National Origin Discrimination On the Rise

February 25, 2015

The recent shooting of three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has brought national attention to the issues of racial and religious discrimination.

According to reports, the man accused of killing the students had a history of using “hateful” terms toward the students and exhibiting significant intolerance. It has not been determined yet whether these murders will be charged as hate crimes, but it has underscored the need for anti-discrimination policies to be in place.

Additionally, with the increased news coverage of Muslim radicals engaging in horrific acts of terror, campuses and places of employment have seen an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment, and an increase in potentially illegal national origin discrimination.

National origin discrimination means treating someone less favorably because he or she is from a particular place, because of his or her ethnicity or accent, or because it is believed that he or she has a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also means treating someone less favorably at work because of marriage or other association with someone of a particular nationality.

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Age Discrimination Continues To Plague Many Work Places

February 20, 2015

For years, age discrimination claims have been one of the fastest growing types of employment discrimination lawsuits. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination against individuals over the age of 40.

Older workers – with higher paychecks – may be the first to be eliminated when companies are trying to tighten their belts, a practice that may violate the ADEA. Like the other anti-discrimination laws, the ADEA prohibits any type of adverse action against you because of your age, including the failure to hire you or a discharge because of your age. This also includes age harassment, which typically involves hostility or abuse directed at you by other employees because of your age. The ADEA also prohibits retaliation against you for complaining about age discrimination or for participating in someone else's age discrimination case.

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Retaliation Leads Employment Discrimination Claims

February 13, 2015

Employment discrimination can take many different forms. Often, sex discrimination or race discrimination comes to mind when people think about what actions are considered discrimination. However, several different types of actions may be considered discriminatory. Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its numbers concerning the top complaints of workplace discrimination.

According to the data, surprisingly claims of retaliation top the list, followed by race, sex, disability and age discrimination.

Retaliation claims can exist where almost any type of discrimination is alleged and includes those situations where an employer takes a negative action against a worker for making a complaint. Title VII has specifically made it illegal to retaliate against individuals who complain about discrimination – even if the underlying discrimination isn’t proven. The policy behind this law is to encourage workers to report unlawful conduct and deter abuse. If you experience retaliation in the workplace, you are entitled to the same remedies an s you would have in other discrimination cases – including back pay and damages.

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Reverse Sex Discrimination Case Filed Against Restaurant Chain

January 31, 2015

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. This means that employers may not take gender into consideration when it makes employment decisions, including whether to hire, fire, or promote a particular worker. The Act was originally designed to help protect women from discriminatory actions, but it also applies to men – and more recently courts have been called on to consider the inclusion of transgender workers in its protections.

If you have questions about sex discrimination, or believe that you have suffered any form of employment discrimination, consulting with an experienced Atlanta sex discrimination attorney is important to determine your next steps.

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Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Filed

January 26, 2015

Georgia news reports that Atlanta’s fire chief has filed a complaint for discrimination after he was terminated following a controversy over a religious book he wrote. In the book, he denigrated homosexuality. He claimed his views were based on religious beliefs. He further asserts that he was terminated in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition against religious discrimination.

Pursuant to Title VII, you employer may not discriminate against you “because of” your religious beliefs, harass you because of your religious beliefs, or retaliate against you for complaining about religious discrimination or for participating in someone else's religious discrimination case.

In this instance, the police chief self-published a book containing controversial passages condemning homosexuality. He was suspended following the book’s publishing, and subsequently was terminated. According to the former mayor, “The book expresses my deeply held religious convictions on many subjects” and that “I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my religion — Christian.”

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Should Employers Provide Pregnant Workers Reasonable Accommodations?

January 18, 2015

A North Carolina has filed a pregnancy discrimination case after her boss failed to hive her shifts following a request for lighter duties. According to the complaint, the 27-year-old certified nursing assistant was instructed by her doctor to stop lifting patients at the nursing home where she worked.

However, instead of getting the lights duties she requested, she was no longer given any work. The woman claims that as a result, she had difficulty paying her bills, including her mortgage and car payment.

This case is similar to Young v. United Parcel Service, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court and could potentially affect millions of working women across the United States. At issue – whether federal anti-discrimination laws provide enough protection during pregnancy, and whether employers must provide work place accommodations for pregnant workers.

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What Is A Protected Class Under Title VII?

January 10, 2015

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Justice Department, and many courts across the country have stated that it’s illegal to discriminate against employees for being transgender. In fact, just recently Attorney General Eric Holder announced that its DOJ policy that transgender people are protected under Title VII.

Many times, gender discrimination lawsuits are filed pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII bans employment discrimination based on race, religion or sex. Your race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, or disability are considered “protected categories,” which means that your company cannot take any form of adverse or negative action against you because you are a member of one of these protected categories.

An adverse action is a very broad term, encompassing just about anything your employer may do that affects your employment in a negative way. If you have questions about employment discrimination or believe that you may have suffered any form of discrimination, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Georgia employment attorney to determine your next steps.

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Employee Fired for Caring for Disabled Parent Successfully Brings ADA claim

December 31, 2014

A recent disability discrimination case evaluated whether an employer can lawfully fire an employee for being too distracted from his job duties while caring for his father. The court determined that it could not, and that the employee could successfully bring a case for “associational” disability discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from taking adverse actions “because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a relationship or association.” In order to bring a claim for “associational discrimination” the employee must show that he or she is qualified for the job at the time, was subjected to an adverse employment action, that the employer was aware that the employee had a relative or associate with a disability, and that an inference exists that the relative/associate’s disability was a determining factor in the employer’s decision. Further, an employer may not make decisions based on the ‘belie[f] that the [employee] would have to miss work’ in order to take care of a disabled person.

If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered any type of disability discrimination, consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer is important to determine your next steps.

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Are You An Employee Or Independent Contractor?

December 28, 2014

How workers are classified – whether they are considered to be employees or independent contractors, exempt or non-exempt – is often the starting point for many employment discrimination lawsuits. Understanding your proper classification is the first step in knowing your rights and remedies under the law.

In a recent disability discrimination lawsuit, a pathologist sued the hospital he worked for asserting that the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The pathologist had a contentious relationship with another doctor, his boss, who resigned from his position. Following his resignation, the pathologist’s contract with the hospital was terminated.

A crucial issue in the case was whether the pathologist should be classified as an employee. The answer to this question often centers on the issue of control. In this particular employment discrimination lawsuit, the court evaluated the entire relationship between the pathologist and the hospital – looking at control factors and their economic ties. “Control factors” focus on the degree of control an employer has over how a job is to be performed. The court noted that this question is somewhat unique in hospital settings as the result of the doctor/patient relationship.

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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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