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
California’s Employment Law Class of 2017 (Part I): The Laws, Their Effects and Some Recommendations for Compliance
Amend, extend and clarify: the 2016 legislative session was not so much about creating new rights and responsibilities under California employment law, but more about expanding and addressing lingering questions that stem from existing workplace mandates. However, don’t be fooled by the lack of “new” regulations. By amending many of California’s complex existing laws, the legislature certainly placed HR departments and employment counsel in a difficult position to prepare for compliance by the looming January 2017 implementation date (for most of these laws). With a full plate of issues, such as workplace health and safety, pay equity, hiring, leave laws, harassment and discrimination, and, of course, wage and hour updates (no big surprise there), the class of 2017 will make an impact that will last for years and spur on dramatic change.
In this first portion of our two-part review of the employment law class of 2017, we will focus on developments in discrimination, anti-Retaliation and discharge, hiring and background checks, and workplace health and safety. In part II we will focus on developments in wage and hour law, leave laws, industry-specific regulations, and California’s recent legislation affecting choice-of-law in employment contracts.
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Virginia Joins Six Other States in Finding Supervisors Liable for Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy
Answering a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the Virginia Supreme Court held last week that “Virginia recognizes a common law tort claim of wrongful discharge in violation of established public policy against an individual who was not the plaintiff’s actual employer but who was the actor in violation of public policy and who participated in the wrongful firing of the plaintiff, such as a supervisor or manager.” VanBuren v. Grubb, No. 120348, slip op. at 11-12 (Va. Nov. 1, 2012). That decision, in line with similar decisions in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, is in conflict with the Fourth Circuit’s longstanding position that individual supervisors cannot be held personally liable for unlawful discharges under Title VII. See Lissau v. Southern Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 181 (4th Cir. 1998).…
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New Law Restricts Employment Arbitration for Defense Contractors and Subcontractors
President Obama has signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R. 3326). Section 8116 of that Act significantly restricts the ability of defense contractors and subcontractors to enter into or enforce agreements that require employees or independent contractors to arbitrate certain claims.
In particular, section 8116 provides that no funds appropriated…
Illinois Employers Strictly Liable for Sexual Harassment by All Supervisors, Even Those With No Authority Over Victims
The Illinois Supreme Court has held that under that state’s Human Rights Act (the “Act”), an employer is strictly liable for sexual harassment by any of its supervisors, even if the harasser does not supervise the victim. Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department v. Illinois Human Rights Commission, Nos. 105517 and 105518 consolid. (Apr. 16, 2009). In other words, an employer is automatically responsible if any of its supervisors sexually harasses any of its employees, regardless of whether the supervisor has any direct or indirect authority over the employee.
A sheriff’s department records clerk complained that a supervisor named Yanor, who did not supervise her, pressed himself on her and kissed her, and asked her a month later if she would go with him to a motel for the night. Two months after that, the clerk received a letter on official stationery of the state public health department which said that she might have been recently exposed to a communicable or sexually transmitted disease according to a confidential source who tested positive. Frantic, the clerk reported the letter to a friend in management at the sheriff’s department. The department investigated and determined that Yanor had written and sent the fraudulent letter. After Yanor explained that he had meant the letter as a joke, the employer suspended him for four days without pay and urged the clerk not to take the matter any further.
Despite that request, the clerk filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, alleging in part that the sheriff’s department had sexually harassed her in violation of the Act. The Commission agreed, finding that Yanor had engaged in a series of acts “that cumulatively constituted a hostile work environment,” and because he was a supervisor, the department was liable for his conduct.…
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U.S. Supreme Court Protects Employees Who Participate In Internal Harassment Investigations
In another victory for employees, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that employees who answer questions in an employer’s internal investigation of possible harassment or discrimination are protected from retaliation for doing so, even though they did not come forward to complain. Crawford v. Metropolitan Gov’t of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, No.