Will Employers Have to Accommodate Employees Who Test Positive for Marijuana?

On July 17, 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that under the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination law an employer may be required to accommodate an employee who is a current user of medical marijuana regardless of the employer’s drug free workplace and drug testing policies.  For a complete discussion on the ruling and tips on how to move forward, please click here.

Nurse’s Disability Discrimination Claims May Proceed to Trial, New Jersey Supreme Court Rules

A registered nurse employed by a New Jersey health care system for approximately 10 years may proceed to a jury trial with her disability and perceived disability claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the Supreme Court of New Jersey has ruled. Grande v. Saint Clare’s Health Sys., 2017 N.J. LEXIS 746 (July 12, 2017).  For more information including lessons to be learned from the decision, click here.

 

When Are Law Firm Partners Not Partners?

The issue of who is a “partner” and thus not an employee continues to vex professional firms.   Layers, doctors, dentists and other professionals often consider themselves non-employees, at least until they suffer an adverse workplace decision.  Then, they may choose to describe their situation as employees, not non-employee owners.  The distinction between employee and “partner” or owner status is a factual one.

 

A Court recently directed that limited discovery be conducted to explore where the line should be drawn for claims under Title VII and FLSA protection.  Campbell v. Chadbourne & Parke LLP, 16-cv-6832 (Oetken, J.).   Finding that titles are not determinative of “employee” status, the parties were directed to conduct limited discovery as to the long established “Clackamas” factors including:

  • whether the firm can “hire or fire the individual or set the rules and regulations of the individual’s work,”
  • whether the individual reports to someone “higher” in the firm,
  • whether the individual “is able to influence” the firm, and
  • whether “the individual shares in the profits, losses, and liabilities” of the firm.

Telecommuting May Not Be A Reasonable Accommodation

The Fifth Circuit recently upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against an employer who denied an employee’s request to telecommute on the grounds that regular attendance at work is an essential function of her job as a litigation attorney.  Credeur v State of Louisiana, 16-CV-30658 (5th Cir. 2017).  The employer did provide unpaid leave as an alternate and reasonable accommodation.

 

Given the proliferation of digital workspaces and telecommuting, well written job descriptions identifying whether attendance is an essential function are increasingly important.

Recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Case Demostrates Importance of Documentation of the Interactive Process

On May 4, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Brown v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors affirmed the summary judgment dismissal of a former employee’s disability discrimination claim under the ADA.   While the employer consistently sought to find reasonable accommodations, plaintiff failed to engage in the interactive process because neither she nor her doctor clarified the extent of her restrictions despite the board’s multiple written requests.  

 Employers who engage in the interactive process in good faith, and document their efforts are much better positioned to prevail in failure to accommodate claims.

 

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds the NLRB’s Revision to Its Back Pay Calculation Formula

On June 9, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit unanimously upheld the NLRB’s pro employee approach in King Soopers Inc. v. NLRB.   As previously reported, the NLRB revised its back pay calculation formula to allow employees full recovery for all reasonable interim employment and search-for-work expenses.

 

Federal District Court Rules Federal Protections Expanded for Transgendered Employees

According to one federal court judge, a transgendered former employee can proceed with an employment discrimination case under the American With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) alleging that she was mistreated and fired based on her gender-identity-related disability. Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc., No. 5:14-cv-04822 (E.D. Pa. May 18, 2017).

While courts have recognized federal protections for transgendered individuals under theories that the person did not conform to gender stereotypes or under a typical sex discrimination analysis, the Court in Blatt recognized a new theory – that is, a transgendered individual’s claims of discrimination based upon “gender dysphoria” under the ADA.  In arguing for coverage under the ADA, Blatt argued that her gender dysphoria limits her in several major life activities such as reproduction and interacting with others.

The rights and protections afforded to transgendered employees under federal, state, and local law rapidly are expanding. Employers should ensure that their policies and processes are compliant under all applicable laws to protect members of the LGBTQ community.

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