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.
A federal appeals court in Chicago issued an opinion stating that a lesbian professor from Indiana did not have a potential Title VII discrimination case when the sole basis for the alleged discrimination was her sexual orientation. While that decision has no direct impact on Georgia or Tennessee employers and employees, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has two similar matters before it, with the outcomes of those cases potentially having a massive impact in Georgia.
In any employment case in which an alleged statutory violation has taken place, it is always important to know exactly what the law requires an employee to show in order to make her case. Tennessee employers and employees should take note of a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the employer. In this case, the employee lost because she did not have the required proof of damages to support her Family and Medical Leave Act case.
A recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case may have resulted in an unfavorable outcome for one professor, but it could also provide benefits for some Tennessee employees pursuing Title VII cases in the future. The court, while rejecting this employee’s claim for back pay because it was too speculative, stated that employees could recover back pay from lost employment opportunities from third-party employers as long as the employee proved that she was entitled to the pay and offered sufficient evidence to establish the amount of lost back pay within a “reasonable certainty.”
A recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case addressed the unusual question of whether an employer can go from exempt to non-exempt based upon the employer’s decision to withhold pay as part of an employment dispute. In the 11th Circuit ruling, it decided that, in this case, the employee remained exempt and could not pursue his employer for minimum wage law violations. The employee’s case was a matter for the state courts under a breach of contract cause of action, rather than a matter for a federal court under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Federal law establishes a clear right for non-exempt employees to receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. However, an employer can only violate this law if the employer either knows, or has a reason to believe, that an employee is working overtime. A recent ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is an informative one for both Tennessee employers and employees, since it imparts useful information about what is needed to prove that the employer would, with reasonable diligence, have a reason to believe that an employee was working overtime.
A late June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to take a case pursued by several trade association groups means that a revised regulation expanding minimum wage and overtime protections to almost two million additional home care workers will stand. The high court’s refusal to hear the case leaves intact a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last year that determined that the U.S. Department of Labor validly exercised its authority to create wage-and-hour regulations when it decided to redefine who is, and who is not, an exempt “companion services” worker.
Employers have a reasonably wide latitude in the non-discriminatory reasons that they state as bases for terminating employees. That latitude does not, however, extend to punishing an employee for “disruptive conduct” if the conduct in question was testifying on behalf of a co-worker in her Title VII discrimination case. A recent ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a terminated employee to pursue his retaliation claim. Testifying in a Title VII case is a protected activity under the law, and punishing him under the guise of “disruptive conduct” for giving unflattering testimony about his employer in his deposition raises a potential issue of retaliation.