Fourth Circuit Rejects Professor's Pay Discrimination Claim

On March 18, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a grant of summary judgment to Virginia State University, rejecting a sociology professor’s claims that she was paid less than two male colleagues because she is a woman. The Court agreed with Senior District Court Judge Henry Hudson that the disparity in pay was the result of differences in job responsibilities, as well as the fact that the men had both been...
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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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Virginia General Assembly Considering Bills to Allow Employees to Sue for Unpaid Wages

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell
01/29/2019
Unlike many states, Virginia does not provide a statutory right for employees to sue their employer for unpaid wages.  At present, an employee is limited to filing a complaint with the state Department of Labor & Industry or filing suit for breach of contract. However, two bills introduced by Delegates from both sides of the aisle may soon change that. House Bills 1687 and 2524 would both amend Virginia Code Section 40.1-29 to allow employees...
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Virginia Employer Defeats Retaliation Claim With Timely Documentation of Performance Issues

A Fourth Circuit case decided this past week is yet another example of how documenting employee performance problems-- at the time they actually occur-- can save an employer from a retaliation claim, even when an employee is fired immediately after a complaint of unfair treatment.  McDougald v. Quad/Graphics Mktg., No. 18-1026 (4th Cir. 12/13/18). In this case, Plaintiff McDougald worked as a press tech in a printing plant acquired by Quad/Graphics...
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Failure to Mediate Bars Claim for Unpaid Wages

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell
09/07/2018
The Supreme Court of Virginia has affirmed the dismissal of a suit for unpaid wages because of the plaintiff's failure to seek mediation before filing suit.   In Primov v. Serco, Inc., the Court upheld the Circuit Court of Fairfax County's dismissal of a  complaint with prejudice upon sustaining a plea in bar for failure to comply with a contractual condition precedent before filing suit. In Primov, the plaintiff alleged that he had an employment...
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Male Employee's Sexual Comments to Male Coworker Sufficient to Send Harassment Claim to Jury

Sometimes I read cases that make me realize how boring and uneventful my worklife is compared to the workplaces we read about as employment lawyers and mediators (and that is a good thing).  A recent decision from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia  drove that point home yet again. In Funk v. MWX Technologies, Inc., No. 6:16-cv-53 (W.D. Va. 8/22/18), Terry Trent and Perry Funk were male co-workers.  According to...
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Virginia Federal Court Enforces Non-Compete Agreement

As a general rule, Virginia courts are reluctant to enforce non-compete agreements because they are disfavored restraints on trade. However, when the agreements are narrowly tailored, restrictive covenants will be enforced. A recent decision from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia provides good guidance as to what type of agreement will be upheld. Update, Inc. v. Lawrence Samilow, Case No. 1;18-cv-00462-TSE-JFA ...
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Pharmacy Not Liable for Employee’s Defamatory Statements Made In The Workplace

Bernadette Hunton
Bernadette Hunton
06/12/2018
Under the theory of vicarious liability, employers can be held responsible for an employee’s wrongful conduct provided he is acting within the scope of his employment.   But as the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reminded us this week, not all workplace conduct which gives rise to a lawsuit against an employee, gives rise to one against his employer as well.  Garnett v. Remedi Seniorcare of Virginia, LLC, No. 17-1890 (6/11/18). In this case,...
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Court Dismisses Grumpy Hospital Clerk's Claim of Age Discrimination

On March 12, 2018, a Virginia federal court dismissed a claim of age discrimination brought by a 54 year old woman who had worked for Norton Community Hospital as an admissions clerk for nearly 23 years.  In Moore v. Mountain States Health Alliance, et. al., No. 2:16CV00014 (W.D. Va. 2018), Judge James Jones granted summary judgment to the employer, reasoning that the undisputed facts showed that the plaintiff could not prove that she was meeting...
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Virginia General Assembly Considering Legislation To Limit Liability for Disclosing Threats of Workplace Violence

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell
01/23/2018
On January 17, 2018, Delegate Chris Hurst of Blacksburg  introduced legislation that would grant civil immunity to employers who share information about violent acts or threats made by current or former employees to prospective employers or law enforcement agencies.   The proposed legislation, House Bill No. 1457, would also grant civil immunity to employers who rely upon such information in hiring decisions. The bill would protect employers who...
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