Sex Discrimination Ban to Include Gender Identity

December 21, 2014

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that it is position of the Justice Department that unlawful sex discrimination includes sex discrimination based on gender identity.

In a memo issued on December 15, Holder wrote that it is his belief that the “best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.” This statement reverses the previous position of the Justice Department, which did not include discrimination against transgender people in its definition of sex discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination "because of" an employee's sex. This means that your employer may not take an adverse action against you because of your sex. In other words, your sex cannot play a role in any aspect of your employment, including hiring, transfers, promotions, pay, disciplinary action, suspensions, and discharges.

Further, although sex discrimination laws were originally enacted to protect women, they have also been extended to cover discrimination against men. Now, such important protections have been broadened to include an individual’s psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.

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Supreme Court To Rule On Pregnancy Discrimination Case

December 9, 2014

The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral argument on a case that has to potential to profoundly affect working women. The case, Young v. UPS, involves pregnancy-related workplace discrimination.

According to this significant lawsuit, a part-time UPS worker, Peggy Young, became pregnant with her third child while working as a driver at UPS’s Maryland facility. Yong’s doctor recommended that she avoid lifting anything heavier than 20 pounds. However, her job required she lift up to 70 pounds. After presenting the note, Young was placed on unpaid leave through the end of her pregnancy. As a result, for seven months she lost her wages, heath benefits, and her pension.

Young filed suit alleging that pursuant to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, UPS should accommodate her request, just as it accommodated workers pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) who suffered on the job injuries. UPS responded that its obligation to accommodate employees is limited to someone who suffers on the job injuries, or health issues related to the injury. Because pregnancy is not an on the job injury, UPS argued it should not be required to accommodate the lifting restriction. The lower courts ruled in UPS’s favor, and now the Supreme Court will determine if Young will be able to bring her pregnancy discrimination lawsuit before a federal jury to make a determination. She is seeking lost wages and damages.

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Georgia School Districts Cannot Claim Immunity Under The Eleventh Amendment

November 24, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta has just issued an important ruling that could potentially impact future employment discrimination lawsuits. The decision provides that Georgia school districts cannot hide behind the Eleventh Amendment’s immunity provisions to shield them from suits in federal court. Generally, the Eleventh Amendment shields states from federal lawsuits (such as many employment discrimination cases) unless the state has consented to be sued in that instance. Further, state officers and other entities may be entitled to similar immunity if they are operating as an “arm of the state.” Cities and counties are not protected by the same immunity.

However, the question of whether school districts are immune from federal lawsuits involves state law, and Georgia courts had never previously ruled whether they may use the 11th amendment as a defense.

On November 10th the court issued its ruling, rejecting a Georgia school district’s claim of immunity. The case involves an employment claim against the Henry County School District, filed by a woman suffering from sickle cell anemia. The school district had raised the 11th amendment as a defense to her claim. Attorney Cheryl Legare of Atlanta’s Buckley Law Firm won the appeal on behalf of the schoolteacher, noting, “I am extremely happy with the results.”

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Race Discrimination Verdict Reinstated Against MARTA Manager

November 22, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has just reinstated a $500,000 retaliation verdict against MARTA. The retaliation lawsuit was filed after a man was allegedly fired for telling his supervisor he was going to file a race discrimination case.

In order to protect individuals from discrimination in the work place, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who complain about discrimination – even if the workers may not be to affirmatively prove such discrimination occurred. This means that if you can show that you reasonably believed that you were discriminated against and then subjected to an adverse action, you may be able to recover damages in a retaliation case.

In the recent matter, argued on appeal by Attorney Steven Wolfe of Atlanta’s Buckley Law Firm, Darryl Connelly, a white MARTA worker, complained that his supervisor, who is African-American, subjected him to race discrimination. Evidence was introduced that she referred to herself as a “mean black bitch” and socialized with black employees. Connelly asserted that he was fired after he complained to her that she was “railroading” him.

A jury determined that MARTA was guilty of retaliation and awarded a $500,000 verdict to Connelly. However because the verdict was split - the supervisor was not found liable - the court set aside the award as “inconsistent.” On successful appeal, the 11th Circuit Court determined that an inconsistent verdict was not a proper basis to set aside the award. As such, it reinstated the verdict against MARTA, finding the employer liable for retaliating against Connelly for complaining about discrimination.

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50 Years Later: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII

November 18, 2014

In 1963, after marches and lobbying by the civil rights community, President John F. Kennedy publicly endorsed a civil rights bill, which would give "all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public – hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote." President Kennedy delivered this speech after a series of protests from the African American community, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, including the Birmingham campaign in which students and children were attacked by police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses during protests against segregation. As the bill was pending in Congress, President Kennedy was assassinated.

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Research Shows Weight Discrimination is Prevalent

November 15, 2014

Employment discrimination may occur in a variety of settings. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits many types of discrimination including discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion. This means that employers are prohibited from making employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promoting based on these categories. In fact, Title VII makes it illegal to consider these “protected” categories when making any employment decisions. Additionally, Congress has also passed the Americans with Disabilities Act/Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADA/ADAAA) making it illegal to discriminate against individuals with disabilities and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibiting age-based discrimination.

If you have questions about employment discrimination, or believe that you may have been discriminated against, consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination attorney is important to determine your rights.

