Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ENDA Getting a Turbocharge

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act ("ENDA") is legislation that has been introduced and never passed in Congress for over two decades.  ENDA would make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees and applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation and sexual identity in the terms and conditions of their employment, inter alia, and Democratic Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, despite a huge uphill battle with a Republican-controlled Congress, will propose a much broader, supercharged version of ENDA aimed at preventing discrimination against LGBT Americans, not just in employment but also with regard to public accommodations, housing, jury service and financial transactions.  Merkley hopes to have a bill, complete with bipartisan co-sponsors, ready for introduction in four to six months.  

There is a huge misconception amongst the American public that such a law already exists at the federal level, but such is not the case.  Twenty-one states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 18 of those, as well as the District of Columbia, also include gender identity. State lawmakers in places like Florida, Virginia and Utah are gearing up to fight for such measures in the coming session, while lawmakers in Michigan are currently in the throes of that debate.  Luckily for Wisconsin residents, they are protected against such discrimination under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.

In 2013, ENDA reached a historic milestone, passing the Senate in a bipartisan vote 64-32. Though the House did not take up the bill, Merkley says it helped propel President Barack Obama to issue an executive order in June that created LGBT nondiscrimination protections for roughly 28 million federal contractors and employees. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Federal Judge Upholds Record $185 Million Jury Award Against AutoZone

A federal district judge in California upheld a record $185 million punitive damages jury verdict in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against AutoZone Stores. The verdict is a record for a single-plaintiff employment discrimination claim in the U.S. In addition to the punitive damages, the court affirmed $872,000 in compensatory damages. The plaintiff’s legal fees in the matter, which are payable by the defendant, are over $1 million to date.

Apparently California state law is very generous to plaintiffs as it allows juries to add such amounts when the employment discrimination is linked to the employer’s officers, directors or managing agents. In this case, the court concluded that AutoZone’s internal legal department fell within the statute’s definition for corporate ratification of the discriminatory action.