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Supreme Court affirms ministerial exception to discrimination suits

A unanimous Supreme Court today confirmed what a number of Courts of Appeal have held over the years: the First Amendment prohibits certain employees of Church organizations from suing for employment discrimination. Cheryl Perich worked for Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School as a teacher. Because she had completed certain academic requirements, she was classified [...]

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EEOC limits defenses in disparate impact age cases

On November 16, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a draft final rule that limits an employer’s defenses in age discrimination cases by removing the “business necessity” defense from disparate impact challenges under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). In particular, the rule eliminates business necessity from the ADEA’s “reasonable factors other than [...]

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A Primer on Bringing and Defeating Motions for Punitive Damages in Employment Cases

A decision last week by U.S. Magistrate Judge Janie Mayeron offers an excellent analysis of the appropriate standards used in evaluating a claim for punitive damages in an employment case in federal court. Defendant SMS provided housekeeping services to Ridgedale Mall. Defendant Gonzalez was employed by SMS as a facility manager for SMS, and in [...]

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Court of Appeals limits “Aiding and Abetting” claims under MHRA

The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an important decision last week clarifying the standard for imposing “aiding and abetting” liability under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Going forward, a plaintiff will have to prove that a defendant both knew that another person’s conduct constituted a violation of the act and also gave “substantial” assistance or [...]

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Minnesota Supreme Court broadens protections for married individuals

  The Minnesota Supreme Court today issued an important decision clarifying and broadening the contours of marital discrimination in light of recent legislative changes. LeAnn Taylor began working for LSI in 1988 as a receptionist/secretary.  In February 2001, she was promoted to Sales and Marketing Coordinator.  In June 2001, she married Gary Taylor, the president [...]

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Harassment by a customer is actionable.

  While it is a non-binding decision from another jurisdiction, the decision in EEOC v. Cromer Food Services is worth noting because it addresses two uncommon yet problematic fact situations:  same-sex harassment, and harassment by a customer.  An employee of CFS claimed to suffer a daily barrage of lewd comments and gestures by employees of [...]

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Retaliation and Whistleblower Claims against University dismissed

  Judge Donovan Frank of the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis recently granted summary judgment in favor of the University of Minnesota in a case brought by Terry Teachout that raises some interesting employment law issues. Teachout worked in the University’s Risk Management office from 1993 to 2008.  When his position was eliminated as part of [...]

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Addressing discrimination and the law of unintended consequences

  Very interesting article in today’s New York Times about the backlash that can result from  an institution’s efforts to address gender discrimination. It seems that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology acknowledged 12 years ago that it had discriminated against female professors in “subtle but pervasive” ways,  and its subsequent efforts to address that discrimination became [...]

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Supreme Court decides important “cat’s paw” case

  The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a potentially far-reaching opinion in a “cat’s paw” case, considering when an employer may be held liable for discrimination based on the actions of an employee who influenced, but did not make, the ultimate employment decision.  (The term “cat’s paw” derives from an Aesop’s fable in which a [...]

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Dealing with employees who have alcohol or drug issues

  Employees who have drug or alcohol issues provide employers with some of their trickiest HR problems.  Attorney Carmen Couden of Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee has published a very helpful article  on dealing with such employees.  Among her recommendations:    1) Establish a policy that provides for severe consequences for employees who report to work under the [...]

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