Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that prohibits employers from implementing discriminatory practices in their diversity training programs, effective July 1, 2022. The bill, known as the “Individual Freedom Act,” amends the Florida Civil Rights Act, Fla. St. 760.01, et seq., to expand the definition of discrimination and subjects employers to liability for violations.

Expanding the definition of “discrimination”

Specifically, the Individual Freedom Act amends Fla. St. § 760.10, to prohibit public employers and private employers with 15 or more employees from requiring any individual – as a condition of employment, membership, certification, licensing, credentialing, or passing an examination – to participate in training, instruction, or any other required activity that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels the individual to believe any of the following concepts:

  1. Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.
  2. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  3. An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.
  4. Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin.
  5. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.
  6. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
  7. An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.
  8. Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.

However, these concepts may be included in training or instruction if they are addressed in an objective manner and without endorsement.

Continue Reading Florida expands definition of “discrimination” and increases employer liability for discrimination in workplace diversity training

Despite menopause being a natural part of the ageing process, there is a general lack of awareness of its symptoms and effects, often resulting in menopausal women* experiencing a lack of support, as well as discrimination and harassment. This blog looks at the legal issues, and what employers can and ought to be doing to create a supportive and empathetic workplace culture.

Some of these issues were highlighted in a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision, Rooney v. Leicester City Council, which was handed down shortly ahead of World Menopause Day on 18 October 2021. This case acts as a timely reminder of the challenges that menopausal women face in the workplace and the fact that more can be done to raise and demonstrate understanding and awareness of what remains a taboo subject.

Mrs Rooney was a childcare social worker for Leicester City Council until she resigned from her post. She brought a number of claims against her employer, including a claim for disability discrimination, relying on menopause as her disability. She cited symptoms including insomnia, fatigue, light-headedness, confusion, stress, depression, anxiety, palpitations, memory loss, joint pain, migraines and hot flushes that left her physically and mentally unable to cope over a couple of years, and having to spend prolonged periods in bed. She received hormone replacement therapy and was under the care of a specialist menopause clinic.
Continue Reading Menopause in the workplace

Welcome to our monthly newsletter, with a summary of the latest news and developments in UK employment law. A PDF version of this newsletter can be accessed here.

This issue will provide recent case law updates, law reform and legislative developments, COVID-19 updates and any other news over recent weeks.

Case law updates

Collective redundancy consultation: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled on the reference period and threshold numbers required for the Collective Redundancies Directive, and has concluded that where the threshold number of dismissals is met at any point across the relevant reference period, then dismissals occurring both before and after that point are subject to collective consultation rules. This raises questions as to whether section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA), which applies the Directive in the UK (and which excludes the need to count employees whose proposed dismissal consultation has started) is compatible with the Directive. In the absence of amendments to TULRCA to clarify the situation, employers planning redundancies will need to have this case in mind, with an understanding of past redundancies as well as anticipated ones, when assessing whether the relevant thresholds for collective consultation are met. [UQ v. Marclean Technologies – NB: no English transcript is currently available]

Discrimination: The Court of Appeal has upheld the ‘cost plus’ basis for seeking to justify indirect discrimination, i.e., cost savings alone cannot be a legitimate aim and will rarely succeed as a defence, although it may be a factor where there is ‘something else’ (including where an employer is subject to financial constraints and is required to reduce its costs). Although not changing established principles, this case acts as a reminder that cost in itself should not be relied upon to rationalise potentially discriminatory practices. Incidentally the court also said that the phrase ‘cost plus’ should be avoided as inelegant. [Heskett v. Secretary of State for Justice]

Health and safety detriments: Following a judicial review, the High Court has held that the UK failed to properly implement the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive in the Employment Rights Act 1996 when only providing protection against detriment on health and safety grounds to employees and not also to workers. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which initiated the proceedings, is calling for the government to urgently amend UK legislation to reflect this decision, which would significantly expand the scope of protection at a time when health and safety is particularly pertinent. [HC: IWUGB v. DWP]

Settlement agreement – COT3: Where arguments are being made to set aside a COT3 settlement due to misrepresentation, it is permissible for the tribunal to consider without prejudice communications. [Cole v. Elders Voice]

Summary termination: A firm was entitled to rely on a self-employed stockbroker’s repudiatory breach of contract to summarily terminate their relationship, notwithstanding the firm also having committed a repudiatory breach. [HC: Palmeri v. Charles Stanley & Co]

