Supreme Court to Revisit Faragher/Ellerth Defense to Harassment Claims

Soon after Thanksgiving, next Monday in fact, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on a case of immense importance to employers, employees, and the employment law community.  In Vance v. Ball State University, the Court will address the question of who is a “supervisor” in the context of harassment cases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like the debate at Thanksgiving dinner over whose stuffing is better, there is a circuit...
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Of Petraeus, Paramours, and Email

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell
11/14/2012
As someone who has represented employers in employment law matters for more than 25 years, I have seen more than a few high level executives brought down by extramarital dalliances.  Married CEO’s who end up in bed with an administrative assistant; sales executives who send racy emails to a subordinate while sipping their fourth Jim Beam at a lonely hotel bar; human resources  professionals “sexting” coworkers .. you name it.  There is not...
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Virginia Supreme Court Holds That Supervisors May Be Personally Liable for Wrongful Discharge

Garrett Wozniak
Garrett Wozniak
11/02/2012
On November 1, 2012, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that a supervisor may be subject to tort liability for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy where the individual participated in the wrongful firing and was the violator of public policy. VanBuren v. Grubb, 120348 (Va. Nov. 1, 2012) (Millette, J.).  The Court addressed the issue upon certification from the Fourth Circuit. Angela VanBuren was a nurse at Virginia Highlands Orthopedic...
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Buttocks Slap Not Harassment; Complaint Not Protected Activity; Termination Not Retaliation. Really.

It is football season, so apparently it is time to revisit the issue of the workplace buttocks slap.  Justice Scalia noted in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75 (1998), when discussing whether an employee might find certain workplace behavior “objectionably offensive,” that a professional football player would not be embarrassed or harassed if his coach smacks him on the buttocks as he heads out onto the field.  This same...
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You Can’t Have Your Sex Harassment Cake and Eat It Too …

In order for a plaintiff in a sex harassment case to prevail on a claim of hostile work environment sex harassment, the employee must show that the offensive behavior was unwelcome.  On September 17, 2012, a federal court in Illinois relied upon this principle of law to reject a harassment claim brought by a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee.   Jacober v. Dept. of Agriculture, No. 3:10-cv-00422 (S.D. Ill. 2012).  In Jacober, an employee...
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Title VII is Not Exclusive Remedy for Discrimination Claims by Public Employees

By Eric Paltell  Unlike private sector employees, persons employed by state and local governments have workplace rights conferred upon them by the United States Constitution. A recent court decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that these Constitutional rights allow public sector employees to pursue discrimination claims even if they have not filed claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Henley...
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