Traditionally, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court – which encompasses the West Virginia – has been regarded as being an employer-friendly jurisdiction when it comes to deciding cases arising under federal employment laws. However, that gradually has been changing over the last handful of years, and there’s no greater example of that trend than the recent case of Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., 786 F.3d 264 (4th Cir. 2015), when the Fourth Circuit ruled that a single, isolated instance of harassment may give rise to an actionable hostile work environment claim under Title VII. Because the opinion lowered the standard for when employers may be liable for sexual harassment, it’s very important for employers to be familiar with it.
Before suing an employer for employment discrimination under Title VII, the EEOC must first “endeavor to eliminate [the] alleged unlawful employment practice by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.” 42 U.S.C. §2000e–5(b). Only once the Commission determines that conciliation has failed may it file suit in federal court. On April 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its highly-anticipated decision in the case of Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC and ruled – in a unanimous opinion – that Title VII authorizes judicial review of the EEOC’s efforts to satisfy its duty to conciliate before filing suit against an employer.
Even after a record number of wage and hour cases over the last decade, new issues keep arising in this area. One of the most interesting of those questions in recent years hit the United States Supreme Court last year, when the Court tackled the question of whether or not time employees spend in anti-theft security screening at the end of their shift is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in Riley v. St. Mary’s Medical Center that, while the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”) altered the federal standard for proving a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and as the Pennsylvania legislature has not enacted a similar amendment to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), the higher, pre-ADAAA standard for proving “disability” will apply to a plaintiff’s PHRA disability claim.
Employers often are leery of retaliation claims, and rightfullly so, since they are among the most dangerous to defend in court. Typically, however, employers confront allegations of retaliation only from current or just-made-former employees. Now, in a recent decision issued by the Fourth Circuit, even applicants can go the retaliation route in the right circumstances.
As West Virginia employers are undoubtedly aware, there is a cause of action in the state commonly known as a “Harless claim” for wrongful discharge when an employee can show that his or her discharge contravenes some substantial public policy of the State of West Virginia. In Brown v. City of Montgomery, et al., the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently issued a decision holding that it is a violation of a substantial public policy for an employer to fire an employee for refusing to retaliate against another employee who has filed a discrimination claim against the employer.
Imagine this scenario: One of your employees is taking leave under the FMLA. You suspect the employee has misrepresented the state of his or her condition to fraudulently obtain protection under the FMLA and is really using the time off for personal reasons unrelated to any illness or injury. In fact, several of the employee’s co-workers have reported to you that they have observed the employee out shopping on days when he or she had supposedly used FMLA-protected leave. They’ve also told you that some of the employee’s Facebook posts and photos portray activity which seems inconsistent with their alleged illness or injury. Since the FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with an employee’s FMLA rights and from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights to leave, there’s nothing you can do unless you care to find yourself in court, right?
Employers often face the issue of whether or not they can discipline an employee who is already on some kind of medical leave. Despite how common that situation may be, many employers think they are unable to take action in that situation. While the exact answer is always going to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, employers aren’t always as hamstrung as they may feel.
The recent unveiling of the new 5S and 5C iPhone models isn’t the only way Apple has been making headlines lately. Recently, two former Apple store employees filed a class action lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and seeking millions of dollars for unpaid wages and overtime compensation. The most interesting part of the suit is that it isn’t based on a typical FLSA violation, such as the failure to properly compensate employees for their breaks.