Despite the existence of a written policy proscribing the proper procedures for reporting sexual harassment, employers may be liable under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act if an employee makes a report to another employee who is not designated in the policy, but who the employee reasonably expects to report the harassing behavior to the proper authority. For instance, the 7th Circuit recently reversed summary judgment for an employer, Peri Formworks Systems, Inc., because the court found that a reasonable jury could conclude that a former employee, McKinley Lambert, gave sufficient notice of sexual harassment to trigger employer liability when he made complaints to two yard leads, even though the yard leads did not have the authority to hire, fire, or discipline employees. Lambert v. Peri Formworks Systems, Inc., 7th Cir. No. 10-C-6789, U.S. App. LEXIS 1499 (July 24, 2013). Continue reading
In a 5-4 decision that represents a major victory for employers, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employee must have the power to take tangible employment actions against another worker in order to be considered a supervisor for vicarious liability purposes under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”).
The case, Vance v. Ball State University, concerned Maetta Vance, an African-American woman employed as a catering assistant by Ball State University. Vance alleged that another Ball State employee, Saundra Davis, had been harassing her. Specifically, it was alleged that Davis, a white woman, had been racially harassing and discriminating against Vance by intimidating her and “[giving] her a hard time at work.” Davis filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and Ball State attempted to address the problem. Nevertheless, the intimidation and harassment continued, and Vance filed suit under Title VII in an attempt to hold the University liable for the harassment. Continue reading
Michigan Court awards over $5 million in damages to employer who was the victim of fraud by its third party administrator.
A federal district court in Michigan has just ruled that the sponsor of a self-funded health insurance plan may recover over $5 million against Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan for hidden fees. In Hi-Lex v. BCBSM, Judge Victoria A. Roberts held that the third party administrator violated ERISA by devising a scheme to obtain additional compensation without the sponsor of the self-funded health insurance plan knowing about it. BCBSM was found to have engaged in self-dealing, which is prohibited by ERISA. BCBSM “violated its fiduciary duty… to disclose information to the plaintiffs about its compensation …” As a result, BCBSM was ordered to repay all of these fees, over $5 million, prejudgment interest and attorney fees. Continue reading
The Obama administration announced July 2nd that it will postpone the mandatory compliance date for employers to provide health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”).
The ACA, a sweeping piece of health care reform legislation, provides a host of requirements related to health insurance. Significant to employers, the legislation’s “shared responsibility” mandate requires that those employing 50 or more “provide affordable health insurance that provides minimum value” to “full time employees” (defined as employees working 30 hours or more per week). The employer mandate was originally scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014. Continue reading
On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated ruling in the case of United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013). In its 5-4 decision, the Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional as a deprivation of equal liberty for same-sex married couples under the Fifth Amendment.
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Claims of age discrimination under Ohio law are governed by the so-called Coryell test, under which a plaintiff must prove that 1) he or she was old enough to be a member of the statutorily protected class, 2) he or she was discharged, 3) he or she was qualified for the position, and 4) he or she was replaced by, or his or her discharge permitted the retention of, a substantially younger person. Coryell v. Bank One Trust Co., N.A., 101 Ohio St.3d 175 (Ohio 2004). The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Stark County recently affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment to an employer who argued that a fired employee was not actually “replaced” simply because some of his duties had been assumed by a younger employee. Continue reading
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recently ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal and New York minimum-wage laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie Black Swan. Continue reading
In a recent unanimous decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit became the second appellate court to reject the National Labor Relation Board’s (“NLRB”) notice posting requirement, under which employers had to display a poster informing employees of their rights to organize a union; form, join, or assist a union; bargain collectively through representatives; discuss wages, benefits, and union organizing; take action with others regarding working conditions; strike or picket; or choose not to engage in any of these activities. The court held that the notice fell outside the scope of the NLRB’s authority in that it affirmatively required employers to educate employees about federal employment law. Continue reading
Despite the increasingly widespread use of texting as a form of communication in the workplace, its use calls for caution in certain situations. For instance, the Fifth Circuit recently held that a text message an employee sent to her supervisor requesting an evening off of work because her father was in the emergency room was not sufficient to put the employer on notice that the employee intended to take FMLA leave. Lanier v. Univ. of Texas Southwestern Med. Ctr., 5th Cir. No. 12-10928, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 11836 (June 12, 2013). Continue reading
The Supreme Court of Ohio recently held that, a psychiatric condition must be causally related to the claimant’s compensable physical injury that was received, or arose out of the course of employment to be covered by workers’ compensation law. The case was called Armstrong v. John R. Jurgenson Co.