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Court Cases in the News

A state-by-state review of court cases pertaining to workplace rights.

Select your state from the map below or from this list. (If your state does not have any court cases, then the page will not scroll down when you click on the state.)

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The Ever Evolving Definition of Sexual Harassment

Source: Debra D'Agostino, Fed Smith
Date: February 18, 2010

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently issued an en banc decision finding the U.S. District Court of for the Northern District of Alabama erred in granting summary judgment in a sexual harassment case where the harassment was not directed specifically at the plaintiff.

Prosecutor wins suit over office racial bias

Source: David Holden, Huntsville Times
Date: January 5, 2007

The U.S. Justice Department has been ordered to reinstate a Huntsville woman to her former job as a federal prosecutor nearly five years after she alleged racial and sexual discrimination. In its ruling favoring Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdra Brown-Fleming, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also ordered the reinstatement of Brown-Fleming's former supervisor, Victor Conrad, who claimed he was demoted for reporting the situation to his superiors and supporting Brown-Fleming. In addition to reinstatement, Brown-Fleming is to receive back pay. Brown-Fleming filed the complaint with EEOC in 2002. Hired in 1998, she was the first black woman to serve as a federal prosecutor in the Huntsville branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Judge raises Family Dollar penalty to $33.2M

Source: Charlotte Business Journal
Date: April 3, 2006

A federal judge in Alabama has increased the amount Family Dollar Stores must pay for classifying certain employees as salaried managers and making them ineligible for overtime pay. Last month, the jury hearing the case said the discount chain would have to pay $19.1 million, but the judge has increased [that] to $33.2 million. Jurors found Family Dollar should have classified a number of its store managers as hourly employees, entitling them to overtime pay. According to the plaintiffs' law firm, Schreiber & Petro of Birmingham, Ala., the new ruling comes after the court deemed Family Dollar knew it was wrong when it classified the managers as being ineligible for overtime pay. Family Dollar says it will appeal.

EEOC sues Tyson over 'whites only'

Source: Roy L. Williams, Birmingham News
Date: August 12, 2005

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Birmingham on Thursday sued Tyson Foods after two black employees claimed someone at the company's Ashland [Alabama] plant posted a "whites only" sign on a bathroom. The sign was up for 24 hours, then taken down. An EEOC investigation revealed the white employee who posted the sign said he did it at the request of a Tyson plant supervisor. When [Henry] Adams and [Leon] Walker complained about the segregated bathroom, they were suspended and given disciplinary write-ups by management, the EEOC suit says.

Judge temporarily halts black preference in state hiring

Source: Associated Press, Tuscaloosa News
Date: May 26, 2005

A federal judge has suspended a race-based hiring and promotion rule that [Alabama] state agencies have been required to follow for 35 years. The late U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson ruled in a job discrimination suit in 1970 that the state could not hire or promote a white person from a list of certified applicants if a higher-ranking black was on the list and available for work. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who now handles the long-running case, ruled May 20 that the no-bypass rule is no longer appropriate because of changed circumstances in state hiring and promotions.

Ex-House employee claims job bias

Source: Sallie Owen, Mobile Register
Date: December 6, 2004

A one-time staff member in the Alabama House of Representatives has sued her former employer in federal district court on claims of job discrimination based on race and gender, according to court documents. Valenci'a Quest seeks reinstatement in her previous job, back pay and compensation for lost benefits. Clerk Greg Pappas, the House's top administrator, maintains that the charges are "baseless."

U.S Pipe settles suit charging it with bias

Source: Burlington County Times
Date: July 5, 2004

U.S. Pipe & Foundry will pay $6.5 million and change work procedures in settling a lawsuit filed by its black employees alleging discrimination on the job. The Birmingham-based firm announced it has agreed to create a fairness advisory council, to share job openings with all employees and to train supervisors not to discriminate. The settlement stems from a December 2000 lawsuit filed by employees in federal court at Birmingham.

Supreme Court to hear Title IX case from Ensley

Source: Mary Orndorff, Birmingham News
Date: June 15, 2004

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the case of a Birmingham girls' basketball coach who says he lost his job when he complained about gender discrimination at Ensley High School. The case could affect how the Title IX law against bias based on a person's sex is enforced in schools and colleges around the country. Roderick Jackson says school officials in Ensley fired him because he complained the boys' team was getting better equipment, more resources and overall favorable treatment. The issue before the justices is whether someone who protests discrimination -- but is not personally a victim of it -- can use Title IX laws against gender bias to sue. While the law does not specifically mention retaliation, Jackson and his lawyers argue that Congress intended to protect not only people who are discriminated against but also the people who expose the unfairness.

