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Verrill Dana, LLP

Verrill Dana, LLP is one of New England's preeminent regional law firms. With offices in Portland and Augusta, ME; Boston, MA; Westport, CT; Providence, RI; and Washington D.C. Verrill Dana provides sophisticated legal representation to businesses and individuals in the traditional areas of litigation, real estate, business law, labor and employment law, employee benefits, environmental law, intellectual property and estate planning.  The Firm also has industry-focused specialties including higher education, health care and health technology, energy, and timberlands. 

Disclaimer:  The content presented in this blog is for general information only, is not intended to constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by any person as legal advice. While we welcome you to contact our blog authors at hrlawupdate@verrilldana.com, the submission of a comment or question does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and you. 

Tuesday
Nov082016

Western District of Pennsylvania Rules Sexual Orientation Discrimination Protected by Title VII

On Friday, November 4, 2016, the Western District of Pennsylvania issued an order denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss in EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Center (No. 2:16-cv-00225) finding that a claim of sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The order, penned by U.S. District Judge Cathy Bisson, refuses to adopt the Third Circuit’s prior rulings that sexual orientation is not a protected class under Title VII, noting that there have been “significant intervening legal developments that call into question how the [Third Circuit] evaluated Title VII in Bibby” and also noted that in Bibby, the Court was not faced with the same arguments that the EEOC had presented in the current matter. 

Specifically, the Western District held: “Title VII’s ‘because of sex’ provision prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” and the court saw “no meaningful difference between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination ‘because of sex.’”

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Tuesday
Nov012016

A Bourbon Conundrum

The recent week-long strike at two Jim Beam facilities in Kentucky highlights a very interesting tension in the current workplace.   Workers at the Boston and Clermont, Kentucky facilities overwhelmingly rejected the second contract proposal in two weeks, stepping out on strike on October 15, 2016.  The second contract proposal included “substantial wage increases” for already very well-paid employees, which left management at a quandary as to why the workers voted to strike. The workers, for their part, wanted a guarantee that the company would hire more full-time workers and stop relying as heavily on temporary workers, among other complaints with the contract proposal.  The crux of their complaint was that they felt that they had to work too much and it was interfering with work-life balance. 

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Monday
Oct312016

EEOC’s 2017-2021 Initiatives Announced

The EEOC has posted its Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2017-2021.  Included in the substantive priorities:

  1. Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring.
  2. Protecting Vulnerable Workers, Including Immigrant and Migrant Workers, and Underserved Communities from Discrimination.
  3. Addressing Selected Emerging and Developing Issues.
  4. Ensuring Equal Pay Protections for All Workers.
  5. Preserving Access to the Legal System.
  6. Preventing Systemic Harassment.

More on all six of these initiatives can be found here. Within the “Preserving Access to the Legal System,” initiative, the EEOC notes it will focus on: “1) overly broad waivers, releases, and mandatory arbitration provisions (e.g., waivers or releases that limit substantive rights, deter or prohibit filing charges with EEOC, or deter or prohibit providing information to assist in the investigation or prosecution of discrimination claims);

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Friday
Oct282016

NLRB Confronts Confrontational Clothing Ban

Earlier this year, the National Labor Relations Board, in Medco Health Solutions of Las Vegas, Inc., 364 N.R.R.B. No. 115 (Aug. 27, 2016), found that a dress code policy that banned “confrontational” clothing banned federal labor law.  The case, stemmed from an incident in which the Company ordered an employee to remove a t-shirt that said “I don’t need a WOW to do my job.”  The WOW Program was created by the employer in 2009 and was an employee recognition program in which employees received “WOW awards” and could be featured on a “Wall of WOW” display.

The policy language at issue prohibited clothing that was “degrading, confrontational, slanderous, insulting or provocative.”  The Board found that the company failed to show that the t-shirt would adversely affect the business. 

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Thursday
Oct202016

Upcoming Events with Verrill Dana’s Labor & Employment Group

With fall in full-swing, our attorneys are busy working to provide more valuable resources for employers, HR professionals, in-house counsel and others interested in labor and employment issues through webinars and seminars. Please find more information regarding upcoming events below.

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Wednesday
Oct122016

Breaking News on DOL “Threats” to Federalize Workers’ Compensation

On Wednesday, October 5, 2016, a much-anticipated report generated by the NASI (National Academy of Social Insurance) was released. The report had been shrouded in secrecy, with even supposed “insiders” complaining of having been shut out of the process. Then, over the weekend, the Department of Labor held a “State of Workers’ Compensation Forum” to discuss the report findings with a wider audience. Early analysis of the NASI report indicates that the report bashes state workers’ compensation programs for shifting costs away from employers and onto injured workers, their families and other social insurance programs. This analysis was widely anticipated within both the regulatory stakeholder community and others who work with the laws day-to-day since Social Security Disability Insurance is rumored to be looking for other funding sources as funding for all of Social Security is going to run out very soon. A National Public Radio/Pro Publica joint investigative series published a year ago that was highly critical of the insurance and employer sector of the workers’ compensation industry, mostly based on anecdotal evidence of a shocking nature, gave someone in the government the idea of looking to state workers’ compensation programs as a possible new funding source. The Texas Opt Out program and Oklahoma’s recent attempt to institute an Opt-Out program also gave NASI fuel to claim that state-level workers’ compensation is broken.

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