Supreme Court liberals smack around the Obama Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), even as they hand a win to a pregnancy-bias plaintiff. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty. More: Josh Blackman.
- “Courts remind EEOC again: Background checks don’t equal racism” [Todd Lebowitz, The Hill; my take on EEOC v. Freeman]
- Another lesson of Old Dominion (boozing truck driver) verdict: employers’ “open door” grievance policies may harbor potential liabilities [Jon Hyman]
- Caseloads: “Three Observations about the New EEOC Statistics” [Daniel Schwartz]
- “Employers seek to halt EEOC’s efforts to drum up plaintiffs for its ‘Onionhead’ lawsuit” [Hyman]
- Reform bills in House hopper include HR 548 (protects employer use of credit or criminal records), HR 549 (requires vote of commission to approve litigation against multiple defendants or over systemic/pattern-and-practice discrimination), HR 550 (requires disclosure of results of litigation that have reached judgment; requires certification that pre-filing conciliation has reached impasse, and allows judicial review of EEOC conduct during conciliation) More: Hearing Monday on these three and H.R. 1189, “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act”;
- “EEOC’s Strange War Against ObamaCare And Employer Wellness Plans” [Eric Dreiband]
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has “invited the public to comment on ‘significant existing EEOC regulations to determine whether they should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed,'” comments period ends April 20 [Insurance Journal; address to Public.Comments.RegulatoryReview @ eeoc.gov]
“An employee who refused to submit to biometric hand scanning because he feared the scanner would imprint him with the “Mark of the Beast,” was awarded $150,000 in damages by a federal jury …. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Consol Energy on behalf of Butcher for allegedly forcing the long-time mine worker to retire because the companies’ newly installed technology violated his religious beliefs.” [Michael Stone, Patheos; Biometric Update, opinion and EEOC press release via Eugene Volokh, Jon Hyman and more (Sixth Circuit rules for employer in case where employee interprets Social Security number as mark of the Beast, because use of those numbers in hiring is mandatory under federal law)]
This time it’s the Fourth Circuit, upholding a trial judge, finding “pervasive errors and utterly unreliable analysis” in the expert reports submitted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the case of EEOC v. Freeman. I’ve written it up at Cato at Liberty, where I also recommend, as providing something of a more balanced view of the criminal record hiring issue, a briefing report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
In 2009, a driver with Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., admitted to the company that he had an alcohol problem. The company told him that it would no longer allow him to drive heavy trucks for the firm. (It said it offered him a less safety-sensitive, but also significantly lower-paying, dock job.) The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stepped in and sued on his behalf under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It conceded that Old Dominion could (and indeed had to) take the keys away from a heavy truck driver it found to be currently drinking on the job, but contended it had failed in its obligation to “make an individualized determination as to whether the driver could return to driving and provide a reasonable accommodation of leave to its drivers for them to obtain treatment.” Of course backsliding and remission are common following rehab treatment, which means as a group drivers with known past alcohol problems will have a higher risk profile than drivers without. That is why at an earlier stage of the case I asked, “Are we really required to take chances with 18-wheelers on the highway?”
Now we know the answer: Yes. A jury agreed with the EEOC and awarded the driver $119,000 in back pay.
P.S. On the other hand, upholding the decision of a federal district court in Georgia, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that Crete Carrier Corp. did not violate the ADA when it declined to employ a truck driver with a “current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism,” a bar to driving under DOT regulations.
“Guess what? You know those SEC disclosures about pending litigation that publicly held companies are required by law to make? Well, if an employer says too much, it may be ‘retaliating’ against the litigants.” [Robin Shea on Seventh Circuit opinion in Greengrass v. International Monetary Systems Ltd.]