Tribunal hearings: An appeal against a decision to hold a merits hearing in person rather than remotely during the pandemic has been dismissed, reiterating the strong case management discretion held by judges. [Omooba v. Michael Garrett Associates]

Tribunal procedure – applications to amend pleadings: The Employment Appeals Tribunal has provided detailed guidance on the procedure to be followed when considering applications to amend, including how arguments in support of such an application should be approached, the matters to consider before such an application is made, and the importance of showing the consequences of the amendment being refused. This also reminds us that the tribunal has wide case management powers, and the appellant courts will seldom interfere. [Vaughan v. Modality Partnership]

Whistleblowing: The Court of Appeal has upheld the principle that multiple separate communications taken together could amount to a protected disclosure even if none of them, taken separately, would do so. Whether it is appropriate to take this approach is a matter of common sense and fact dependent, and it is not necessarily an error for the tribunal to fail to consider the composite approach. In the present case, the claimant failed to clarify which of his 37 communications should be grouped together, and the specific protected disclosure which arose from that combination. [Simpson v. Cantor Fitzgerald Europe]

Continue Reading UK Employment Law update – December 2020

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (U.S. Jun. 15, 2020), which held that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a 6-3 opinion authored by

As technology continues to rapidly evolve, so do hiring and recruiting practices. A number of start-up companies have emerged in recent years offering employers the ability to use artificial intelligence (AI) to screen job candidates and determine their employability. These AI-driven recruiting practices, such as those that use facial and voice recognition technologies, are touted as a means of lowering recruiting costs and eliminating bias in the hiring process. But there is growing concern that the use of AI may threaten a job candidate’s privacy and might result in the inadvertent perpetuation of discriminatory hiring practices.

These concerns and others were raised in a recent complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urging an investigation into one such company’s business practices. The complaint was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest watchdog located in Washington, D.C. EPIC’s complaint challenges the AI-driven recruiting solutions developed and sold by a company called HireVue, which currently has more than 700 corporate customers that use its technology as part of their hiring process.
Continue Reading Tech industry watchdog challenges AI-driven recruiting practices

On October 8, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in three landmark LGBTQ+ rights cases, which could broaden protections for the LGBTQ+ community by prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation, transgender-status, or gender identity under federal law. Currently, conflicting federal cases and shifts in interpretation and policies at administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice have left employers without clear guidance on what is, or is not, protected at a federal level (separate and apart from state and local protections). In Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, since consolidated, the Court will consider whether the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the Court will consider whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people. The cases are summarized below.

Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda / Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia – factual background

Donald Zarda worked as a skydiving instructor for Altitude Express, Inc., responsible for taking clients on tandem skydives, strapped hip-to-hip and shoulder-to-shoulder to the client. In June 2010, while carrying out a tandem skydiving session with a young woman, Zarda stated he was gay in defense of a female client’s allegation that he touched her inappropriately. Altitude Express terminated Zarda’s employment on the grounds that he shared inappropriate information with clients regarding his personal life. After a three-judge panel ruled against Zarda, the Second Circuit, in an en banc decision, overturned the lower court, holding that discrimination based on sexual orientation violates Title VII.

Continue Reading Supreme Court poised to hear oral arguments in blockbuster LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination cases

On March 18, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed new legislation (S121) that significantly impacts the scope of certain employment agreements and settlement agreements between employers and employees/former employees. The controversial legislation addresses the following:

  1. Ban on waiver of substantive and procedural rights in employment contracts related to discrimination, harassment or retaliation claims

The legislation voids any provision in an employment contract that waives “any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment.” In addition, the legislation prohibits an employer from prospectively waiving any right or remedy under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).

This language could impact agreements such as jury trial waivers and arbitration agreements. To the extent that the law touches arbitration agreements, however, it will likely face challenges on the grounds that the law conflicts with, and is preempted by, the Federal Arbitration Act.

Continue Reading New Jersey bans NDAs and certain waivers of rights in agreements with employees

This week, the New York City Council passed new amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibit employment discrimination, discriminatory harassment and violence on the basis of an individual’s sexual and reproductive health decisions. A copy of the new, amended law can be found here.

The amended law defines “sexual and reproductive health decisions” as any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for, or offered or provided to individuals, relating to their sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.

Continue Reading NYC Council enacts new protections for employees’ sexual and reproductive health decisions

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

On May 2, 2017, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) issued a Workplace Harassment Guide, which offers recommendations for employers on how to prevent and address harassment in the workplace. While the Guide focuses on workplace harassment, it also is a useful tool for how to handle other workplace issues, including discrimination