Blog Archives

Supreme Court Issues Important Decision in Discrimination Case

In Staub v. Proctor Hospital, the US Supreme Court just issued an important unanimous decision in this military-service-based discrimination case.  This case concerns the so-called “cat’s paw” theory of liability, under which one supervisor acts with discriminatory intent against the plaintiff, but the plaintiff is actually fired by another supervisor.  The case arose under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which protects members of the military from workplace discrimination based on their military position or service.  The Court held that “if a supervisor performs an act motivated by antimilitary animus that is

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Summary Judgment Denied in Sexual Harassment Case

In the case of Pascoe v. Furniture Brands International, Judge Frank Whitney in the Western District of North Carolina denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment today.  The case will now proceed to trial, which is scheduled for later this month.  Ann Groninger and co-counsel Joshua Van Kampen represent the plaintiffs, Pam Pascoe and Margaret Tambling, against their former employers in this case. Judge Whitney did not issue a written decision, but plaintiff’s memorandum in opposition to summary judgment well describes this case: This case raises a very poignant

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Supreme Court Endorses Associational Retaliation Claim

Late last month, in Thompson v. North American Stainless, the Supreme Court  unanimously concluded that firing a worker’s fiancé in retaliation for a sex discrimination claim filed by the worker is itself unlawful retaliation under Title VII.  The anti-retaliation provision of Title VII prohibits any employer action that “well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”  The Court had little trouble concluding that “a reasonable worker might be dissuaded from engaging in protected activity if she knew that her fiancé would be fired.”  The Court also concluded that

Posted in Labor and Employment Tagged with: , , , , ,

EEOC Sees Increase in Discrimination Claims

In the past year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has seen 7.2 % in discrimination claims being filed with agency.  Coverage here.  The EEOC handles charges under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the Equal Pay Act, and GINA.  EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien stated, “Discrimination continues to be a substantial problem for too many job seekers and workers, and we must continue to build our capacity to enforce the laws that ensure that workplaces are free of unlawful bias.”  Detailed statistics on the charges filed with the EEOC are available on its website. 

Posted in Labor and Employment Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Recent Fourth Circuit Employment Decisions

The Fourth Circuit has published a couple of opinions on employment law cases in recent weeks.  The first case, Bonds v. Leavitt, concerned a federal employee’s suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, which alleged Title VII claims, retaliation claims under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), and unlawful termination in violation of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA).  The plaintiff is a research doctor who claims she was retaliated against for opposing discrimination against African-American donors of blood lines. The Court held that, because plaintiff’s CSRA claim was based on her

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Two Employment Decisions from the Supreme Court

On May 24, the Supreme Court issued two employment-related opinions.  The first, Lewis v. Chicago, concerned the filing deadline for disparate impact discrimination cases under Title VII.  The black firefighter plaintiffs in the case sought to challenge a written test used for determining promotions.  The question is whether their statute of limitations began running when the test was scored, or when the test results were actually used to determine promotion decisions.  Reversing the Seventh Circuit, the Court unanimously held (Scalia writing) that it was the latter because it was the use of the test results

Posted in Labor and Employment Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Fourth Circuit Rules for Plaintiff in Significant Gender Discrimination Opinion

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a ringing opinion for employees in Merritt v. Old Dominion Freight Lines, a gender discrimination case until Title VII.  The Court’s discussion of gender discrimination, sex stereotyping, and a corporate culture of discrimination is excellent and will make very useful precedent.  A long-ish discussion is therefore in order.  As the Court stated though, the quick summary is that plaintiff “Deborah Merritt’s story is one of a certain grit and perseverance.” Old Dominion is a nationwide trucking firm that employs thousands as “line haul” drivers and “pickup and

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Fourth Circuit Rules for Plaintiff in Sexual Harassment Case

In Whitten v. Fred’s, Inc., the Fourth Circuit issued an important ruling in a sexual harassment case.  The Court concluded that the company-defendant could held liable for sexual harassment by its manager, even if the manager did not have the authority to fire the harassed worker.   Although the Court was addressing state law claims, South Carolina anti-discrimination law mirrors federal law, and the Court based its decision on federal case law.  So, it seems that its decision would apply to federal Title VII claims as well. The plaintiff Clara Whitten was an assistant manager

Posted in Labor and Employment Tagged with: , , , ,

Fourth Circuit Affirms Sexual Harassment Verdict

In King v. McMillan, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict and the court’s rulings in a sexual harassment case.  The plaintiff, a former deputy in a sheriff’s office, had been sexually harassed by the sheriff over several years.   A jury awarded her compensatory and punitive damages on her claims of battery and sexual harassment under Title VII.  The Court upheld the awards, the substitution of the correct defendant, and the admission of testimony of other female employees who had been sexually harassed by the same sheriff.

Posted in Labor and Employment Tagged with: , , , , , ,

4th Circuit Rules for Class Certification in Racial Discrimination Case

In Brown v. Nucor Corporation, the 4th Circuit reversed the district court on the question of class certification.  Under Title VII, the plaintiffs had brought racial discrimination claims of disparate treatment and disparate impact with regard to promotion practices, as well as hostile work environment claims.  The majority concluded that the plaintiffs could proceed with all of these claims as a class action becuase the requirements of Rule 23 had been met.

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