In a recent en banc decision issued on February 26, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition against sex discrimination in employment includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. The case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, makes clear that employees working
A New Path Forward: Changing the #MeToo Culture
On January 9, 2018, Reed Smith attorney Miriam Edelstein co-presented a panel discussion on the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace at the January meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA), Philadelphia chapter. LERA is comprised of professionals across the employment law field, both management- and employee-side attorneys, as well as arbitrators, mediators and HR professionals.
Edelstein’s presentation discussed the changes – or more accurately lack thereof – she has noted in the employment law landscape with respect to sexual harassment claims, not only over the last year as the #MeToo movement has swept across the world, but more significantly over the past many years. Despite robust and updated anti-harassment policies and their dissemination by employers, the number of legal claims has remained stagnant, and from the global conversations taking place in the media and across social media platforms, the pervasiveness of harassment far exceeds the fractional number of such accounts that result in litigation.
A few proposals are floating around legislatures and internally at companies to do away with confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment claims, as well as limiting the use of private arbitration and mediation to handle such matters. The goal of these proposals appears to be to try to counter a culture of silence around these issues, with the hope that more exposure will have a positive impact in reducing the occurrence of harassment.
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New Requirements For City Contractors and Subs Under Philadelphia’s Whistleblower Law
On November 13, 2017, Mayor Kenney signed an Executive Order providing additional protections for whistleblowers, as well as specific requirements for city agencies, contractor, and subcontractors in addressing complaints, aimed at encouraging discovery, investigation and remediation of waste and corruption in city affairs.
The Executive Order protects city employees, as well as employees of city contractors and subcontractors, from retaliation or the threat of retaliation by city employees, contractors and subcontractors, by providing a direct path of administrative investigation and remedy for potential whistleblowers under the jurisdiction of the city’s inspector general.
The Executive Order defines “employee” to include both paid and unpaid persons performing work for any city agency, department, commission or contractor, extending the protections to volunteer workers in addition to compensated personnel.
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Third Circuit Affirms Bright-Line FLSA Rule on Short Breaks, and Rejects Employer’s ‘Good-Faith’ Absent Disclosure of Legal Advice
On October 13, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that short breaks during the work day of 20 minutes or fewer are compensable as a “bright-line rule” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The case, DOL v. American Future Systems, et al., arose out of the employer’s policy of withholding compensation for any breaks in excess of 90 seconds. Under the employer’s “flexible” break policy, employees were permitted to log out of their computer at their workstation at any time, for any reason, for any length of time, as often as they wished. If they remained logged off for more than 90 seconds, however, they would not be paid for any part of the time they remained logged off. In other words, even if employees logged out to use the restroom or get a cup of water, they would not be paid if they could not make it back to their computer and log back in within 90 seconds.
The Department of Labor (“DOL”) filed suit against the company, alleging a violation of the FLSA based on the DOL’s interpretation of its own regulation regarding short rest periods, 29 C.F.R. § 785.18. That regulation provides that “[r]est periods of short duration, running from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry. They promote the efficiency of the employee and are customarily paid for as working time. They must be counted as hours worked.” The District Court granted summary judgment to the DOL, upholding the regulation and awarding grant of liquidated damages. The District Court specifically rejected the company’s assertion that its flexible, unpaid break policy was implemented in a good faith attempt to comply with the FLSA. American Future Systems appealed the decision, arguing that an individualized assessment of the purpose behind each break – specifically, whether the break was more for the employee’s benefit or the employer’s benefit – should govern whether the break is compensable or not, and that because it sought legal advice prior to implementing its rule, it acted in good faith and should not be liable for liquidated damages.
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EEOC Determination: Denial of Transition-Related Health Care Benefits Violates Title VII Rights of Transgender Employees
In a recent Letter of Determination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) found probable cause to believe an employer violated the Title VII rights of a transgender employee when it excluded coverage for “transgender treatment/sex therapy” services from its medical benefit plans. Specifically, the EEOC determined that denying coverage for transition-related services constituted sex…
NYC Seminar: The (Over) Time is Now
We invite our blog readers to attend a free one-hour seminar on Thursday, December 1: “The (Over) Time is Now.” Reed Smith attorney Miriam Edelstein will join a panel to discuss the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules. The program will be held at the headquarters of Namely (the HR, Payroll, and Benefits platform provider)…