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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. 

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Entries in Accommodation (16)


(+/-): Court Confirms Pregnancy Standard, EEOC Delivers Updated Guidance

As we noted a few months ago, the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS clarified employers’ duties towards their pregnant employees. Specifically, the Court held that a facially neutral policy of providing light duty work only for certain employees could potentially violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, if the employer does not provide this accommodation to similarly situated pregnant workers.

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Is Honesty the Best Policy? EEOC Alleges Honesty Policy Violates ADA

Our parents consistently told us honesty was the best policy. Being honest with the people you interact with, whether, socially, romantically, or professionally, often creates the healthiest relationships in the long run; the EEOC may, however, disagree with me.

The EEOC recently sued Aurora Health Care Inc. in the Eastern District of Wisconsin arguing in part that an “honesty policy” which barred employees and applicants from providing false or misleading information, served as an illegal qualification standard under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In its recent decision denying the employer’s motion for summary judgment in the action, the court held the defendant had failed to show that the honesty policy was both job-related and consistent with business necessity as it was applied to workers with disabilities. The court noted that the question of whether honesty was an “essential function” of the hospice care coordinator position the plaintiff applied for was the key to resolving the claim.

While it’s difficult for me to think of any position where honesty would not be an essential function of the position, it may just be that I have high standards. At this time, we recommend that employers maintain any “honesty policies” that are currently in place, but we will keep readers updated as this case progresses.


High Court Demands Higher Obligation When Dealing With Highest Power: EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.

Today the Supreme Court issued a decision in the highly anticipated case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch. Background on the case is available here, as is access to the “look policy” which we originally discussed here. The question before the Court involved whether the employer or the employee had an affirmative duty to determine whether a religious accommodation may be necessary to accommodate an applicant’s religious practices or observations. In the Abercrombie case, the interviewee wore a headscarf to her interview which violated Abercrombie’s “look policy” which did not allow “hats” at work.

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You Accommodate Your Employees, But Do They Accommodate Your Customers?

Late last month we posted on Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” bill. Since then, the bill has been amended and states (including Maine) with similar pending legislation have reconsidered the propriety of such legislation. Additionally, recently the New York Times published an article focusing on delays and disruptions that were/are occurring on flights when passengers are refusing seat assignments or requesting seat changes for religious reasons.

With the notoriety that these religious accommodation issues are creating one can assume that the number of public accommodation claims that are filed will increase—and not just in states with “religious freedom” laws. When speaking with in-house counsel and HR Directors we most often discuss accommodations from an ADA standpoint—focusing on an employer’s responsibilities to participate in an interactive dialogue concerning a disabled employee’s need for an accommodation. Limiting the term “accommodation” to only the interactive process with employees, however, is insufficient. Employers should be training all employees on the duties that accompany client and customer’s rights to accommodations—i.e. public accommodations. 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(a) provides: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

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Sixth Circuit’s Panel Decision Isn’t Built Ford Tough

Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit issued an en banc decision in the EEOC v. Ford Motor Co. matter concerning the ADA and telecommuting; finding that telecommuting up to four days a week was not a reasonable accommodation.  We have been following the opinion both initially and when the Sixth Circuit granted rehearing.  The en banc rehearing resulted in the Sixth Circuit reversing the earlier decision issued by a divided Sixth Circuit panel and affirmed summary judgment for Ford finding that regular and predictable on-site job attendance was an essential function of the employee’s job as a resale buyer.

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Balancing Religious Rights and Fashion: The High Court Debates Abercrombie’s Look Policy

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., No. 14-86, a case previously discussed here, which seeks guidance from the Court as to whether job applicants must provide direct, explicit notice of their religious practices before an employer’s accommodation duty is triggered under Title VII. The case stems from Abercrombie’s failure to hire Samantha Elauf, a Muslim applicant, who wore a religious headscart to her job interview. The headscarf was prohibited under Abercrombie’s “look” policy which does not allow employees to wear hats or caps. 

The question before the Court was: What level of knowledge does the employer have to have before the duty to accommodate is triggered?

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