Monday, May 2, 2011

Employment Case Law Update

--Wilkie v Dept of Health & Human Servs, 8thCir.: Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upholds lower court's decision granting defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims, hostile work environment based upon sex, along with her other claims. This case again presents up with egregious acts on the part of the harasser and highlights the importance of claiming to the employer and allowing the employer an opportunity to remedy the situation. However, the employee in this case didn't complain about the harassing behavior until after she resigned. The Court also held that the rumor-spreading in this case wasn't sufficient enough to support her claims.

--Madry v Gibraltor Nat’l Corp, EDMich: An employment application that shortened the limitations period for employment claims to 180 days, and required an employee to pay the employer’s attorneys’ fees if she brought an unsuccessful claim, was unenforceable against an FMLA suit. The employer was correct in its assertion that, as a general principle, and under certain conditions, a statute of limitations may be contractually shortened, observed the court. However, while no courts of appeal have directly ruled on this issue, a number of district courts have held that public policy, as expressed in DOL regulations, preclude the waiver of the statute of limitations in an FMLA case. Regardless of whether the statute of limitations is regarded as substantive or procedural, limiting it in a remedial statute such as the FMLA or the FLSA interferes with an employee’s ability to bring a claim, noted the court.

--Hutchinson v Cuyahoga County Bd of County Comm’n, NDOhio: Defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's sexual orientation discrimination claim under Section 1983 is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. While acknowledging that Title VII does not provide a cause of action for sexual orientation, and Sec. 1983 draws upon the burden-shifting approach from Title VII in determining liability, the court ruled that wholesale reliance on Title VII standards was misplaced and, instead, the employee’s equal protection claim was subject to a rational basis review. However, a separate claim that she was denied benefits on the basis of her sexual orientation was dismissed.

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