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Employment Law Blog

This Week, Supreme Court To Address LGBT Discrimination at Work

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination "because of sex." Does that include closely related concepts such as gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation?

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. If the high court finds that these characteristics are protected by Title VII, it would mean that discrimination against LGBT individuals would be federally illegal.

EEOC, OFCCP Vow To Continue Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Laws

In a hearing of the House Education and Labor subcommittee, lawmakers uniformly agreed that the nation's workplace anti-discrimination laws should be fully enforced. That said, some raised concerns about changes at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Among those changes have been a reduction in the number of investigations and enforcement actions and an end to the collection of categorized pay data through the annual EEO-1 survey.

Labor Department Issues New Rule On Calculating Overtime Rates

In general, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires all covered, non-exempt workers to be paid 1-1/2 times their regular rate of pay as an overtime premium whenever they work more than 40 hours in a given workweek. This leads to the question, what is the employee's regular rate of pay?

Over time, the Department of Labor and the courts have interpreted the regular rate of pay to include not only the employee's hourly rate but also non-discretionary bonuses and some other benefits. For example, if the employee earns bonuses for on-time delivery, those bonuses should be included in the employee's regular rate of pay.

Study: More Women Enter STEM Fields, Retention Still A Problem

The so-called STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math -- have long been dominated by men, but substantial efforts have been made over the past decades to recruit more women. A new study says those efforts have been successful, but more needs to be done to retain those women.

Researchers from the University of Michigan's Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine examined four years' worth of gender equity report cards from people and institutions that applied for grants from the New York Stem Cell Foundation. The 741 report cards represented 541 applicants from 38 countries in North America and Europe. However, 72% of the applicants were from North America.

How Are Employers Required To Accommodate Breastfeeding Moms?

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), covered employers with at least 50 employees are required to provide non-exempt, breastfeeding mothers with:

  • Reasonable break time to express milk, as frequently as the employee has need to express the milk, for a full year after the birth of a child
  • A shielded place, other than a bathroom and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public, that the employee may use to express breast milk

Report: Federal Workers Facing Retaliation Over Military Service

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) was passed to protect employees who must be absent from their civilian jobs to serve, on active duty or in the reserves, in the United States uniformed services:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Marine Corps
  • Coast Guard
  • Public Health Service commissioned corps

Age Discrimination Is Common, Retaliation Fears Hinder Reporting

According to a recent survey by the insurer Hiscox USA, 21% of American workers over 40 say they have suffered from age discrimination in the workplace. The age at which they are most likely to experience discrimination is 51, and men may suffer it slightly more than women.

This is a problem for both employers and employees. As a spokesperson for Hiscox points out, Americans are working longer and retiring later. "Discrimination of any kind brings serious reputational and financial risks to any business and can negatively impact a worker's career trajectory," he added.

DOL Opinion Letter: Parents May Claim FMLA Leave For IEP Meetings

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, of American households with children, around 20% have a child with special needs. Now, the Department of Labor has ruled that attending meetings about a child's individual education plan (IEP) is an acceptable use of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

The ruling comes in the form of an opinion letter. This is where an individual or employer has asked the Labor Department for a ruling in a particular fact situation. Technically, opinion letters only apply to that individual situation, but people and employers can generally rely on it in similar fact situations.

What Do Managers Need To Know About Reasonable Accommodations?

Federal law requires most employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities and religious needs. A reasonable accommodation is generally a change in the way the work is performed. It could include schedule changes, technology changes or even allowing the person to work remotely. The accommodation is considered reasonable if it would not create "undue hardship," meaning significant cost or disruption, for the employer.

Many employers designate a single person or small group to handle religious or disability accommodations. Doing so can help ensure that the process is handled by knowledgeable people and is fair to all employees. Making sure the designated people understand their legal responsibilities can prevent discrimination based on disability or religion.

False Claims Act Whistleblowers Can Reap Substantial Rewards

Have you become aware of fraud in a federal government contract or program? If you are considering blowing the whistle, you might qualify for a reward. In successful cases, whistleblowers who file under the False Claims Act are eligible for between 15% and 30% of any money recovered on behalf of the government.

That can be a substantial amount. If the fraud is proven, the defendant can be held liable for three times the actual damages the government sustained. Additionally, the defendant is generally required to pay an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for each fraudulent claim it made against the government.

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