Recent laws in North Carolina and Mississippi and the subsequent backlash are all over the news.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ogberfell v. Hodges making gay marriage legal across the country is not even a year old.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals very recently rule in favor of the right of transgender high school students to use bathrooms for the gender with which they associate.  LGBTQ rights are at the forefront like never before.  Employment discrimination is no exception.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has recently filed two separate suits in Pennsylvania and Maryland district courts challenging the long-held belief that Title VII does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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We previously posted about the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)’s new fact sheet, entitled “Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking,” and considered the fact sheet’s examples as to how an employer might violate Title VII’s prohibitions in discriminating against applicants or employees who experience domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

In this post we’re going to consider the ADA examples provided on the fact sheet, and our recommendations for how you can avoid discriminating against the victims of domestic violence in your workplace.
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As HR professionals, we often think about how to prevent domestic violence from spilling over into workplace violence, through the use of workplace violence policies, domestic violence response teams, and “no guns in the workplace” policies.

You may not, however, have given much thought as to how to prevent discrimination and retaliation against victims of domestic violence who are employed by your company, or who have sought employment with your company.  This issue is crucially important to victims of domestic violence; when they lose their jobs, or fail to obtain employment, they lose the ability to be economically independent, and oftentimes then remain controlled by their abuser.  This issue is also critically important to employers, who may inadvertently subject themselves to liability if they are not aware of the federal, state, and local laws that protect the victims of domestic violence from discrimination and retaliation.
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A previous post discussed a huge jury verdict for an employee who was harassed and mistreated at work due to her religion.  The lesson:  harassing an employee, subjecting her to a hostile work environment, and retaliating against her for complaining about harassment are all wrong, illegal and expensive.

A decision handed down yesterday by the federal appeals Court covering Georgia, Alabama and Florida has made that point again.  In doing so, it further explained that retaliating by creating a hostile work environment for employees who complain about discrimination also violates Title VII — and is also wrong, illegal and expensive.
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A few weeks ago, our colleague posted about whether obesity would become a protected class.

Biases based upon appearance don’t end with obesity.  Studies show that:

Can our current set of federal, state, and local discrimination laws and regulations properly address appearance-based discrimination?  Or does this bias demand that unattractiveness be made a new protected class?


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