I need to start off with a confession: my name is Bill and I’m an insurance lawyer. (“Welcome, Bill”). I’m going to be writing about insurance as it applies to employment-related disputes. Even though you may think insurance is a very dry subject, I promise to make it as interesting as I can – although there will be no dancing green lizards in any of these posts. And, if you work for (or defend) a company that can face suits by employees, you may find these posts very helpful when it comes to protecting your corporate bottom line from those suits.
Many of the other folks who write on this blog are able to tell great tales of high-profile fights between executives and their companies. Those are important stories and they are at the core of what this blog is about. My perspective on employment disputes is somewhat different: I look at whether a company’s insurance policies can provide the company with a defense against an action brought by an employee (or reimbursement for fees and costs when a company defends itself), and whether those policies will cover a judgment or settlement of the case. It can be a little esoteric at times, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of individual words in an insurance policy.
A hullabaloo. A brouhaha. Even, perhaps, a ruckus, if you will.
Those words describe what’s been happening with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board – the entity that oversees our two main airports in this region, Washington-Dulles and National (formally “Ronald Reagan National,” but National to us Washingtonians who have lived in the area more than ten years). The airports themselves are running fairly well.
The problem is with another thing the MWAA board is overseeing – construction of the Silver Line, a $6.8 billion, 29-mile extension of the Washington subway out to the Washington-Dulles airport. The Silver Line has been a fierce battleground for all of the parties involved – Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia (which partly finance the project through their funding of the subway system), taxpayers along the route of the line (who add more money), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (which contributes the largest share). Those parties, and others, fight nearly continuously on all sorts of issues – from whether the last station should be in the Dulles terminal or outside of it, through the composition of the labor force building it, and where it should go. And, of course, their respective shares of the cost of the project.
This week in suits by suits:
We continue our examination of the many things today's CEOs need to keep in mind -- things they may not have taught in business school. Today, it's the sometimes hot-button issue of the role of religion in the workplace, this time with a look at a recently-filed lawsuit that’s drawn considerable public attention. (See also here and here.)
Now, most businesses have some sort of dress code, including Zuckerman Spaeder. When a company’s employees routinely interact with customers and the public – say, a retail store or restaurant – many employers go beyond a simple dress code in an effort to establish a company-wide uniform “look.” Perhaps no place on earth goes quite as far as Disneyland, where employees are considered “cast members” and – even when not dressed as a giant cartoon mouse – are asked to reflect certain “themes” throughout the park.
So what happens when one of those “cast members,” a young Muslim woman working as a hostess at a Disney café, requests the right to wear a hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf?
Sexual discrimination claims continue to be big news in the world of suits by suits. We’ve previously commented at some length regarding the novel issues raised in the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former Kleiner Perkins partner Ellen Pao.
Today, we turn to a related and equally unique issue: a sexual orientation claim brought under the auspices of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq. Although there is no federal statute that protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation generally, Brian Anthony Martinez, the former international managing director of television for Bloomberg Media, brought a lawsuit against his former employer in 2011, alleging that he was terminated after Bloomberg discovered that he had undergone therapy for domestic abuse from his male partner, thus (arguably) bringing his claims under the ADA.
This week's latest news in suits by suits:
This just in: on Thursday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law making it unlawful for an employer to request or require an employee or prospective employee to provide the password for his or her account or profile on a social networking site. The law, which amends Illinois’s existing Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, and goes into effect on January 1, 2013, supposedly addresses the trend of employers requiring job applicants to give access to their Facebook profiles as part of the job application process.
The latest gold medalists in the race for our attention:
On Monday, we talked about how plaintiffs can prove pregnancy discrimination by direct evidence – the proverbial “smoking gun.” Now, it’s time to tackle how a plaintiff can prove pregnancy discrimination under the McDonnell-Douglas test, through making a prima facie case of discrimination and then rebutting the employer’s assertion that it acted for legitimate, nonpretextual reasons. Once again, the star of our hypothetical scenario is Marissa Mayer, the newsworthy new Yahoo! CEO.
Marissa Mayer is big news these days. She’s the new Yahoo! CEO, at only 37 years old. She’s also expecting her first child, and made waves when she told Fortune Magazine that her maternity leave would be a “few weeks long” and she’d “work through it.”
All of the hullaballoo over Mayer’s career and personal life made the Suits by Suits team curious. What if Mayer suffered repercussions at Yahoo! due to her pregnancy or upcoming childbirth? How would she be able to prove that Yahoo! discriminated against her?
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