental discount for members of gay group constitutes unlawful discrimination against straights [Volokh]
  • Complainants argue in Strasbourg that UK failure to more fully accommodate Christians violates Euro human rights law [Telegraph]
  • Push for ADA coverage of obesity raises controversy [Christina Wilkie, HuffPo]

Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on August 8, 2012

  • Lawprof’s classic argument: you thought I was capable of going on a workplace rampage with a gun, and though that isn’t true, it means you perceived me as mentally disabled so when you fired me you broke the ADA [Above the Law, ABA Journal, NLJ]
  • “Fragrance-induced disabilities”: “The most frequent MCS [Multiple Chemical Sensitivity] accommodation involves implementing a fragrance-free workplace [or workzone] policy” [Katie Carder McCoy, Washington Workplace Law, earlier here, etc.]
  • Netflix seeks permission to appeal order in captioning accommodation case [NLJ, Social Media Law via Disabilities Law, earlier here, here and here]
  • EEOC presses harder on ADA coverage for obesity [PoL, earlier here, here, here, etc.]
  • Disability groups seek class action: “ADA Suit Claims Wal-Mart Checkout Terminals Are Too High for Wheelchair Users” [ABA Journal, Recorder]
  • Crunch postponed until after election: “Despite delays, chair lifts coming to public pools” [NPR Morning Edition, earlier here, here, here, etc.] Punished for advocacy: disabled groups organize boycotts of “hotels whose leaders, they say, have participated in efforts to delay regulations.” [USA Today]
  • Disabled student sues St. Louis U. med school over failure to provide more time on tests [St. L. P-D]

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