The City of Florence (“Florence” or “the City”) recently entered into a proposed consent decree, pending court approval, to resolve a discrimination lawsuit the Justice Department filed regarding two City female police officers. The lawsuit, filed last month, alleges both officers were discriminated against based on pregnancy and disability grounds pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). According to the complaint, Florence female police officers Lyndi Trischler and Samantha Riley requested light duty in 2014 when both were unable to perform their duties as patrol officers due to their pregnancies. Officer Trischler also suffered from complications resulting from a diagnosed high-risk pregnancy and requested light duty as a reasonable accommodation.
Florence’s light duty policy at the time of Ms. Trischler’s and Ms. Riley’s requests was limited to employees with on-the-job injuries only. The City also required that employees with non-work related illnesses, injuries, or conditions provide information that establishes they have “no restrictions” prior to returning to work. Florence denied both officers’ requests and required them to take leave instead.
This was the first lawsuit filed by the Justice Department challenging an entity’s light duty policy following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in last year’s Young v. UPS case. In Young, UPS had a similar ‘employees injured on the job’ policy as Florence. Peggy Young was a UPS pickup and Continue reading →
Just last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On July 28, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the EEOC’s determination and ruled that Title VII does not protect employees from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, Kimberly Hively, a part-time adjunct professor, claimed that she was denied full-time employment and promotions because she was a lesbian. Hively began her teaching career at Ivy Tech in 2000. Between 2009 and 2014, she applied for six full-time positions. She alleged that the college never even interviewed her for any of those positions, despite having the necessary qualifications and a record of positive work performance evaluations.
In December 2013, Hively filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation and had been “blocked from full-time employment without just cause.” Ivy Tech did not renew her part-time employment contract in July 2014 and she filed suit. Ivy Tech successfully argued at Continue reading →
Following recent news reports about Target’s bathroom controversy and North Carolina’s bathroom law, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued a Fact Sheet outlining its views on bathroom access rights for transgender employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. You can view the Fact Sheet here.
According to the EEOC, Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Consequently, denying a transgender employee access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity constitutes sex discrimination. An employer cannot require an employee to provide proof of surgery or any other medical procedure in order to use a particular restroom. Nor can an employer avoid the requirement to provide equal access to a common restroom by restricting a transgender employee to a single-user restroom (although an employer can make a single-user restroom available to all employees who choose to use it). The hostility or discomfort of other employees cannot overcome the right of a transgender employee to use the restroom corresponding with his or her gender identity. Moreover, contrary state law is no defense. Sorry, North Carolina.
On May 14, 2015, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a ruling in Wagner’s Pharmacy, Inc. v. Melissa K. Pennington. Pennington had filed the lawsuit back in 2007, alleging that her employer, Wagner’s Pharmacy, discriminated against her by terminating her employment due to her morbid obesity. At the time of filing the lawsuit, Pennington weighed 425 pounds. She is just 5’4” tall.
Wagner’s cited Pennington’s poor personal appearance and declining sales as the reasons behind Pennington’s termination – not Pennington’s weight. Prior to her termination, Pennington had operated a food and drink concession truck owned by Wagner’s at Churchill Downs. She had been employed by Wagner’s for approximately ten years.
In support of her discrimination lawsuit, Pennington relied on the expert testimony of Dr. Gaar, a board-certified surgeon who had performed nearly 2,000 gastric bypass surgeries. Dr. Gaar testified in detail as to the causes of morbid obesity, stating that Continue reading →
The House unanimously passed the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HB 218), which would require employers subject to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to provide reasonable accommodations for “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” It would also amend the Civil Rights Act to make it unlawful for employers to “fail to accommodate an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition [and would] require employers to provide notice to all employees regarding discrimination for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” In addition, a “related medical condition” would be amended to include “lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child and has the same meaning as in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. sec. 2000e(k).” The bill is now headed to the Senate.
Accommodations for pregnant employees is a hot topic in employment news right now. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in Young v. UPS whether employers are required under the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act to provide accommodations for pregnancy–related symptoms. Young had requested light duty due to Continue reading →