On January 1, 2021, various new and amended employment laws will go into effect in California. Below is a summary of some of these laws that employers should make themselves aware of heading into the new year.  All laws discussed in this post go into effect on January 1, 2021, unless otherwise noted.
Continue Reading New Employment Laws to Look Out for in 2021

Amid the United States’ growing opioid crisis, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued new guidance on employers’ obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) regarding job applicants or employees who legally use opioid medications or who have a history of addiction to opioids.  The guidance is not new policy; rather, the guidance applies principles already established under both the ADA and previously-issued EEOC guidance.
Continue Reading EEOC Issues Guidance on Employee Opioid Use and the Americans With Disabilities Act

On June 18, 2020, the First Department issued Hosking v. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Ctr., 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 03484 (1st Dept. June 18, 2020), a decision analyzing the more stringent requirements under the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) for employers to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities, compared to the requirements under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In Hosking, the First Department determined that plaintiff’s disability discrimination claims under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL properly survived summary judgment as issues of fact were raised about whether the defendant sufficiently engaged in a cooperative dialogue to accommodate plaintiff’s disability prior to terminating her employment.
Continue Reading New York’s First Department Appellate Division Highlights the Stringent Requirements for Reasonably Accommodating Individuals with Disabilities Under New York City Human Rights Law

As the number of confirmed positive cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19” or “coronavirus”) in the U.S. continues to rise, employers must prepare for issues that will inevitably arise as the virus spreads.  While the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) currently advises that “most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure,” it is prudent for employers to evaluate their organizations’ current policies and practices in the event a major outbreak occurs.  Some issues to consider include the following:
Continue Reading What Employers Need To Know To Prepare For Coronavirus

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? Not necessarily. The Ninth Circuit and California Court of Appeals recently decided two cases that substantially limit the scope and application of freedom of religion rights rooted in the U.S. Constitution. Together, these cases narrow the definition of the term “minister,” and expand the spectrum of employment law claims which may be brought against a religious employer. This new interpretation of freedom of religion rights may be difficult to reconcile with existing law from the U.S. Supreme Court which bars a minister from bringing employment discrimination claims against a religious employer.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit and California Court of Appeals Rule on Freedom of Religion Rights

In December 2017, the California Court of Appeal published a decision confirming obesity is a protected disability in California if it has a physiological cause.

In Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, 18 Cal. App. 5th 908 (2017), Plaintiff was a woman diagnosed as severely obese, weighing over 350 pounds, at five feet five inches tall. Plaintiff began working for Defendant the Berkeley Tennis Club in 1997. Over the course of her employment, Plaintiff worked as a lifeguard, pool manager, and night manager. During her employment, Plaintiff received positive reviews, merit bonuses, and raises.
Continue Reading Obese Employees May Be Protected Under FEHA

With ever-increasing employer health care costs, it’s not surprising that Workplace Wellness Programs are becoming more common and comprehensive. According to Fidelity Investment’s fifth annual wellness survey, 95% of companies plan to offer some kind of health improvement program for their employees, and plan to spend an average of $594 per employee on wellness-based incentives. In a bid to reduce health care costs, and protect employees and customers from illness, many employers have implemented coercive, or even mandatory Workplace Wellness Programs. When these programs make employee participation a term and condition of employment, employers must administer them with care or risk violating federal, state and/or local employment laws.
Continue Reading Promoting Wellness, Not Litigation

Last month, New York’s highest court took the unprecedented step of construing the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) more narrowly than its state and federal counterparts to bar plaintiffs’ city law disability discrimination claims. Answering a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the New York Court of Appeals in Makinen v. City of New York, Nos. 16-973-cv(L), 16-1080-cv(XAP), 2017 WL 4621717 (N.Y. Oct. 17, 2017) held that two former New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officers could not sustain disability discrimination claims on the basis of “perceived untreated alcoholism,” even though such claims would be recognized under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Continue Reading New York’s Highest Court Narrowly Construes New York City Human Rights Law To Bar Disability Discrimination Claims Based on Perceived Alcoholism

The Seventh Circuit recently held in Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc. that a long-term leave of absence, particularly one extending beyond the twelve weeks of leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), does not warrant protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Raymond Severson was terminated from his job as a fabricator at Heartland after he exhausted his 12-week medical leave under the FMLA and requested to remain off work for several additional months to recover from back surgery. Severson sued Heartland under the ADA, arguing Heartland failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation—namely, a three-month leave of absence following the expiration of his FMLA leave.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Holds Long-Term Leave is Not a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

In Luis Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, the California Court of Appeal held that California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) – which requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities – now requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees who are associated with a disabled person.  This is an unprecedented decision and will likely to be appealed.  Until that time, employers should train supervisors to seek assistance from human resources when making accommodations decisions, and to treat any such decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Continue Reading Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express: The Reasonable Accommodation of an Employee’s Family

Effective March 24, 2014, a new rule from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will require federal contractors and subcontractors to take additional steps to recruit, hire, and retain individuals with disabilities, including surveying employees regarding their disability status and making efforts to employ a minimum of seven percent disabled workers.
Continue Reading Federal Contractors Face New Requirements Regarding Recruitment, Hiring, and Identification of Individuals with Disabilities