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Supreme Court: Title VII Protects LGBT Employees, Too

You Can’t Be Fired for Being Transgender or Gay On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision: that LGBT employees are entitled to protection from discrimination at work under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The wording of the law states that workplace discrimination is prohibited “based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.” According to the court, the word “sex”—which was originally assumed to apply more narrowly to discrimination against cisgender women—can also be extended to protect LGBT individuals. This is a historic judgment. It might be difficult to believe, but prior to this, there was no law against discrimination at work based on transgender status or sexual orientation. Who were the plaintiffs? The ruling came in response to three separate cases from different areas of the country. The plaintiffs included: Gerald Bostock, a child welfare advocate in Georgia who was fired soon after his employer found out about his membership in a gay softball league. Aimee Stephens, a funeral director in Michigan who was fired after informing her employer that she was transgender and intended to start presenting as female at work. Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor in New York who was [...]

By |2020-07-31T14:52:46+00:00July 31st, 2020|Workplace Discrimination|0 Comments

When Are You Entitled to Advance Notice of Layoffs?

Under the WARN Act, You Get 60 Days’ Notice—but There Are Exceptions The WARN Act, or Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days notice of large-scale layoffs and plant closings. The purpose of this advance notice is to give employees time to plan for the layoff, find another job, or enter into a training program if they want to. However, there are significant exceptions to this law—both to the employees within the company who qualify to be warned, and to the types of companies that have to provide a warning. Exempted employees Some employees don’t qualify to get a warning, even if the company itself is required to warn its employees of upcoming layoffs. These include: Employees who worked less than 6 months within the last 12-month period. Those working less than 20 hours a week on average. Those participating in a strike or locked out in a labor dispute. Temporary workers (who knew they were temporary when hired). Contract employees and consultants working through and paid by a second employer, like a staffing company. Exemptions for employers In general, employers with 100 or more workers have to comply with [...]

By |2020-07-09T22:18:54+00:00July 9th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

Is Your Employer Being Fair About Rehiring?

What the Law Says About Recalling Workers from Furlough In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, approximately 20% of workers in the United States were laid off or furloughed—but most of these workers said their employer planned to hire them back. Now that states are reopening, many employers are calling their workers back from furlough. But what rules govern who gets called back, and when? How do you know if your employer is discriminating when deciding who gets called back first? There are no state or federal laws that govern how companies recall employees from furlough. However, employers do have to follow some rules, or they may be vulnerable to a lawsuit. Some of the rules include: Your employer can’t discriminate. Existing anti-discrimination laws have to be followed when choosing who to call back from furlough. For example, your employer can’t decide to bring back only the younger workers or keep disabled workers on furlough longer than the rest of the workforce. Collective bargaining agreements must be followed. Most if not all collective bargaining agreements contain provisions that address layoff-and-recall situations. Often, employees are called back based on seniority. Established practices should be followed. Even if your employer doesn’t have [...]

By |2020-07-03T01:53:47+00:00July 3rd, 2020|Workplace Discrimination|0 Comments

Can Your Employer Withhold Bonuses and Commissions?

Your Rights Under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law The basic agreement between employer and employee is that the employee gives their time to the employer, and the employer pays wages to the employee. Wages can include many things, including salaries or an hourly rate, fringe benefits, bonuses, and commissions. When an employer doesn’t pay any one of these things in a timely manner and on its regular schedule, this can have major repercussions in the employee’s life—and legal consequences for the employer. Your protections under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law Employers sometimes do try to withhold wages, including earned bonuses and commissions. Employees are particularly vulnerable to this immediately after leaving a job, when the employer may try to hold on to their last paycheck. Under the law, your employer should pay you within a regular timeframe. Ideally that timeframe should be defined in your employment contract. If you don’t have a contract or it’s not defined there, it should be paid within a time that’s standard in your industry, or within 15 days from the end of the pay period. Your employer should inform you of the details of your payment schedule when you’re hired, and let [...]

By |2020-06-26T13:20:31+00:00June 26th, 2020|Wage Theft & Unpaid Wages|0 Comments

Collective Action During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Essential Workers Have the Right to Protest Unsafe Conditions In the midst of the pandemic, we rely on essential workers—healthcare professionals, sanitation workers, grocery store employees, long-haul truckers, transportation employees, warehouse and mail delivery workers, and more—to keep our society afloat. But many of the workers deemed most essential to our survival feel that they aren’t getting enough protections in the workplace—and they have very legitimate concerns. In recent weeks and months, employees at companies such as WalMart and Target, Amazon, Instacart, and hospitals across the country have planned and led walkouts, strikes, and other protests—demanding hazard pay, access to PPE, and other improvements to their working conditions. However, employee walkouts during the coronavirus pandemic come up against the fact that society needs these employees to keep working. It’s still not clear how the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic will affect court cases where essential workers’ rights to protest are challenged. If you’re considering planning a walkout to protest unsafe conditions at your workplace, here are a few things you should know. Your protections under the NLRA may vary Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), collective action to protest unsafe working conditions is considered protected activity. But just how [...]

