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What is at-will employment?

Employees who are unhappy with something that has happened at work often send us email messages seeking help. For example, they may complain that they have had their hours reduced, their office moved, or don’t get a lunch break. Of course, these employees don’t think what has happened is fair. They need the money from the extra hours they no longer work.

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Historic settlement of sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit

On June 28, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it had settled one of its first lawsuits alleging sexual orientation discrimination. The settlement—in the form of a consent decree—requires Pallet Companies, doing business as IFCO Systems (IFCO), to pay $202,200 in addition to a number of nonmonetary requirements. This landmark decree comes less than a year after the EEOC first concluded that discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation amounted to sex discrimination.

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Employers can’t contract out discrimination to temp agencies

An Alabama staffing firm (sometimes called a temp agency) has recently come under fire for employment discrimination. News reports allege that the firm honored requests for whites-only temporary workers. These reports indicate that, sometimes, the client would use code words like “country boys” to request white employees. In its defense, the firm has responded that it does not honor such requests.

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Employers face greater challenge in defending discrimination lawsuits

In a case of first impression, Quigg v. Thomas County School District, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the burden-shifting framework (known as “McDonell Douglas”) established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 for cases involving mixed-motive discrimination claims. Instead, the Court adopted a less stringent standard, allowing claims to proceed where the plaintiff is able to show that (1) the defendant took an adverse employment action against the plaintiff and (2) a protected characteristic was a motivating factor for the adverse employment action.

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Pregnancy discrimination remains part of EEOC’s focus

As the summer drew to a close, the EEOC continued to aggressively pursue claims of pregnancy discrimination, filing a total of eight lawsuits involving pregnancy-related discrimination in the month of September alone. These cases range from New Mexico to Georgia and include a wide variety of employers from a commercial moving company to a temporary staffing agency to a home healthcare provider. Despite these differences, however, a common thread throughout the cases is the consistent “no tolerance” position of the EEOC related to pregnancy discrimination. This policy prohibits discrimination based on (a) current pregnancies, (b) past pregnancies, (c) potential or intended pregnancies, and (d) medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

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