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Minnesota Deputies’ Case Shows The Evidence Necessary For A ‘Pretext’ Claim

Many “retaliation” cases follow the same general structure. First, the employee must present a prima facie case by showing that (1) he engaged in an activity protected by the First Amendment, (2) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (3) the protected conduct was a “substantial or motivating factor” in the employer’s decision to take the adverse employment action. The employer can rebut the employee’s prima facie showing by…

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Return-To-Work Policy Amounts To Illegal Military Discrimination

By 2002, Brian Petty had reached the rank of sergeant with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville-Davidson County. To supplement his income as a police officer, Petty also moonlighted as a security guard at two local restaurants. In addition to these two positions, Petty served as a member of the Army National Guard. He joined in 1986 and opted into the Army reserve in 1989. In 2003, the Army deployed…

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Promotional Test Need Not Be Based On Materials Pertinent To Particular Employer

Over the years, the M.O.C.H.A. Society of Buffalo, Inc., a fraternal organization of African American firefighters in Buffalo, New York, has brought a number of race discrimination lawsuits against the City of Buffalo. The latest lawsuit involved a fairly unique question: Can an employer show that promotional examinations having a disparate impact on a protected class are job related and supported by business necessity when the job analysis that…

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Complaints About Discrimination Not Necessarily Protected By First Amendment

James Brooks and Donald Hamlette were employees of the Virginia Department of Corrections. Brooks was a senior corrections officer, supervised by Hamlette, a lieutenant. Hamlette is African-American and a Baptist minister. Both men reported to Howard Arthur, the Superintendent, and Major Randal Mitchell, the Assistant Superintendent. Brooks met with the Department’s Equal Employment Opportunity office to discuss filing a discrimination charge against Arthur. Among other things, Brooks reported that…

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Fire Chief Loses Lawsuit Against Firefighters’ Union

Michael Pruitt was the first African-American Fire Chief for the City of Longview, Texas. After he was terminated from this position, he filed suit against the Longview Professional Firefighters Association, Local 4331 of the IAFF, as well as several officers of the union. Pruitt alleged that Local 4331 “initiated a public campaign targeted to undermine the public perception of Chief Pruitt’s work ethics and initiatives, as well as his…

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Maternity Leave Policy Does Not Illegally Discriminate Against Men

Ronald Wahl is an employee of the Suffolk County, New York Police Department. Wahl sued the City, alleging that he had been subject to a discriminatory maternity leave policy that provided benefits to women but not to men in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Wahl also complained that he was a victim of retaliation in violation of the First Amendment and the Family and…

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Court Overturns Verdict Against Fire Department, But Not Against Fire Union

Anthony Booth and Jerry Brown are firefighters with Pasco County, Florida, and are members of the bargaining unit represented by Local 4420 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Booth and Brown sued the County and Local 4420, claiming that both retaliated against them after they filed various charges of discrimination against them in 2007 and 2008. Booth and Brown alleged that the County retaliated against them by mandating…

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‘Disrespect’ Does Not Equal ‘Hostile Work Environment’

Keith Armstrong, who is African-American, was a Jersey City police officer. Armstrong had no serious complaints with the Department or his supervisors until the internal affairs unit of the Department began investigating difficulties he was having with his neighbors. From 1996 to 2006, the Department had received 28 complaints from citizens about Armstrong. Most of the complaints were from Armstrong’s Jersey City neighbors, who were also African-American. The neighbors…

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Employer Not Necessarily Required To Transfer Firefighter Suspected Of Discrimination

Quentin Schamber was an Engineer with the Denver, Colorado Fire Department, and was assigned to Station 25. Lieutenant Dennis Horton was Schamber’s immediate supervisor. On October 27, 2008, Horton told Schamber to stand in front of a fire engine approximately five to ten feet away. Horton then activated the engine’s siren without warning Schamber. As a result, Schamber suffered a loss of hearing in his left ear and tinnitus….

