Maryland's New Workplace Laws, Including Significant Changes To Maryland's Anti-Discrimination Law

As of October 1, 2019, there are a series of new laws and/or amendments to existing laws that impact Maryland's workplaces and employers.  These include: Significant FEPA Amendments:  Maryland's anti-discrimination law, the Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), now includes independent contractors within the definition of employee entitled to FEPA's protections.  Further, while FEPA generally applies to Maryland employers who have at least...
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Employee’s Medical Leave Can Be An Adverse Employment Action If Caused By Discriminatory Comments

A recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois demonstrates how a supervisor’s repeated derogatory comments about an employee’s Middle Eastern background and religion that forced her to take medical leave became a triable discrimination claim.  Odisho v. U.S. Bancorp, Inc., No. 16 C 11121 (N.D. Ill. 7/24/19). Juliet Odisho worked as a Structured Finance Analyst for US Bank (“Bank”) where she reported to...
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Fourth Circuit Rejects Employee’s Claim of Mexican Heritage Bias

Direct, qualification, and comparator evidence, oh my!  In a recent decision, the Fourth Circuit recounted the ways in which a former utility distribution serviceman failed to prove discrimination in violation of Title VII and Section 1981.  Matias v. Elon University, No. 18-2507 (4th Cir. 7/22/19) (unpublished). Matias, who is Mexican, worked for Elon University from 1999 to 2016.  After being promoted to utility distribution serviceman in 2005,...
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Rumors About Sleeping With Her Boss Nets One Employee A Viable Sexual Harassment Claim

In today's #MeToo age, it is hard not to know that sexual harassment is wrong and illegal.  This recent case of unlawful sexual harassment comes with an admittedly unexpected lens.  Rumors that a female employee is "sleeping her way to the top" is the latest version of prohibited sexual harassment in workplace.  While endless movies, TV shows and real life certainly contain examples of others discussing by the proverbial water cooler how so-and-so...
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When is Enough Harassment Investigation Enough?

Over my career, I have dealt with my share of “you can’t make this up” situations.  The kind where outrageously offensive or harassing workplace behavior has occurred, and the employer needs to – and wants to – figure out who did it and take steps to stop it from happening again. Indeed, that’s one of the benefits of representing management:  you can have the chance to assist in helping change culture (even if that “culture” appears...
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Sexual Harassment, Holiday Parties, Handbooks, and other End-of-Year Musings

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt
11/29/2017
I do not think a day has passed since Harvey Weinstein's ouster that we don't learn about a new public figure-newscaster-actor-politician-other notable name who has been accused of sexual harassment (or similar behavior) and lost his job.  Today, I woke to news of Matt Lauer's termination from NBC.  A few moments ago I received an email advising that Garrison Keillor has been accused of inappropriate behavior and that Minnesota Public Radio will be...
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When One Word Is Too Much... Single Racial Slur May Support Hostile Work Environment Claim

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt
10/01/2017
In Castleberry v. STI Group, No. 16-3131 (3d Cir. 2017), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that a manager's one-time use of a racial slur, combined with his threat to fire a Black employee, could be enough to support a Section 1981 hostile work environment claim. Two Black laborers sued their staffing agency (STI) and the client location where they were placed (Chesapeake Energy Group) based on their treatment at Chesapeake. They were not...
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Former Chipotle Employee To Get Trial on Racial Harassment Claim

An employer can avoid liability for one employee’s harassment of another employee if it takes prompt remedial action to address that harassment.  One way to do this is for an employer to conduct an investigation, counsel the involved employees, and/or discipline the harassing employee.  On the other hand, telling an employee who complains about racial harassment to “shut up, n***er” is not the right way to address harassment complaints....
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Prompt Investigation Helps Employer Avoid Liability On Harassment Claim

In a recent decision from a Mississippi federal court, Nissan avoided liability on a former employee’s sexual harassment claim because she could not show that her employer acted negligently in responding to her complaints.  Davenport v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., No. 3:14-CV-00671-CWR-LRA (S.D. Miss. Oct. 22, 2015). From August 2012 until January 2014, Joslyne Davenport worked as a production associate at a Nissan manufacturing plant in Canton,...
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Name Calling, Prayer Circle, and Social Shunning Help Revive Discrimination Claims

Reversing a decision it described as “replete with error,” the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has revived an employee’s claims of retaliation, and religion- and national origin-based hostile work environment.  Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Cir. Ct. of Cook Cnty., No. 12-2217 (7th Cir. Oct. 21, 2015). Fozyia Huri, a Muslim from Saudi Arabia, began working for the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois in 2000.  Huri...
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