Justices asked to broaden anti-bias law

Source: Christine M. Garton, Legal Times, law.com
Date: June 9, 2004

Title IX is best known for its impact in achieving gender equality in college athletics. But its scope goes beyond athletics to cover gender discrimination in all kinds of federally assisted education programs and activities. A women's rights group, joined by the U.S. Department of Justice, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case that could expand Title IX even further to protect those who complain about gender bias but are not victims themselves. On Thursday during its private conference, the Court is scheduled to consider whether to grant review in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education. At issue is whether Title IX allows a private right of action for someone who suffered reprisals for complaining about unlawful sex discrimination.

Appeals court overturns equipment operator's bias suit

Source: Associated Press, al.com [Alabama]
Date: June 4, 2004

A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court's finding in favor of a black heavy equipment operator who sued Tuscaloosa County, Ala., for race discrimination. "Not all conduct by an employer negatively affecting an employee constitutes and adverse employment action," the judges said. "Instead, an employee must show a 'serious and material change' in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment."

Ex-Exec Accuses Deere of Racial Discrimination

Source: Rita Pearson, Quad Cities Online
Date: March 25, 2004

A retired executive of Deere & Co. has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Deere for denying him the purchase of two equipment dealerships in Alabama. Kenny Edwards, retired director of Golf and Turf Marketing and Sales Worldwide, filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Western Division. The lawsuit cites Deere for failure to contract in violation of the Civil Rights Act. Mr. Edwards, who is black, retired Dec. 20, 2001, after 30 years of service with Deere. He was a key player for Deere in the leasing of golf and turf equipment packages to Tournament Players Club courses and in leading Deere to becoming the "Official Golf Course Equipment Supplier of the PGA Tour'' in 1997. According to the complaint, seven months into his retirement, Mr. Edwards sought approval from Deere to buy Skyland Equipment Co. Inc. of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Tractor and Turf Inc. of Bessemer, Ala., from Don and Joy Rose.

Jury Awards Firefighter $250,000 in Job Discrimination Case

Source: WTVM (AL)
Date: February 9, 2004

A federal jury ordered the city of Mobile to pay more than $250,000 to a white firefighter in a suit over a job promotion that went to a black co-worker with less seniority. Fire Captain Alan Silvester claimed Fire Chief Stephen Dean, also white, discriminated against Silvester on the basis of race in promoting black firefighter Mike Trenier to an administrative post. Trenier finished second to Silvester on the application test for the job. Dean and other witnesses testified, however, that department heads legally can choose any of the 10 finalists for a job opening, as determined by the Personnel Board. Dean says he selected Trenier primarily because of his high grade-point average and the fact that, while serving as interim fire administrator, he oversaw an important accreditation process for the department.

Justices Decline to Review Age Bias Case

Source: Associated Press, New York Times
Date: December 8, 2003

The Supreme Court on Monday dodged an opportunity to decide if older people may sue over job layoffs that seem to hit them hardest, a major age discrimination case that came to the court after three tough years of company cutbacks. Justices have been looking for the right case to resolve the standard for age discrimination suits. A 1967 law bars on-the-job age bias, but the court has never said if the law allows suits on grounds that an employer's action had a "disproportionate impact'' on older workers. The law covers about 70 million workers age 40 or older, or nearly half of the work force. In 2002, justices scuttled one attempt to settle the question, in a challenge by fired utility workers in Florida.

IHOP to Pay $180,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Source: Associated Press, Miami Herald
Date: October 27, 2003

The International House of Pancakes agreed to pay $180,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by four female employees, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Monday. The money will be distributed among employees Quontae Bolton, Carolyn Burrell, Peggy Sherman, Enica Daniel and a class of women working as hostesses, servers and waitresses at IHOP restaurants.

