A recent disability discrimination case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is useful to Tennessee employees and employers in that it shines a light on some of the “variables” that can tip the scales of an employee’s Americans with Disabilities Act case in one direction or the other. In this case, since the employee had already been granted a long period of time off and was not certain of her recovery when she sought an extension of her leave, the appeals court relied on existing caselaw in ruling that the trial court correctly found the employer not in violation of the ADA when it denied the extension request and terminated the employee instead.
A recent ruling by the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision that an appellate panel had made earlier this year and also provided some clarity on which types of age discrimination claims job applicants in Georgia are and are not allowed to bring under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The new opinion states that only employees, not employment candidates, can bring ADEA lawsuits in which they allege that the employer’s policies had a disproportionately harmful impact on older workers.
A Wal-Mart employee lost her attempt to bring an age discrimination case against her former employer after the company terminated her at age 62. The employee’s unsuccessful case is a reminder to employers and employees of the wide breadth of the “honest belief” rule, which says that, if an employer reasonably relied upon facts it had before it when it made its decision, it cannot be deemed to be using non-discriminatory reasons as mere pretexts for discrimination. The application of this rule to this employee’s case proved to be one integral piece in the failure of her age discrimination case at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
A nurse anesthetist, who was the recipient of two very unwelcome text messages from a co-worker encouraging her to have “wild sex” with her husband, lost her sexual harassment case against the co-worker and her employer. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling against the nurse anesthetist because the acts of harassment she endured were either unrelated to her gender or too few to constitute the sort of severe and pervasive harassment required by Title VII.
A would-be call center employee lost an offer of employment because she refused to do away with her hairstyle of wearing dreadlocks. The employer, who rescinded the offer of employment based upon its policy against certain hairstyles, was not forced to face trial for this decision. Even if a particular hairstyle is closely associated with people of a particular race and tied to the unique texture of their hair, a hairstyle cannot constitute an “immutable characteristic” as required under Title VII law, and that, according to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, doomed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s case against this employer.
A decision from a federal court in Atlanta this summer became the latest in a group to reject a recently created regulation by the U.S. Department of Labor declaring tips to be the property of employees in all circumstances, regardless of whether the tips were needed to raise the employee’s pay to a level that satisfied the minimum wage. The court decided that the plain language of the Fair Labor Standards Act is clear that employers are only required to hand over tip money when they pay a base wage below the applicable minimum wage.
A recent case pitting a Tennessee bank teller against her former employer resulted in a judgment in favor of the bank and a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the lower court’s ruling. The bank teller’s lupus required her to miss long stretches of work, and these prolonged absences allowed the bank to terminate her employment without violating either the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act, since the job that the woman had at the bank required regular attendance.
A Detroit-area funeral home recently won a Title VII discrimination case brought by a former employee whom the funeral home fired after the employee announced her intention to transition from male to female. The federal District Court in the case decided that the employer could not be held liable for illegal discrimination because its actions were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The ruling, issued by a Michigan federal court, is not binding on Tennessee employers, but the case is highly instructive for employers and employees in this state, and it may become meaningful in the future if it reaches the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
An important new ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals highlights when employees can, and cannot, offer arguments in federal employment cases even after administrative bodies have already ruled against that same argument. In this recent case, the court allowed an employee to pursue a Family and Medical Leave Act retaliation case because, even though a state unemployment compensation appeals hearing officer had previously ruled that the employer fired the employee based upon dishonesty, rather than her use of FMLA leave, the hearing officer didn’t rely on competent evidence in making that conclusion. While this case originated in Alabama, the 11th Circuit’s ruling in the matter can affect employers and employees in Georgia.
Recent court cases have addressed a steadily wider array of workers — from exotic dancers to NFL cheerleaders to home health workers to, most recently, a hip-hop music producer’s bodyguard — and whether those workers’ employment situations qualify them for the minimum wage and overtime protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling in the bodyguard’s case upheld a lower court ruling in his favor, concluding that the guard’s employment situation clearly met the FLSA’s “economic dependence” standard for qualifying as an employee under the statute.