Here’s another post in our occasional series on religious discrimination in the workplace. Today, we’re looking at a decision by the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that brings together three different concepts: religious organizations as employers, disabled persons as employees, and federal laws that apply to hiring. As when you mix any three ingredients that are fine on their own, the results can be disastrous. Throw in legislative history – the record Congress creates when it writes a law, and which some courts look to for guidance on how to interpret that law – and you have one fine mess.
This week in suits by suits and other related items of interest:
Continuing our coverage of the sexual discrimination lawsuit between former partner Ellen Pao and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins (prior stories are here and here), on Friday, Kleiner Perkins moved the San Francisco Superior Court to compel arbitration of its dispute for a second time -- this time with a twist.
If you’ve had any sort of a working life, then you’ve been asked at least one odd question on a job interview. My personal favorite is why manhole covers are round.  But the oddest interview question I’ve ever been asked was: “Who was Saint Thomas Aquinas?” In my panic and surprise, my mind confused its files labeled “English Religious leaders named Thomas from the Middle Ages,” and I described for my interviewer Sir Thomas More. My interviewer – a leading lawyer at a very prestigious New York firm – sat silently for a moment, and then lectured me on how I apparently didn’t have the liberal arts background necessary to work at his firm.
Setting aside how happy I am, in retrospect, that I didn’t wind up working for someone who would grill me about medieval history, it is rare that any job interview question involves saints or other facets of religious belief. Most employers don’t delve into that subject with candidates – either they don’t care to inquire, or they don’t believe religion (or lack of it) has any bearing on the quality of an employee’s work.
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.
This week in suits by suits (and jerseys):
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.