Volume 5, Issue 4
April 2016
On March 3, 2015, the Louisiana Attorney General issued Opinion No. 16-0020 which concludes that the local hiring ordinance recently implemented by the City of New Orleans violates state law. The Attorney General Opinion reviewed Ordinance No, 26607 which established "HireNOLA" which requires all contractors and subcontractors on all City of New Orleans public works contracts  over $150,000 to make "good faith efforts" to achieve a certain percentage of the work hours performed by "local workers" (persons domiciled in Orleans Parish). The full article by Steven B. Loeb can be found here.
First EEOC Suits Filed Challenging Orientation Discrimination as Gender Bias
The EEOC has filed its first lawsuits accusing employers of gender bias for discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. The two separate lawsuits - one in Pennsylvania federal court against Scott Medical Health Center and the other in Maryland federal court against Pallet Cos. -accuse the companies of violating Title VII protection against gender bias. The EEOC argues that sexual orientation is under the same protections as gender. According to EEOC General Counsel David Lopez, the "EEOC is continuing to solidify its commitment to ensuring that individuals are not discriminated against in workplaces because of their sexual orientation." In the case against Scott Medical Health Center, a gay male employee was allegedly repeatedly harassed by his manager. When the employee complained, a clinic director said the manager was "just doing his job" and refused to take action. The employee quit his job to avoid further harassment. In the suit against Pallet Companies, also known as IFCO Systems NA, a supervisor allegedly harassed a lesbian employee because of her sexual orientation, including making comments like, "I want to turn you back into a woman." The employee complained about the treatment on a harassment tip line, but was fired a few days later allegedly in retaliation for her complaint. 
Title VII Claim Based on Sexual Orientation Dismissed 
Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a federal district court in New York ruled that a gay marketing firm employee cannot proceed with a claim of alleged workplace harassment based on his sexual orientation. The employer, Omnicom Group Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss was based upon the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit precedent that the employee, Matthew Christiansen, failed to state a cognizable claim under Title VII because federal law does not reach bias based on sexual orientation. However, the District Court Judge, Katherine Polk Faila noted that it may be time to reconsider whether Title VII's ban on gender discrimination should extend to bias based on sexual orientation. 
Jury Finds Taco Bell in Violation of California Law for Underpaid Skipped-Break Wages
A class of Taco Bell employees was awarded $496,000 after a jury in California found that Taco Bell was in violation of California law for underpaying employees when they missed meal breaks. The class of employees, led by former Taco Bell employees Lisa Hardiman and Sandrika Medlock claimed that from 2003 through late 2007, the fast food restaurant maintained a policy of paying only 30 minutes of wages when an employee skipped their meal break, rather than the required one hour under California law. The class of roughly 134,000 employees were awarded $495,913 in unpaid wages. However, the jury declined to side with the workers on claims that from 2003 to 2013 Taco Bell violated California law by failing to provide meal breaks to employees before their fifth hour of work when they worked a shift longer than six hours. The jury also denied the class claim that Taco Bell broke the state's rules by giving its employees just one 10-minute break for shifts lasting up to seven hours. 
Public Union Fees Upheld Due to Supreme Court Tie
With the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court reached a split decision on a long-standing rule that requires public employees, including teachers, transit workers and others, to pay a "fair share fee" to support their union. The vote comes as a relief to union officials who worried the court would strike down the pro-union laws that authorized the "fair share fees." Due to the tied vote of the Supreme Court, the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will stand. The case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., claimed that an Orange  County teacher had her free-speech rights violated because she was forced to support a union that she opposed. The 9th Circuit rejected the claim and cited a Supreme Court ruling from 1977 which upheld laws that required public employees to help pay the cost of collective bargaining on the theory that all benefit to some degree. 

Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. Labor & Employment Attorneys



  Rachael M. Coe

 Leo C. Hamilton