In Part 1 of this series, we relayed the case of Pamela Hill, an engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Hill was passed over for promotion. Another applicant, a man, who has less experience than Hill and doesn’t have a college degree like she has, got the job. VDOT’s only reason for the decision is that the man did better in the interview.
Hill sued VDOT, alleging sexual discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. VDOT moved for summary judgment – an early resolution in its favor – and at the end of this post, I’ll tell you if Hill won or not.
A necessary part of life that no one particularly enjoys is the job interview: it’s tricky for the interviewee and taxing for the interviewer. Unless the interviewer gets a thrill out of asking why manhole covers are round or testing the applicant’s knowledge of medieval saints.
We’ve written about questions that shouldn’t be asked on interviews, because they can suggest a discriminatory basis for the employer’s failure to hire the job applicant. But can an interview that doesn’t include potentially discriminatory questions – just the failure to hire the applicant after the interview itself – provide the basis for the rejected applicant to allege discrimination?
Hiring executives may be interested to know the answer to this question, which was the central issue in an opinion in Hill v. Virginia Department of Transportation, released by a federal court in Virginia at the end of January.
Let’s start this story with a basic truth: it’s generally a bad idea to tell a pregnant woman that her hormones will make her “get emotional” and get “caught up in things” in a way that affects her judgment.
You need not take this from me as a lawyer-blogger. Take it from me as a guy whose wife is pregnant with our first child. Blaming anything in our house on pregnancy hormones is a one-way ticket to the basement couch.
It’s also a bad idea to say this to a pregnant employee, as department-store chain Target Stores is learning. We’ve written about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 before, and in some high-profile contexts. But the case of Spigarelli v. Target, which will move forward in federal court in Pennsylvania now that Target has lost its summary judgment motion, shows that this lesson continues to bear discussion.
An executive who brings a discrimination claim must jump through a number of hurdles to get to trial. On this blog, we’ve posted on a number of occasions about how under the McDonnell-Douglas test, an executive must prove a prima facie case of discrimination, after which the employer has the opportunity to show that it acted for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. If the employer meets this burden, and the executive cannot come forward with evidence to rebut these legitimate reasons, then the court will award summary judgment to the employer before the case even gets to a trial.
The Eleventh Circuit’s recent decision in Ostrow v. GlobeCast Am. Inc., No. 11-16043 (11th Cir. Sep. 17, 2012), provides another example of how an employer can defeat a claim of discrimination by presenting non-discriminatory reasons for its actions.
For the second time during this quiet week in late August, pregnancy is in the headlines.
The first time, of course, involved Rep. Todd Akin, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri who claimed – and then swiftly retracted – that women who are “legitimately raped” don’t get pregnant. That’s led pregnancy – and abortion politics – to dominate news coverage.
But here’s another story with pregnancy at its core: this week, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that a former buyer for fashion house Gucci can move forward with her case alleging that the luxury-goods company fired her after she became pregnant.
This week's latest news in suits by suits:
Companies that do business across state lines are subject to a patchwork of state and local laws governing their relationship with their employees at all levels in the chain of command. Especially for companies that do business in many different states, keeping up with the applicable laws can be full-time work. On Monday, we highlighted a new law in Illinois that arguably gives employees and job applicants rights in their interactions with employers that they would not otherwise have. A recent appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit of a ruling (the district court order upholding the magistrate’s report and recommendation is here) further underscores the variation in states’ laws when it comes to protections for employees. Starbucks' recent brief on appeal is here.
The latest developments in suits by suits:
A key question looming over any lawsuit is, "Will the case go to trial?" Or, as lawyers usually put the issue, "Will the case survive summary judgment?" (For any laypeople reading this, summary judgment is a procedure for disposing of cases prior to trial if there are no meaningful disputes about the important facts—as lawyers put it, no “genuine issues of material fact.”) Last week, a New York appellate court affirmed a grant of summary judgment against a urologist’s discrimination claim, holding that his employer successfully presented evidence of legitimate reasons for its adverse actions against him. Melman v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 2012 N.Y. Slip. Op. 04111 (May 29, 2012). The Melman decision shows how judges can agree on how to decide whether to grant summary judgment on such claims, yet still disagree on whether summary judgment ought to be granted.
Here's a roundup of this week's news involving suits by suits:
We cover a broad range of issues that arise in employment disputes. Occasionally, we also spotlight other topics of relevant legal interest, ranging from health care to white-collar defense to sports, just to keep things interesting.
Led by Jason Knott and Andrew Goldfarb, and featuring attorneys with deep knowledge and expertise in their fields, Suits by Suits seeks to engage its readers on these relevant and often complicated topics. Comments and special requests are welcome and invited. Before reading, please view the disclaimer.