Articles Posted in Employment

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In Casteel v. Charter Communications, Inc., No. C13-5520 RJB (W.D. Wash. Oct. 23, 2014), a federal judge in Western Washington denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment under the Americans with Disabilities Act despite the fact that the employee has been unable to work since July 2009.

The employer hired Mary Casteel in September 2007. In November 2008, she fell ill and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She requested and was granted intermittent leave under the FMLA or Family Medical Leave Act. In July 2009, Casteel was diagnosed with a form of cancer and started chemotherapy. She requested a medical leave from July 14 to August 15 to undergo treatment. Her doctor certified that her anticipated return date was August 15. She was not able to return on that date and her doctor extended her return date. Because the company’s policy was not to grant more than two 30-day leaves in a twelve-month period, the employer terminated Casteel’s employment.

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Can an employer be held liable for acts of employment discrimination carried out by another employer? If a non-employing entity controls or can substantially affect the terms and conditions of another employer’s employee, that entity may be considered a “joint employer” for Title 7 purposes. This means that the non-employing entity could be held equally responsible for any discrimination or harassment that may occur. This is referred to as “defacto or joint employment liability” and often appears in situations in which there is a staffing firm, placement agency, or outsourcing company. If the circumstances lend themselves to finding the joint employer relationship exists, a non-employing entity can still be liable for employment discrimination.

I have seen companies attempt to argue that liability for employment discrimination or harassment cases does not exist because they weren’t the “employer.” These employers fail to understand employment discrimination laws. Employment cases involve complex legal issues that are constantly being litigated and argued in federal and state courts. It is important to speak with an Arkansas employment lawyer if you or a family member feels that your employment rights are being violated. If you have been terminated, disciplined, or harassed based upon discriminatory reasons, you should speak to an Arkansas employment lawyer as soon as possible.

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Laura Symczyk worked as a registered nurse at a retirement home in 2007. She alleged in a lawsuit she filed that her employer, the operator of the nursing home, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by deducting meal breaks from the workers’ pay regardless of whether or not they worked during the meal period. Her lawsuit sought back pay for herself and all similarly-situated workers at the nursing home.

However, before the employer formally petitioned for class certification, the defendant made an offer of judgment offering her the amount of her back pay, attorneys fees and costs. The offer of judgment was not responded to and the employer, Genesis Healthcare Corp., moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The district court agreed and dismissed the case. However, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed finding that the offer of judgment did not address the potential class members.

This case is now on appeal to the United States Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court finds that this tactic allows the case to be dismissed, it will frustrate the purpose of the FLSA. Unfortunately, oftentimes the back wages due do not justify the cost and fees being incurred by a plaintiff’s lawyer to rectify the wrong that the employer has benefited from financially. The FLSA provides a beneficial and fair way to bring a case involving multiple employees to recover the fair wages they are due. If you or a family member has been wrongfully denied wages for overtime or for work actually performed, it is imperative that you speak to an Arkansas employment lawyer to discuss how to recover those lost wages.

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A recent Arkansas employment case was decided by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. An Arkansas jury found in favor of plaintiff on her Title VII claims of race discrimination and constructive discharge against a school district and members of the school board. The jury awarded her compensatory damages, wage and fringe benefits, and punitive damages. The trial court granted the Defendants’ motion and reduced her award. The Plaintiff subsequently appealed the district court’s judgment and findings. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude defendant was constructively discharged. Therefore, the court reversed the district court’s decision to grant the Rule 50 motion regarding that claim. The Appeals Court held that the jury was not instructed to consider whether the individual Board members affirmatively proved ignorance of federal law when discriminating against defendant on the basis of her race. Therefore, the 8th Circuit reversed the Arkansas district court’s Rule 50 order vacating the punitive damage award and remanded this issue to the Arkansas court. The opinion can be found here. If you have any questions concerning your employment, please contact an Arkansas employment lawyer.

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Sexual harassment has been in the news recently with allegations of harassment by Brett Favre toward a female New York Jets employee. Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains a fact of everyday life and a serious problem in the workplace in Arkansas.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as:

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

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The Americans with Disabilities Act was originally signed into law in 1990. Unfortunately, the Federal Courts made lawsuits under the act more and more difficult for disabled Americans since its adoption. Therefore, the United States Congress passed amendments to the ADA and these were signed into law September 25, 2008. These amendments take effect January 1, 2009.

In enacting these amendments, the Congress stated that the original act was to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The amendments also clarify that the ADA was intended to provide broad coverage. The findings and purpose of the amendments reject the narrow interpretation that the United States Supreme Court and lower courts interpreted the ADA to cover in the years after its original adoption.

Specifically, the act: