On July 31, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law prohibiting Illinois employers from asking job applicants or their previous employers about salary history.

The law amends the Equal Pay Act of 2003, which made it illegal to discriminatorily pay employees on the basis of sex or race. The impetus behind the new salary history amendment is an effort to close the gender wage gap. According to a news release from the governor’s office, women in Illinois earn 79% of what men earn.
Continue Reading Salary History Off-Limits Under New Illinois Equal Pay Law

Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the notion that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or transgender status. More than a standard-issue opinion, however, the Fifth Circuit’s holding was a laser-focused rebuke of a widely-publicized district court opinion which held Title VII’s prohibition on sex-discrimination applies to transgender individuals.
Continue Reading Title VII Reversal: Fifth Circuit Holds No Transgender Protections Under Civil Rights Statute

Baltimore County has petitioned the Supreme Court to decide whether backpay for violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) is mandatory.

Background

In 1999, two Baltimore County Correctional Officers initiated charges at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) claiming that they were being discriminated against based on their ages because they had to contribute more to the County’s pension plan than younger employees. After years of litigation and various appeals in the U.S. District Court of Maryland and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in April 2016, Baltimore County and the EEOC entered into a Joint Consent Order to equalize pension member contribution rates.
Continue Reading Mandatory Backpay in ADEA Claims: What Will SCOTUS Decide?

As of May 20, 2019, NYC will prohibit employment discrimination based on an employee’s “sexual and reproductive health decisions,” which the new law defines as “any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided to individuals relating to sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.”
Continue Reading NYC Bans Discrimination Based on Sexual and Reproductive Health Decisions

On April 22, 2019, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in a trio of cases challenging the scope of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s (“Title VII”) prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex.  The definition of “sex” in Title VII, and particularly whether the term incorporates sexual orientation and/or gender identity, is currently the subject of uncertainty and a hotly debated judicial and administrative divide.  Specifically, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and United States Court of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits have each determined that the term “sex” encompasses sexual orientation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  While the court has notably declined to hear cases aimed at resolving the meaning of “sex” in Title VII in recent years, its grant of certiorari signals that the Court is now prepared to address the issue.
Continue Reading SCOTUS To Rule On Whether Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Discrimination

On April 9, 2019, New York’s City Council passed legislation, available here, which will prohibit employers from requiring prospective employees to submit to testing for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, as a condition of employment. If, as expected, Mayor Bill de Blasio signs the law into effect, the New York City Human Rights Law will be amended to make it a discriminatory practice to require pre-employment marijuana testing of employees in New York City.
Continue Reading New York City Council Passes Legislation Banning Marijuana Testing of Job Applicants

On March 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, an act designed to amend and strengthen the existing federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House by a vote of 242-187 on a largely party-line basis, is sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and would make sweeping changes to existing law.
Continue Reading Equal Pay Act Amendment Passes House of Representatives

On March 18, 2018, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) was amended to prohibit prospective waivers of substantive and procedural rights or remedies relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment and that provisions in employment contracts waiving such rights shall be deemed against public policy and unenforceable. The new amendment further provides that “no person shall take any retaliatory action, including but not limited to failure to hire, discharge, suspension, demotion, discrimination in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or other adverse action, against a person, on grounds that the person does not enter into an agreement or contract that contains a provision deemed against public policy.”
Continue Reading Did New Jersey Just Try to Ban Employment Arbitration Agreements?

On February 18, 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “NYCCHR”) released new legal enforcement guidance (the “Guidance”) regarding discrimination on the basis of natural hair and hairstyles. In the Guidance, the NYCCHR advised employers that “[t]he New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their race or identities.” While the NYCCHR made clear that “hair-based discrimination implicates many areas of the NYCHRL, including prohibitions against race, religion, disability, age, or gender-based discrimination,” the Guidance’s directives particularly focus on prohibiting hair and hairstyle discrimination against Black people, defined as “those who identify as African, African American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin-x/a/o or otherwise having African or Black ancestry.” Specifically, the Guidance states that the NYCHRL protects the rights of Black New Yorkers “to maintain natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”[1]
Continue Reading New Dos and Don’ts: New York City Bans Discrimination Based On Hairstyle

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