I’ve got a new post up at Cato about the Supreme Court’s decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc. The Court’s 8-1 ruling on fairly narrow grounds in favor of the headscarf-wearing claimant isn’t very surprising, for reasons I explain in the piece. The ruling could expose employers to more liability, particularly of the sued-if-you-do, sued-in-you-don’t variety, since it encourages employers to pry into employees’ religious views or adopt stereotyped views about what their religious scruples should be presumed to be. Still, eight Justices were content to resolve the dispute on relatively dry statutory interpretation grounds, with only Justice Clarence Thomas interested in interrogating the law at a more fundamental level. (Why, he wonders, is equal treatment based on non-religious considerations now considered “intentional discrimination” based on religion?)
For a seasonal posting in Park City, Utah, Ruby Tuesday invited only female associates to apply as servers, citing a wish not to require males and females to room together in the company-provided housing it had lined up (and no doubt swayed at least in part by legal risks to which it would be exposed by doing so). Expensive lesson: in a settlement with the EEOC, it will pay $100,000 to two male servers who say they wanted a summer assignment at the resort. [Daily Times]
Fearful of allegations of harassment or other impropriety, some male bosses on Capitol Hill have a policy against taking 1-on-1 closed-door meetings with female staffers, which of course itself probably makes it harder for women to advance and may be illegal. [Sarah Mimms, National Journal] Possibly there is legal safety to be had in not taking one-on-one meetings — or evening events, or travel — with staffers of any gender. Or, like up-to-date cops, maybe they could wear body cameras.
Note also: this 2013 Overlawyered post about a lawsuit charging that an “anti-fraternization” policy at a Texas law firm impeded mentorships and advancement for women, and this 2000 post (scroll to Nov. 1) quoting a New Jersey lawyer: “I have not seen a female client unescorted after-hours since this incident and probably never will again.”
P.S. Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post takes as usual a line at variance with the one presented here (via Amy Alkon: “Feminism Built That!” with reader comments) Note how Rampell presents absurd (A) and (B) rationales for the no-closed-door practice without for a moment considering a third rationale, namely (C) the possibility that different interpretations or understandings of the same words or events will generate career-ending disputes and allegations. Because that never happens, right?
“A jury has awarded a total of $4 million to two Los Angeles police officers who sued the department alleging discrimination and retaliation after the shooting of an unarmed autistic man five years ago….They alleged that as Latinos their restrictions [to desk duty] were discrimination after the shooting of Steven Eugene Washington, who was black. Chief Charlie Beck denied that race was involved in the restrictions, saying the men were on desk duty because of the department’s potential liability.” [Southern California Public Radio]
“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.]
Missed this one from the fall: a Texas catering business will pay a fine to the U.S. government for having engaged in “citizenship discrimination.” “Culinaire International unlawfully discriminated against employees based on their citizenship status, the Justice Department claimed, because it required non-citizen employees to provide extra proof of their right to work in the United States. Culinaire has agreed to pay the United States $20,460 in civil penalties, receive training in anti-discrimination rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act, revise its work eligibility verification process, and create a $40,000 back pay fund for ‘potential economic victims.'” Employers face stringent penalties if they ask for too few documents, but that doesn’t mean they’re free to ask for any more than the right number. [Rachel Stoltzfoos, Daily Caller; Bill Watson (“Trying too hard to follow bad laws? That’s illegal”)] Several related cases, from fifteen years ago, here.
- Police have traced the crime wave to a single micro-neighborhood in the California capital [Sacramento Bee]
- “Adam Carolla Settles with the Patent Trolls” [Daniel Nazer/EFF, Reason, related eight days earlier and previously] eBay takes on Landmark in the E.D. of Texas [Popehat]
- Frank Furedi on law and the decline in childrens’ freedom to roam [U.K. Independent]
- On “ban the box” laws re: asking about job applicants’ criminal records, it’s sued if you do, sued if you don’t [Coyote]
- Fake law firm websites in U.K. sometimes parasitize the real ones [Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
- What C. Steven Bradford of the blog Business Law Prof reads to keep up (and thanks for including us on list);
- As applications to renounce U.S. citizenship mount, many related to FATCA, our government hikes fee for doing so by 422% [Robert Wood, Forbes]
“On the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the threat of $500 fines, the Southern California couple received a letter from their city threatening a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn.” [AP]
“Exxon Mobil Corp. isn’t responsible for alligators overrunning a rural dump site it owns in Mississippi, the state supreme court ruled, because the global oil explorer can’t control wild animals. … Even if Exxon had wanted to cull the congregation, it would have been prevented by state law that designates alligators as a protected species, making it illegal to hunt or disturb them, according to the ruling.” [Bloomberg/Insurance Journal]