Sanders v. Lee County Sch. Dist. No. 1, ___F.3d____ (8th Cir. Feb. 28, 2012), demonstrates that Title VII applies to all races, include white employees. The Eighth Circuit held that a federal district court erred in overturning a jury’s verdict in favor of a white former employee that claimed the majority African-American school board constructively discharged her from her position as the Arkansas school distict’s financial coordinator. The panel also reversed the lower court’s ruling overturning the jury’s award of punitive damages. However, it remanded the issue of punitive damages to district court, along with the issue of attorney fees, to the lower court.
Daily Archives: June 1, 2012
A federal appeals court has struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act on equal protection and federalism grounds.
The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law discriminates against married gay couples who are denied federal benefits, the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times report. The case is “all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court,” AP says.
The appeals court said rationales offered in support of the federal benefit ban are not sufficient under a standard of “closer than usual review.” The court ruled in challenges to the law filed by the state of Massachusetts, and by a group of same-sex couples and surviving spouses of such couples who were married in the state.
“Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest,” the opinion (PDF) said.
The court ruled in a challenge to Section 3 of the law that defines marriages, for federal purposes, as a legal union between one man and one woman. Under the law, same-sex married couples are not entitled to the same federal economic benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. The benefits include the right to file joint federal tax returns, to receive Social Security survivor benefits after the death of a spouse, and to access health insurance benefits of spouses who work for the federal government.
The unanimous ruling doesn’t reach a second portion of the law that says states cannot be forced to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. The author of the opinion, Judge Michael Boudin, is an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The other panel members are appointees of Presidents Clinton and Reagan.
The U.S. Justice Department had originally supported the law in the federal district court in Massachusetts and in initial briefs before the 1st Circuit. Later the department switched its stance and argued in a new brief that the law violated equal protection guarantees.
The 1st Circuit panel stayed its ruling “anticipating that certiorari will be sought and that Supreme Court review of DOMA is highly likely.”
“This case is difficult because it couples issues of equal protection and federalism with the need to assess the rationale for a congressional statute passed with minimal hearings and lacking in formal findings,” the appeals court said. “In addition, Supreme Court precedent offers some help to each side, but the rationale in several cases is open to interpretation. We have done our best to discern the direction of these precedents, but only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case.
It’s my favorite foil for employment classes for a reason. According to the DOL, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay more than $ 4.8 million in back wages and damages to 4500 workers improperly classified as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions. The superstore will also pay about $450,000 in civil fines. From the press release,
The violations affected current and former vision center managers and asset protection coordinators at Wal-Mart Discount Stores, Wal-Mart Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club warehouses. Wal-Mart failed to compensate these employees with overtime pay, considering them to be exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements. The Labor Department’s investigation found that the employees are nonexempt and consequently due overtime pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a week.
“Misclassification of employees as exempt from FLSA coverage is a costly problem with adverse consequences for employees and corporations,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Let this be a signal to other companies that when violations are found, the Labor Department will take appropriate action to ensure that workers receive the wages they have earned.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay all back wages the department determined are owed for the violations in addition to paying liquidated damages to the employees and a penalty to the department. The civil money penalties assessed stem from the repeat nature of the violations. Wal-Mart, which operates more than 3,900 establishments in the United States, corrected its classification practices for these workers in 2007, and negotiation over the back pay issues has been ongoing since that time. A third-party administrator will disburse the payments to the affected employees.
“Our department has been working with Wal-Mart for a long time to reach this agreement,” said Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “I am very pleased that staff in our Southwest region persevered, ensured these employees will be paid the back wages they are owed and brought this case to conclusion. Thanks to this resolution, thousands of employees will see money put back into their pockets that should have been there all along. The damages and penalties assessed in this case should put other employers on notice that they cannot avoid their obligations to their employees by inappropriately classifying their workers as exempt.”