march 10, 2008
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Another Win for Workers from the Supreme Court: In my last blog post, I talked about a win for workers before the U.S. Supreme Court that might not have seemed like one at first blush. But the very next day, workers enjoyed a clear victory in a 7-2 vote by the Court, in the case of Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki. Many commentators have noted that the case seems to represent a departure from other cases from the Roberts Court in its worker-friendly tone, and more relaxed approach to proving discrimination. As mentioned before, workers often have to take their victories however they can get them, but this decision was certainly a welcome switch.
Workers Win One Here and There: As we've mentioned more than once around here, the Roberts Supreme Court isn't the most friendly to workers, and might even be less friendly than the Rehnquist Court. But every once in a while, the little guy gets some bones tossed his way. (Sorry to mix metaphors and not use gender neutral language in the same sentence.) That's what happened recently in a couple of recent cases, where workers staved off the worst that could have happened from the court.
this week in the courts
Fed. Express Corp. v. Holowecki (U.S. Supreme Court; No. 06-1322)
Decision Date: February 27, 2008
In an Age Discrimination in Employment Act case involving the question of whether Fed Ex courier's filing of an intake questionnaire and affidavit with the EEOC was a "charge" under the Act so as to allow the filing of a civil action, the Court defers to the EEOC's interpretation for the proper test for determining whether a filing is a charge. Specifically, in addition to the information required by the implementing regulations, if a filing is to be deemed a charge it must be reasonably construed as a request for the agency to take remedial action to protect the employee's rights or otherwise settle a dispute between the employer and the employee. In this case, the filings constituted such a charge and the circuit court correctly reversed dismissal of the case.
Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v. Mendelsohn (U.S. Supreme Court; No. 06-1221)
Decision Date: February 26, 2008
In an age discrimination case brought under 29 U. S. C. section 621 et seq., in which the district court excluded testimony by nonparties alleging discrimination at the hands of supervisors of defendant-company who played no role in the adverse employment decision challenged by plaintiff, a court of appeals decision remanding the matter with instructions to admit the challenged testimony is vacated and remanded where: 1) Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 403 do not make such evidence per se admissible or per se inadmissible; and 2) the circuit court erred in conducting its own analysis of the relevant factors under the Rules, as the inquiry required by those Rules was within the province of the district court in the first instance.
Hawkins v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., (Sixth Circuit; No. 07-3235)
Decision Date: February 19, 2008
In appropriate circumstances, Title VII permits claims against an employer for coworker retaliation. An employer will be liable for a coworker's actions if: 1) the coworker's retaliatory conduct is sufficiently severe so as to dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination; 2) supervisors or members of management have actual or constructive knowledge of the coworker's retaliatory behavior; and 3) supervisors or members of management have condoned, tolerated, or encouraged the acts of retaliation, or have responded to the plaintiff's complaints so inadequately that the response manifests indifference or unreasonableness under the circumstances.
Schuler v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (D.C. Circuit; No. 06-7207)
Decision Date: February 12, 2008
In class-action suit led by 63-year-old plaintiff alleging that defendant employer is violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act by maintaining a discriminatory partnership policy under which the company refuses to promote older qualified employees, dismissal of complaint is reversed as plaintiff satisfied the ADEA's state filing requirement by virtue of a worksharing agreement between the EEOC and the D.C. Office of Human Rights, as well as through the Commission's referral of his charge to the New York State Division of Human Rights.
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