On June 24, 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 2022 WL 2276808 (June 24, 2022), the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992) and held that (i) the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion and (ii) the authority to regulate abortion is held by the states. The statute at issue in Dobbs was Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which banned abortion after 15 weeks except in a medical emergency or in the case of severe fetal abnormality. Employers across the nation must now determine how to evaluate and respond to the far-reaching implications of this decision.
On March 1, 2022, the EEOC updated its guidance on religious accommodations to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. While the guidance states that job applicants and employees have a right to request a religious accommodation from an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement under Title VII, the new guidance answers many questions specific to COVID-19 vaccination requirements and specifically addresses how employers should evaluate an employee’s religious objection to the vaccine.
In a decision of interest to New York State employers subject to federal safety regulations, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently answered that question in the negative. In Bey v. City of New York1, the Court concluded that where a federal safety regulation expressly prohibits a requested medical accommodation, that regulation trumps the requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and Title VII and shields the employer from liability under those statutes.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court held in a monumental decision that an employer who discriminates against an employee or applicant based on that individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
On June 3, 2019, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the case of Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis that the requirement under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII") to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") is a non-jurisdictional claim-processing rule. In other words, the Court held that a plaintiff's failure to file an EEOC charge does not automatically preclude a federal court from exercising jurisdiction over the complaint; instead, an employer must "promptly" raise the defense that the plaintiff failed to satisfy the procedural requirement of filing an EEOC charge. An employer's failure to raise such a defense promptly could result in forfeiture of the defense, and a federal court may exercise jurisdiction over the complaint despite the plaintiff's failure to file an EEOC charge.
For those of you old enough to remember (and young enough to search YouTube), when Saturday Night Live was in its early heyday, one of its most popular skits was “Point/Counterpoint” starring Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. During this satire on news commentary, Mr. Aykroyd would start his “counterpoint” with “Jane, you ignorant slut,” a phrase that drew laughs in the 70s, but may not be so well received -- even in jest -- today. And, as we will see from a recent court decision discussed below, when sophomoric name-calling leads to the actual spread of rumors in the workplace, liability for sexual harassment can attach.
Just this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (which is the federal appeals court that covers cases that originate in the U.S. District Courts in New York) issued a decision holding that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On its face, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on five protected categories: race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. This Second Circuit ruling now places sexual orientation on the same level of protection as those categories historically covered under Title VII.