BellSouth, Government Settle Mobile Discrimination Claim

Source: Associated Press, Miami Herald
Date: October 22, 2003

BellSouth has agreed to pay nearly $900,000 and to provide better notice of job opportunities to settle discrimination claims filed by black employees in its Mobile office. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Atlanta-based telecommunications company in 2001 on behalf of black workers who were allegedly denied the chance to move into management positions at the office, which employed some 400 people at the time. A joint statement by the company and the agency said BellSouth would pay a total of $883,000 to 14 people who intervened in the suit, three law firms and nine more people with claims identified by the EEOC.

BellSouth to Settle EEOC Bias Lawsuit

Source: Bloomberg News, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Date: October 18, 2003

BellSouth Corp., the third-largest U.S. local-telephone company, agreed to pay $883,000 to end a government lawsuit that claimed the company unfairly withheld promotions for black workers in Alabama. The money will go to 23 employees in Mobile, who said they were passed up for promotion because of their race, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued on their behalf. The company agreed to improve training of managers and notify employees of any entry-level management openings as part of the settlement, the EEOC said. The EEOC sued Atlanta-based BellSouth in 2001, alleging the company discriminated against blacks working in Mobile Area Network and Consumer Services operations.

State Immunity Suffers Blow at 11th Circuit

Source: Jonathan Ringel, Fulton County Daily Report
Date: September 23, 2003

Plaintiffs thwarted from suing state governments under the Americans with Disabilities Act may have discovered a chink in the states' armor, thanks to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling comes in the cases of a breast cancer survivor and an asthma sufferer who two years ago lost a landmark disability rights case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Now they have found a new way to get their claims heard. A three-judge panel last week revived the suits in which Patricia Garrett and Milton Ash allege that Alabama state agencies discriminated against them because they were disabled. The panel -- Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, Judge Edward E. Carnes and visiting U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story of the Northern District of Georgia -- rejected Alabama's arguments that had carried the day at the Supreme Court in 2001.

Black Employees Claim Discrimination in Lawsuit Against Army

Source: Associated Press, Times Daily (AL)
Date: August 22, 2003

Black employees at Redstone Arsenal have filed a lawsuit claiming a "systemic bias" within the Army prevents minorities from earning promotions and punishes those who seek redress. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status for more than 50 current employees and job applicants at Redstone and other Army commands in Huntsville, was filed in federal court Friday and reported Thursday by The Huntsville Times. The filing seeks $300,000 in compensatory damages for each of the plaintiffs, an end to policies that disparately affect minority employees, an end to reprisals against those who complain, promotions and back pay for all plaintiffs, and a new mentoring program around Redstone.

Justices to Hear Case on Whether the Disabled Can Sue States

Source: Linda Greenhouse, New York Times
Date: June 24, 2003

A state claim of immunity from suit under the central provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act will provide the next Supreme Court term with a focus for the court's continuing debate over the balance of state and federal power. The justices agreed today to hear Tennessee's appeal from a ruling that left the state open to a lawsuit by two residents who use wheelchairs and who were unable to gain access to state courtrooms. One plaintiff, George Lane, crawled up two flights of stairs for his arraignment on misdemeanor traffic charges, and was later arrested for "failure to appear" and jailed when he refused to repeat the ordeal when it came time for a pretrial hearing.

Kraft Reaches Settlement with EEOC in Same-Sex Suit

Source: Daily Herald
Date: June 14, 2003

Kraft Foods Inc., the largest U.S. foodmaker, settled a government lawsuit over allegations that a male supervisor propositioned and sexually assaulted more than a dozen male workers at a Nabisco warehouse in Alabama. The accord with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came after the company paid "substantial amounts" in private settlements with the 17 men who said they were abused by the supervisor, said Charles E. Guerrier, the regional attorney for the government agency in Birmingham, Alabama. The allegations by the Nabisco workers are part of a growing number of sexual harassment complaints by men.

EEOC Same-Sex Harassment Suit Settled

Source: Val Walton, Birmingham News
Date: June 16, 2003

A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit that claimed a male supervisor was allowed to sexually harass male workers at a Nabisco distribution center in Birmingham. The suit, filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the workers, mainly route drivers or warehouse workers, were subjected to a sexually hostile environment from at least 1995 to 2000 and were retaliated against when they complained about the supervisor. Lawyers filed court papers Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn to approve the settlement. The EEOC filed suit in October. It came after a similar suit filed in August on behalf of 17 male workers was dismissed because they had not received a "right to sue" letter from the commission, a requirement for lawsuits.

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