It wasn’t that long ago when it was fairly clear that sexual orientation was not considered a protected class under Title VII. However, as we first wrote about on this blog last year, sexual orientation discrimination is an expanding legal basis of protection for all employers to be concerned about. This includes educational institutions.
The use of independent contractors is a growing trend in the American economy, and many believe the trend is here to stay. Independent contractors come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Companies like Uber rely almost exclusively on independent contractors, and there has been significant increase in the use of independent contractors for a variety of duties (in nearly all industries).
On May 17, 2016, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an ADA Final Rule amending applicable regulations and interpretive guidance implementing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a GINA Final Rule, under Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), clarifying how the ADA and GINA Rules apply to employer wellness programs. In addition, the EEOC issued a Q & A document for each new rule, ADA Rule Q & A and GINA Rule Q & A, addressing key questions about each rule’s applicability and implementation.
On May 13, 2016, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Department of Education (“DOE”) issued a joint directive to school districts nationwide titled the “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.” The correspondence “summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the [DOE] and the [DOL] evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.” The letter makes clear that “[a]s a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities.” (Emphasis added). While the information applies directly, through Title IX, to school districts, private employers on a much broader scale must also be cognizant of the new interpretation of “sex” discrimination.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that actions taken by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), including its Regional Directors, during a time when it did not maintain a constitutionally valid quorum are nevertheless binding and have full legal force. In Advanced Disposal Servs. E., Inc. v. NLRB, the NLRB found that an employer violated sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) when it refused to collectively bargain with a newly-certified bargaining unit. The NLRB issued an order to enforce the election, and the employer appealed.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published the final version of its new overtime regulations Wednesday morning, heralding a significant change to the exemption rules that is likely to disqualify millions of workers from their current exempt status before the end of this year.
The Supreme Court of the United States has historically taken a very narrow view of the free speech protections afforded to public-sector employees under the First Amendment to the Constitution. It has generally held that public-sector employee speech or political activity is protected only if (1) they spoke as a citizen, rather than within the auspices of their official duties; (2) they spoke on a matter of public concern; and, (3) their right to speak on that matter outweighed the government’s interest in curbing their speech to provide effective government service to citizens. Public-sector employees have, more often than not, lost under this framework, most pointedly where there is any kind of concern that the wrong precedent will allow public-sector employees to gum up the public workplace with disruptive speech. (Note that private-sector employees, who do not enjoy the protections of the Constitution absent governmental action, have even less free speech protection than public-sector employees.)
On April 19, 2016, the District of Columbia Circuit, held that Orchestra musicians were employees, not independent contractors. Lancaster Symphony Orchestra v NLRB. The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) guarantees employees, but not independent contractors, the right to join a union. In making the determination as to whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor, the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) considers ten factors:
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) sought to broaden the scope of protection for disabled individuals which had been available under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by expanding the definition of “disability.” “Disability” is defined under both the ADA and ADAAA as “(i) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life’s activities; (ii) a record of such impairment; or (iii) a condition regarded as an impairment.” Subsequent to the passage of the ADAAA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued regulations to provide guidance under the Act. According to these regulations, the “definition of the term ‘impairment’ does not include physical characteristics such as …weight… that are within the ‘normal range’ and are not the result of a physical disorder.”