By |2020-06-04T21:04:20+00:00June 4th, 2020|Wage Theft & Unpaid Wages|0 Comments

New Guidance Regarding COVID-19 and the ADA

Which ADA Rights Apply During a Pandemic? In earlier articles, we discussed how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to workers’ rights during the COVID-19 epidemic—especially the “reasonable accommodations” requirement for workers considered at high risk. At the time, the picture wasn’t clear—and the best we could do was provide an educated guess. But recently, the EEOC released updated guidelines on the ADA’s provisions—specifically as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is written more toward employers than employees, and was originally developed in 2009 to address employment questions that arose during an earlier influenza pandemic. It’s been updated to reflect current events. Here’s what we know based on these new guidelines. The ADA’s role during a pandemic According to the guidance, the ADA should do three things in the midst of a pandemic: Regulate what questions employers can ask about applicants’ and employees’ health conditions, and prevent them from making hiring decisions based on those conditions. Prohibit employers from keeping employees with disabilities from the workplace unless they are at risk of serious harm or present a direct threat to others. Require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities as long as it doesn’t constitute [...]

By |2020-05-28T23:58:06+00:00May 28th, 2020|Americans with Disabilities Act Claims|0 Comments

US Women’s Soccer Team Lost Their Equal Pay Claim

What Happened—and What’s Next On March 8, 2019, the US Women’s National Soccer Club (USWNSC) filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) for equal pay under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as the Equal Pay Act. The 28 players bringing the suit claimed the USSF has subjected them to “institutionalized gender discrimination” by not paying the women’s team equally to the men’s team, and asked for both a raise and back pay. Originally, the trial was scheduled to occur on May 5. But then the coronavirus pandemic happened, and it was rescheduled for June 16. However, on May 1, Judge Gary Klausner, of the U.S. District Court for Central California in Los Angeles, rejected the central tenet of their lawsuit: that the women’s team was paid less than the men’s team. This might sound outrageous, but it’s not altogether surprising. The USWNSC always had a higher burden of proof than the USSF. They had to prove that they made less than the men’s team for the same job, and the pay disparity was due to gender discrimination. All the USSF had to do was disprove one of these assertions—that the women are not in [...]

By |2020-05-21T21:49:53+00:00May 21st, 2020|Workplace Discrimination|0 Comments

Can You Refuse to Work Without Protective Gear?

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Forcing Workers to Make Difficult Choices In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of workers throughout the US are being asked to make a difficult choice: forego a paycheck, or go to work and risk contracting coronavirus. Personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks, gloves, and gowns are important tools in protecting workers from exposure to coronavirus. However, our nation is currently in the grip of a massive shortage in such equipment. As a result, many workers—including healthcare workers at the front lines—are being asked to put their health at risk in the workplace. So, if your employer does not provide you with protective gear—and refuses to let you bring your own to work—can you refuse to work under such conditions? What OSHA Says About Working in Unsafe Conditions We already have laws in the US to protect workers from unsafe conditions at work. Under OSHA regulations, you have the right to refuse to perform a task at work if all of these conditions are met: There is an imminent danger of injury or death present. You have asked your employer to eliminate the danger, and they haven’t. There isn’t time to request an OSHA [...]

By |2020-04-30T22:14:01+00:00April 30th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments

What’s in the “Families First” Coronavirus Response Act?

Paid Leave for American Workers—With Very Broad Exceptions Public health experts agree that all workers who can stay home should stay home. For some, that means working from home. But what about those workers who can’t work from home—and for whom staying home means foregoing a regular paycheck? This situation puts workers in a bind: stay home and suffer financially, or come to work—possibly with coronavirus symptoms, possibly as a silent carrier—and risk spreading the virus to others. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was established on March 18, 2020 to deal with this problem. It provides crucial aid, including paid leave, for employees. Those benefits kicked in on April 1. This legislation is better than nothing—but it has significant exemptions. Here’s what you need to know about your rights to paid leave under the FFCRA. What the benefits include Under the new law, there are several types of benefits that employees can access, as long as they work for a qualifying employer: Two weeks of paid sick leave, up to 80 hours in total, at your regular pay rate if you’re experiencing symptoms, or you’re in quarantine under government orders or the advice of a healthcare professional. Two [...]

By |2020-04-24T00:08:59+00:00April 24th, 2020|Family and Medical Leave Act Claims|0 Comments

Can You Refuse to Come to Work in the Midst of a Pandemic?

And Can Your Employer Fire You If You Do? In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as some workers self-quarantine and adjust to working from home, others are continually asked to put their health on the line to keep essential services running—including warehouse and mail delivery workers, grocery store employees, utility and sanitation workers, transportation workers, and healthcare professionals. And with a severe shortage of personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns, essential employees often feel that coming to work means taking an unacceptable risk of exposure. But can you refuse to come to work to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19—and if you do, is your employer allowed to fire you or retaliate against you? The rules, laws, and recommendations in this area are constantly shifting. But as of this writing, here’s what we know. Your protections under existing OSHA regulations Under pre-existing OSHA regulations, you can refuse to participate in work if the situation meets these three criteria: Doing so would put you in immediate danger of injury or death. You’ve already informed your employer of the risk and they’ve done nothing about it. There isn’t time to go through the proper OSHA channels [...]

By |2020-04-16T21:00:09+00:00April 16th, 2020|Wrongful Termination & Retaliation|0 Comments