- Jury convicts Ironworkers Local 401 boss in union violence case [Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS Philly, earlier here, etc. on Quaker meetinghouse arson and other crimes] Pennsylvania lawmaker proposes to end unions’ exemption from laws defining crimes of harassment, stalking, threatening [York Dispatch; more on exemption of unions from these laws]
- Emergent regime under federal law: if you’ve ever offered light duty to a disabled worker or returning injured worker, you’d better offer it to pregnant worker too [Jon Hyman]
- Everything you know about company towns is wrong [Alex Tabarrok]
- “The EEOC issues you’ll want to keep an eye on in 2015” [Littler Mendelson via Tim Gould, HR Morning]
- Sued if you do: employers struggle to navigate between government rules encouraging, penalizing hiring of applicants with criminal records [WSJ, paywall] “Watch Your Back: The Growing Threat of FCRA Background Check Class Actions” [Gregory Snell, Foley & Lardner]
- “Nearly 30 Percent of Workers in the U.S. Need a License to Perform Their Job: It Is Time to Examine Occupational Licensing Practices” [Melissa S. Kearney, Brad Hershbein and David Boddy, Brookings via John Cochrane]
- “The Effect of Mandatory Sick Leave Policies: Reviewing the Evidence” [Max Nelsen] “Popularity of Obama’s paid sick leave proposal depends on workers not realizing it ultimately comes out of their paychecks.” [James Sherk]
The Supreme Court is considering the case of a woman who sued torrid-youth retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, saying it discriminated against her based on religious belief when it failed to waive its “Look Policy,” in which sales personnel are expected to wear only clothes sold by the store, to accommodate her modesty headscarf. Never mind whether this demand would be a reasonable one in itself; the case has gone up to the U.S. Supreme Court in large part because of a second issue, whether the store was legally obliged to grasp the situation intuitively as based on religion and pre-emptively accommodate Samantha Elauf “even though Elauf never informed them that she would need a religious accommodation.” A district court ruled that it was so obliged, the Tenth Circuit reversed, and now the Supreme Court is hearing the case at the EEOC’s request.
Requiring employers to offer a religious accommodation before they are on notice that one is sought requires them to act on “crude stereotypes or pry into employees’ personal lives,” write Ilya Shapiro and Julio Colomba. Not all employee requests on subjects such as modesty, diet, or weekend attendance are associated with religious affiliation and observance, while conversely many persons with genuine or sincere religious affiliation or belief do not conform to stereotypical expectations about what their religion might require of them in the workplace. Individual employees are thus “in a significantly better position to identify conflicts than employers.” The Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief on Abercrombie’s side arguing that the Court should reject the EEOC’s position as unworkable, unfair, and not required by the statute.
Related: Eugene Volokh has been posting on religious-exemption and religious-accommodation law at Volokh Conspiracy. For those who imagine, reading the Hobby Lobby and state-RFRA coverage, that religious exemptions have mostly been favored by conservatives over liberal opposition, he reminds us that the actual history is nearer the opposite. And he explains why his own view is that an optimal approach would include a mix of legislatively and judicially crafted (consistent with legislative wishes) religious exemptions and accommodations, but not necessarily a constitutional entitlement to accommodation.
- Should a sock used to hold pills count as “drug paraphernalia?” [NPR via Jeffrey Miron on Supreme Court case]
- Michael Greve: on Medicaid spending-forcing suits, behold the Obama administration taking the correct stance, U.S. Chamber the wrong [Liberty and Law, more]
- No, the justices don’t just use religious freedom cases to advance their own beliefs [Eugene Volokh]
- Can/should the courts correct misconduct by the EEOC in dealings with employers during the “conciliation” phase before litigation? [Robert Barnes/Washington Post, Julie Goldscheid/SCOTUSBlog, Michael Greve on oral argument in Mach Mining v. EEOC]
- Decision in Dart Cherokee case rejects presumption against removal of class actions [Richard Samp and M.C. Sungaila, WLF]
- When if ever may the President properly sign legislation he believes to be in part unconstitutional? [Will Baude]
- Most Justices have had little practical exposure to criminal law which can leave it a blind spot for them [Radley Balko]
- “Don’t the attorneys who bring these [sled injury municipal] lawsuits have kids and don’t any of them go sledding together?” [Abby Schachter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, quoting my response to that question; Nicole Kaeding, Cato; earlier]
- Eighth Circuit sends back for reconsideration lower court’s $4.7 million fee award against EEOC to trucking company it sued [Transport Topics, opinion, earlier]
- Long Island: judges have awarded at least $638K in court appointments to influential Nassau Democrat [Newsday]
- Or just call them “competition”: “Uber Called ‘Criminal Enterprise’ by Philadelphia Cab Owners” [Bloomberg]
- Update: New Jersey attorney Paul Bergrin loses appeal in “No Kemo, no case” witness murder affair [opinion, 2012 round, earlier]
- More on flaws of suit seeking to blame gun business for Sandy Hook massacre [Nicholas Johnson, Liberty and Law, earlier]
- Local man tips Eugene Volokh, Ken White (Popehat), and Steve Hayward (Power Line Blog) to irresistible free-speech story, internet goes crazy [Pete McCarthy, Frederick News Post, on how Kirby Delauter story went viral; earlier]