Recently, law makers have been discussing whether protections should be adopted for “weight discrimination.”

According to a recent report in the Washington Post, obese people are often discriminated against in the workplace and have difficultly getting “equal treatment.”

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Unlawful Retaliation Claims On the Rise

November 4, 2014

A recent report reveals that a record number of employment discrimination cases based on “unlawful retaliation” were filed last year. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 38,000 charges of retaliation were filed by workers in 2013. Over the last decade, the number of retaliation claims has steadily risen. In fact, it ranks as the most commonly reported form of workplace discrimination – overtaking race discrimination.

What is retaliation?

“Unlawful retaliation” includes a broad range of activities and generally constitutes any negative employment action that employers take in response to workers complaining about race, age, gender or any other type of work place discrimination. Retaliatory actions include not hiring, firing, failing to promote and demoting employees. It also may include more subtle practices such as giving a worker less desirable shifts and transfers to inconvenient locations. The Supreme Court has defined retaliation broadly as "any action that is designed to deter a worker from complaining about employment discrimination, or acting as a witness in a co-employee’s claim of discrimination." Further in certain situations, third parties may bring retaliation actions. For example, the court recently held that a man could sue for retaliation after he was fired following his fiancé’s accusation of sex discrimination against their mutual employer.

If you have questions about retaliation, or believe that you may have been subjected to unlawful retaliation at work, we urge you to consult with an experienced Atlanta unlawful retaliation attorney immediately to determine your next steps.

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Employee Wins Landmark Employment Discrimination Case

October 28, 2014

Legal news has just reported a victory in a landmark employment discrimination case. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has determined that the Department of the Army engaged in “frequent, pervasive and humiliating,” gender-identity discrimination against Tamara Lusardi, an Army software specialist who transitioned from male to female. If you believe that you have suffered any form of employment discrimination, it is critical you consult with an experienced Georgia employment discrimination lawyer immediately to determine your next steps.

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Are You An Employer Or Employee?

October 24, 2014

A recent employment law case evaluated whether a doctor should be considered an employer or an employee. In the disability discrimination case, an anesthesiologist was identified as an employee based on her employment agreement. However, after working for two years, she was promoted and became a shareholder and a member of the board of directors. Further, she began receiving a quarterly distribution based on her role on the board.

Several years later, the woman sustained serious injuries as the result of a kayaking accident and was unable to return to work full time. She then requested a leave of absence. Subsequently, the board voted to terminate the woman if she could not perform her duties as an anesthesiologist without restriction, and did not resign on her own. When she did not resign, she was fired. The woman then filed a lawsuit for disability discrimination pursuant o the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The lower court determined that the doctor should be considered an employer rather than an employee, and as a result was not protected by the ADA. The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against qualified individuals as the result of a disability.

If you have questions about the ADA, or believe that you may have been discriminated against because of a disability, consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer is important to determine your rights and evaluate your next steps.

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ADA Lawsuit Filed Against FedEX

October 18, 2014

Legal news reports that a federal discrimination lawsuit has just been filed against FedEx. The Americans with Disabilities Act claim asserts that FedEx discriminated against a large class of deaf and hard of hearing package handlers and job applicants for many years. Among the allegations include claims that the company failed to provide the workers necessary accommodations to perform their job.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) protect certain “qualified” individuals from discrimination in the terms and conditions of your employment. The ADA/ADAAA also protects you from disability harassment or retaliation for complaining about disability discrimination or participating in another person’s disability claim.

If you have questions about disability discrimination or believe that you have been discriminated against as the result of a disability, consulting with an Atlanta disability discrimination law firm right away is important to protect your rights and provide you critical guidance.

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Supreme Court To Hear Religious Discrimination Case Based On Look Policy

October 11, 2014

The Supreme Court has just announced that it will hear the religious discrimination filed by a Muslim woman against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. The Title VII employment discrimination matter involves the case of a Muslim teenager who was rejected from a job she applied to as floor staff because she didn’t meet their “Look Policy.” The teen wore a hijab, which was contrary to the policy banning wearing black clothes and “caps.”

All people who apply for jobs at Abercrombie and Fitch as floor employees are considered models and are graded on a 3-point scale of “appearance & sense of style.” The teen originally scored a 2, but when it was learned that she wore a black hijab, her score was decreased to a 1, which disqualified her completely from being able to obtain a job at the store.

The teen sued for employment discrimination – specifically religious discrimination – pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

If you have questions about any form of employment discrimination or believe that you have been discriminated against, your first step should be consulting with an experienced Atlanta discrimination lawyer. A knowledgeable Atlanta employee’s rights attorney can determine your rights and help you seek the redress you deserve.

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Transgender Lawsuits Filed Against Two Companies

September 30, 2014

The EEOC has filed its first Title VII lawsuits on behalf of transgender workers. The lawsuits, filed against Florida and Michigan companies, accuse the businesses of discriminating against workers based on their gender identity. The federal complaints demonstrate the latest efforts by the U.S. government to improve all workers‘ rights, including the LGBT community.

“Title VII” refers to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law making workplace discrimination illegal. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, color, race, religion, and national origin. In the years since its passage, Congress has passed additional laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of age and disability.

If you have questions about Title VII or believe that you may have been discriminated against in any way consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer is important to determine your legal rights and your next steps.

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