On June 20, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a new development that will make it much easier for employers and attorneys to determine past precedent and prior case logic. The Commission stated it has now placed all appellate and amicus briefs for more than a decade on its website.
The briefs—which date back to the year 2000—will be searchable by key word or catchphrase, to allow employers to find information on specific topics related to issues they are dealing with. In a press release dated June 20, 2012, the EEOC noted employers could search phrases such as “reasonable accommodation diabetes” to identify related cases.
But you don’t have to stop there. Employers or attorneys interested in cases filed locally, for example, can search the database by a specific court. Other options to narrow the search include sorting by case name, type of brief or the specific statutes involved.
The database will remain a relevant and current resource—EEOC confirmed that new briefs will be entered within weeks of being filed in court.
The database is housed on the EEOC’s external website. To search cases, employers can access the direct link here.
While the decision itself may have been replicated in federal courts around the nation, the April 2012 ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the refusal to hire a qualified applicant because of the fact the candidate was transgender was sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Mia Macy was a transgender woman who applied—initially as a male—for a job as a ballistics technician with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). As a male, Macy was told she was “virtually guaranteed” the job. In fact, Macy was a distinctly qualified applicant, possessing both a military background and a law enforcement background. In addition, according to the Transgender Law Center, Ms. Macy was “one of the few people in the country who had already been trained on ATF’s ballistics computer system.”
However, partway through the background process—once Ms. Macy disclosed that she was in the process of changing gender—she was abruptly told by the ATF that the position no longer had funding and would not be available. But Macy knew something wasn’t right when she later discovered that another applicant had been awarded the position instead.
Ms. Macy filed a complaint with the ATF, who refused to hear her complaint, stating that she could not avail herself of the complaint process because Title VII did not apply to transgender employees. The recent decision from the EEOC has corrected that misinterpretation and clarifies that gender identity and gender stereotyping is protected, encompassed under the general umbrella of sex discrimination already established in law. In the decision, the EEOC clarified “the term ‘gender’ encompasses not just a person’s biological sex but also the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.”
The ruling has been hailed as a groundbreaking, landmark decision because it sets clear and consistent standards employers must follow on a national level.
The EEOC decision has no impact on the current EEOC labor law poster nor do any future changes.
The SEP will establish a specific framework and approach “for achieving the EEOC’s mission to stop and remedy unlawful employment discrimination.” As a result, the Commission is reaching out to employers, advocacy groups and any other interested parties who would like to submit input on the specific items that should be considered under the plan.
The EEOC has already identified several points of focus for the plan:
- Strategic Law Enforcement
- Education and Outreach
- Efficient Service to the Public
However, the Commission would like feedback and suggestions on what the national priorities should be for the plan to have “the greatest impact in combating discrimination in the workplace,” and is seeking recommendations on specific ways to improve enforcement, outreach and customer service in those areas.
If you have input to provide, don’t delay. All submissions must be submitted by 5:00 pm EDT on June 19, 2012. Be sure to enter your contact email or mailing address, because selected submissions will be invited to testify before the Commission in Washington, D.C. Phone or video feed would also be available for individuals to testify without traveling.
Send your suggestions to:
Mail: Executive Officer,
Office of the Executive Secretariat,
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
131 M Street, NE,
Washington, DC 20507
The federal agency took the unusual action of eliminating portions of the ADAAA regulations that were most troubling to employers. On March 24, 2011, the EEOC adopted the final rule implementing the ADAAA or Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. However, the EEOC stepped back from designating a list of conditions that are always disabilities under ADAAA.
Under the new regulations, the EEOC still requires an expansive definition of disability in the workplace. It cautions employers that most employees will not require extensive analysis to determine if they have a disability. However, instead of providing a list of presumed disabilities, the new ADAAA regulations link certain conditions to the individual’s limitation to a major life activity.
Some conditions that are still a disability if they limit a major life activity:
The EEOC reports that 2011 is on track to exceed the record number of retaliation lawsuits set in 2010. Last year, the EEOC collected more money than ever before from employers charged with retaliation after a complaint was filed.
In a recent ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that employee Eric Thompson was protected from retaliation by his employer, even when the complaint was filed by his fiancée. Thompson, an engineer, was fired from North American Stainless LP three weeks after his fiancée filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Initially, the 6th Circuit Court of Appealsdetermined that Thompson had no protection under Title VII because he was not the person who filed the complaint. Thompson had a workplace romance with coworker Miriam Regalado. Their engagement was well known within the company before Regalado filed the discrimination complaint with the EEOC.
In a rare unanimous decision, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling. The justices found that earlier court rulings set a very broad definition of retaliation as “any action that would discourage a reasonable person from filing a complaint.” Penalizing a spouse, family member or other third party would fall into that category, according to the court. Read about the ruling here.