Tag Archives: sex

Discrimination for being “unmanly”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (en banc) ruled that an iron worker who was subjected to gay slurs and simulated sex because he failed to conform to the employer’s male stereotypes was discriminated against under Title VII.

In EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., No. 11-30770 (5th Cir. Sept. 27, 2013), the  court reviewed the jury’s findings and awarded damages.  The Fifth Circuit found that taking the case as a whole, a jury could have found that the employee was harassed because he did not fall under the “manly-man stereotype.”

This case arose when a worker, Kerry Woods, was subjected to sex harassment.  Woods was often sexual derogatory terms regarding Woods’ sexuality.  In addition, the superintendent also exposed himself when Woods was going to the bathroom, and made sexual innuendo comments to Woods.  When these actions were brought to the employer, the superintendent told the general superintendent that he didn’t care for Woods because he was “different” and “didn’t fit in.”

After trial the jury found that this verbal and physical harassment occurred daily.  The jury awarded Woods $200,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

via Harassed for being unmanly? En banc court sees Title VII violation; dissent sees clean-talk enforcer.

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Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Sex Discrimination

The E.E.O.C. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) issued a press release about an important decision coming from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In this decision, the court held that the company unlawfully discriminated against a female employee when they fired her.  In this case, the female employee was lactating or expressing milk.  The female employee asked her employer if she would be able to pump breast milk at work.  The company then fired the employee.

The court relied on the Title VII of Civil Rights Act, which was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1987.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provided that a company could not discriminate against a female worker on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the argument that “pregnancy-related conditions” ended on the day the mother gave birth.  In its decision, the court explained that lactation was a physiological condition distinct to women who have undergone a pregnancy.  In other words, women, not men, lactate or express milk.  Therefore, a company discriminates based on sex when it fires a woman for lactating.

via Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Sex Discrimination.

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DOMA is unconstitutional

The Supreme Court opinion on United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (2013) held that DOMA was unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment when it failed to recognize same-sex marriage federally.

It is important to note that the reasoning behind this ruling was based on the fact that there are States which granted same-sex marriage but were not recognized federally.  By failing to recognize those same-sex marriages, the government was discriminating against same-sex married couples.  In doing so, same-sex married couples were deprived of the benefits and responsibilities of over 1,000 federal laws.  Including protections under criminal law and provide financial harm to children of same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court noted that the State’s authority to regulate marriages was being squashed by the federal government.  Based on precedent, “[e]ach state as a sovereign has a rightful and legitimate concern in the marital status of persons domiciled within its borders.”  “The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the ‘[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.'” (italics added).

Instead of respecting the State’s authority to regulate marriages, DOMA’s purpose was to “impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a sigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”

Given that DOMA’s purpose was to impose restrictions and disabilities, the Supreme Court stated that “[b]y doing so [DOMA] violates basic due process and equal protection principles.”

The Supreme Court found that

DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.  The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency….

DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.  By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.

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Wal-Mart Class Action: class not narrowed

I bring to you this legal decision in a sex discrimination class action against Wal-Mart because it provides an example of a class that was not narrowed by the Court.  This is the Dukes case that went up to the Supreme Court to discuss the issue of commonality.  This decision can be found here.

In a 2001 federal complaint led by Betty Dukes, a putative class claimed that Wal-Mart Stores received paid women less and offered them fewer promotions than it offered men in comparable positions.

Though a San Francisco federal judge initially certified a class that would cover estimated 1.5 million women, making it the largest civil rights case in U.S. history, the Supreme Court disbanded that class in 2011 on the basis of lacking commonality. On remand, the plaintiffs filed a fourth amended complaint that seeks to certify a narrower class than that rejected by the high court.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based company responded with a motion to strike the class allegations. It claims that the statute of limitations bars the claims, and that the newly proposed class still fails to meet the commonality requirement.

Denying that motion, the Northern District of California set a deadline of Jan. 11, 2013, for the class-certification motion.  Undeterred, Wal-Mart sought leave to file an interim appeal with the 9th Circuit.

Wal-Mart argued that the Dukes Supreme Court decision should be interpreted as a total rejection of plaintiffs’ theories.  The District Court disagreed.  The District Court held that the Dukes Supreme Court decision rested on plaintiffs’ “inadequacy of their proof.”

The District Court explained:

The Supreme Court’s decision foreclosed claims that delegated discretion -alone- is sufficient to state a common question for purposes of Rule 23.  It does not follow that any time a plaintiff alleges that a company has a policy involving some amount of delegated discretion, the plaintiff is precluded from showing a classwide pattern or practice of discrimination or a common mode of exercising delegate discretion susceptible to classwide relief.  That is why the Supreme Court reached the question whether the plaintiffs had evidence on those points sufficient to establish a common question under Rule 23.

In his conclusion, Judge Breyer denied the interlocutory appeal “on the grounds that (1) immediate appeal would not, at this time, materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation in light of the impending certification motion, and (2) no substantial grounds for difference of opinion exist regarding the commonality issue.”

via Courthouse News Service.

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