U.S. Supreme Court Splits the Baby in Pregnancy Discrimination Act Case


In December, I highlighted the United States Supreme Court’s hearing of Young v. United Parcel Service, one of the more high-profile employment discrimination cases before the Court for that term.  As a recap, Young, a former employee of UPS, sued the delivery company for allegedly discriminating against her in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), which requires employers to treat “women affected by pregnancy . . . the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”  The specific issue before the Supreme Court in Young was whether the PDA requires employers to offer pregnant employees the same workplace accommodations that the employer offers to non-pregnant employees with the same work restrictions. For a complete review of the case presented to the Court, click here. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled on Young, ultimately overturning the Fourth […]

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The Good Offense: An Employer’s Best Game Plan


No one ever accused me of hating a cliché. With March Madness upon us, a good sports reference seemed timely – “the best defense is a good offense.” Putting aside our brackets for a moment, this adage is equally applicable to employers seeking to avoid expensive, time-consuming litigation. The first line of defense in an employment lawsuit or an investigation by a federal agency, including an investigation by the Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Tennessee Human Rights Commission, is a demonstration by the employer that it has developed effective workplace anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Such policies must include, at a minimum, warnings against unlawful behavior, as well as provisions outlining grievance and investigation procedures. These equal employment opportunity policies should not only exist, but more importantly, must be “effective.”  In other words, employers should practice what they preach. Additional cliché intended. Although clear policies prohibiting workplace behavior are […]

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Discriminatory Comments in the Workplace: Proper Response is Key


From the Paula Deen debacle of 2013 to Kristi Capel’s recent newscast commentary, examples abound of insensitive, improper, and arguably, discriminatory comments in the workplace. These inappropriate comments and the subsequent public outrage demonstrate the importance of an employer’s establishment of strict policies prohibiting unlawful discrimination and harassment, whether intentional or unintentional, in the workplace. Employers should not only set policies prohibiting such behavior, but also, establish procedures for reporting and investigating complaints of such behavior at work. Employers are also well-advised to create policies for responding to discriminatory behavior by employees.  For instance, when news anchor Kristi Capel used the racially offensive term “jigaboo” when speaking to her African-American co-anchor in a discussion about the Academy Awards, her employer, Fox 8, immediately responded by removing Capel from morning newscasts for a few day.  Fox 8 then released the following statement: “Kristi apologized on air . . . . [There] is no excuse […]

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Monday Morning “How-To”: Responding to an EEOC Charge


It is Monday morning. You’ve got a hot cup of coffee in your hand, the weekend in the rearview. You get started on your day, make some calls, open your mail, when – bam – an EEOC Charge of Discrimination. Meh. EEOC Charges are common in my line of work, but for many employers, these agency notifications are jarring. With little notice, an employer is faced with impending deadlines and overwhelming information and document requests. Proactive employers immediately seek legal counsel, who can walk them through this oft-demanding process. While I encourage all employers to seek legal assistance upon receipt of an EEOC Charge of Discrimination, I offer the following information to help calm business owners’ Monday morning-nerves. Let’s start with the basics – who or what is the EEOC? The EEOC, or United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, enforces federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against job applicants […]

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Damages under the Tennessee Wage Regulation Act and Fair Labor Standards Act


Last week, I discussed a Tennessee employer’s responsibility to provide employees with a bona fide meal break where the employee works six (6) consecutive hours. Within that article, I touched on the significant consequences, including monetary damages, that might befall an employer who fails to abide by the Tennessee Wage Regulation Act and/or the Fair Labor Standards Act.  This article will explore those consequences in depth. First, where an employer has violated the Tennessee Wage Regulation Act, the state law governing wage and hour requirements, an employee’s avenues for relief are limited. The TWRA provides no private right of action to aggrieved employees. See Abadeer v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 975 F.Supp.2d 890 (M.D. Tenn.  2013).  In other words, an employee cannot sue an employer for violating the TWRA.  Rather, an employee’s method for ensuring an employer is held accountable for a TWRA violation is to file a complaint with the Tennessee Department of […]

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