7th Circuit rules Title VII Covers Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has found that discrimination based on sexual orientation is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The 8-3 ruling in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College reinstates a case filed by a lesbian college professor who claims that her former employer rejected her for at least six full-time positions and did not renew her contract because of her sexual orientation.  The 7th Circuit is the first federal appellate court to issue such a ruling.

In finding that Title VII’s proscription against gender discrimination covers an employee’s sexual orientation discrimination claim Chief Judge Diane Wood explained that Hively represented the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype.

Trump Pledges Paid Family Leave but does not Specify Fathers

In his first official address to Congress on Tuesday evening, President Trump appeared to take a more inclusive approach to paid family leave, by not specifying mothers in his speech.

“My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health,” he said. His existing maternity leave proposals would be paid through unemployment benefits to parents by those companies that don’t offer it. Given that the remarks were prepared, experts noted that he referred to “new parents” rather than new mothers, and say that should be reflected in his policy.  See article here.

2017 Contractor Minimum Wage Rate Released

The U.S. Labor Department has published the 2017 wage-rate floor required by President Obama’s “Establishing A Minimum Wage for Contractors” Executive Order 13658. The Order was implemented through regulations appearing at 29 C.F.R. Part 10. Both the Order and 29 C.F.R. § 10.5 call for USDOL to conduct annual re-determinations of that minimum wage.

Beginning on January 1, 2017, the minimum rate will be $10.20 per hour.

The University of Hawaii: Professors dating students not OK

The University of Hawaii now officially bans professors from dating their students. The university came out with a new policy today that bans faculty from having romantic, sexual or dating relationships with students in their classes. The rules also ban advisers from having romantic relationships with their students, as well as other situations in which there is a “clear power differential.”  See article here.

Busy Year ahead for EEOC

2016 marks the last year of the EEOC’s 2013-2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan. Still, many of the issues the agency faced three years ago remain, in addition to some new ones. From pregnancy discrimination to wellness programs to LGBT discrimination to harassment and, most recently, to pay discrimination, the EEOC continues to aggressively pursue employers who are not in compliance with federal law. It also follows its own internally developed enforcement guidelines on these subjects.

For 2016, the EEOC requested federal funds to hire 47 new investigators. With charges of discrimination still hovering around the 100,000 per year mark, the EEOC can be expected to be extremely vigilant about pursuing employers who are not in compliance with federal discrimination laws. The EEOC recognized in its Strategic Enforcement Plan that an outreach campaign aimed at educating employees is an important strategy to deter employer violations.  See article here.

Read more: http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202752761511/A-Busy-Year-Ahead-for-the-EEOC-New-Issues-New-Questions#ixzz44LerM6uq

Mindfulness Matters in the Workplace

The mind is a powerful asset, and like any other organ it needs equal rest and stimulation. It’s become obvious that our workplaces are increasingly stressful with longer work hours, high pressure deadlines and increased workloads. It begs the question, how do we give our brain a rest while at work?

Mindfulness is an antidote and is slowly becoming more mainstream in the workplace.

So what exactly is mindfulness? In my research, mindfulness is basically a form of mediation and acceptance. It’s the practice of being in the present moment and deliberately paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement. I personally found the challenging part is letting go of the thoughts, the non-judgement and staying with it despite my discomfort. The benefit outweighs the discomfort because I am more calm, clear and able to handle what’s in front of me.

In fact, last year Harvard Business Review revealed that people who meditate show more activity in their anterior cingulate cortex which regulates impulsive behavior and distraction.  See article on Mindfulness here.

AT&T to Pay $250,000 and Reinstate Employee to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Law

AT&T, a multi-national telecommunications company, will pay $250,000, reinstate an employee, and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. EEOC had charged the company with failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a visually impaired employee who had worked for the company since 2001.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Miguel Meléndez began working as a switch technician in 2001 for a predecessor company, Centennial. In 2008, Meléndez became visually impaired due to diabetes. In 2009, Meléndez’s doctor cleared him to return to work, at which time Meléndez requested a reasonable accommodation for his visual impairment. Specifically, he requested the use of adaptive technology software, which would allow him to use computers and programs to perform the essential functions of his job as switch technician.

Neither AT&T’s predecessor, Centennial, nor AT&T ever provided a response to Meléndez’s request for reasonable accommodation. In the meantime, he was removed from his position and not permitted to return to work, while the company continued to ignore his accommodation request. After waiting over a year and a half for a response to his request, Meléndez was removed from his position, EEOC said. Meléndez filed a discrimination charge with EEOC in October 2010.  See press release here.