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Court Overturns Equal Rights Commission, Finds No Discrimination Against Lieutenant With Parkinson’s Disease

Lieutenant Miguel Hervis has been serving as a police officer with the City of Miami, Florida since 1988. He is currently a Commander in the Domestic Violence Unit. In 2004, Hervis was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and shortly thereafter, symptoms of his condition became evident to his coworkers and superiors, including Chief John Timoney. Although Timoney realized that Hervis’ motor skills were impaired, he did not know that Hervis…

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Corrections Officer Loses Reverse Discrimination Claim

James Finley works as a corrections officer for Camden County, New Jersey. Finley brought a reverse discrimination against the County, arguing that in several rounds of promotions, the County declined to promote him because he was Caucasian. Finley argued that the County systematically promoted less-qualified non-Caucasian candidates. A federal trial court examined the evidence and dismissed Finley’s claim. Starting with promotions that occurred in March 2006 and March 2007,…

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Court Upholds $300,000 Award To Officer For Transfer

Byron Hickey, a police officer employed by the Columbus Consolidated Government in Georgia, sued the City, claiming he was retaliated against for opposing unlawful discrimination. When a jury awarded Hickey $306,969, the City asked the trial court to overturn the award on the grounds that inadequate evidence supported Hickey’s claims. The Court rejected the City’s arguments. The key issue was whether Hickey’s transfer from the Vice to the Burglary…

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Male Officer Not Entitled To Maternity Leave

Ronald Wahl is a police officer for the Suffolk County, New York Police Department. Wahl’s child was born on December 20, 1999, and on January 14, 2000, Wahl requested that he be permitted to take maternity leave and deduct the days taken from his accrued sick leave. Department rules and procedures and the applicable collective bargaining agreement permitted a pregnant female officer to take nine months of leave after…

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Court Upholds $300,000 Award To Officer For Transfer

Byron Hickey, a police officer employed by the Columbus Consolidated Government in Georgia, sued the City, claiming he was retaliated against for opposing unlawful discrimination. When a jury awarded Hickey $306,969, the City asked the trial court to overturn the award on the grounds that inadequate evidence supported Hickey’s claims. The Court rejected the City’s arguments. The key issue was whether Hickey’s transfer from the Vice to the Burglary…

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Calling Officer A ‘Pain’ Not Gender Or Race Discrimination

Sharon Davis, an African-American, was employed as a police officer with the Newark, New Jersey Police Department. Davis filed a seven-count lawsuit against the City, alleging that she was retaliated against for raising issues of racial and gender discrimination. The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all of Davis’s claims. The Court held that, “even accepting Davis’s allegations, she has failed to claim that she was retaliated against…

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Chicago Firefighter Hiring Practices Discrimination Case Comes To End

In 1995, the City of Chicago gave a written examination for positions in its Fire Department. Applicants who scored 89 and up were rated highly qualified, while those who scored 64 and below were rated not qualified. Those in between were rated qualified but were told in January 1996 that they were unlikely to be hired. From May 1996 through November 2001, the City hired 11 groups of applicants…

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Reprimand, Transfer Not ‘Adverse Action’ Triggering Discrimination Law

To be successful, an employee bringing a discrimination complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act must show that he or she suffered an “adverse employment action” as a result of the discrimination. Not every disciplinary action amounts to an “adverse employment action,” as Officer Christopher Wade of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department recently learned. Wade asserted that he was the victim of retaliation because of…

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Battalion Chief Loses Restroom-Based Sex Discrimination Claim

There is a long history of litigation between Kathleen Kline and the City of Kansas City, Missouri. From 1977 to 2006, Kline worked for the City’s Fire Department. At the time she resigned in 2006, Kline had been promoted several times to reach the position of battalion chief (only the fire chief and deputy chiefs are higher in the chain of command). In 1994, Kline filed a Title VII…

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‘Disparate Treatment’ Requires Comparably-Situated Employees

Tomorrow Bush, an African-American corrections officer for Houston County, Alabama, sued the County for race and gender discrimination when she was fired for violating the jail’s use-of-force policy by unjustifiably pepper-spraying an inmate. At the heart of Bush’s discrimination claim was the contention that the County had treated similarly-situated white male employees more leniently. In dismissing Bush’s lawsuit, the federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an employee…

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New ADAAA Regs: The Untold Story

As most people in the Human Resources and employment law worlds are aware, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued its final rule interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). The ADAAA, which took effect in January 2009, was enacted toward the end of the administration of George W. Bush, with the support of disability rights advocates as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and…

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Employer’s E-Mail Policy Discriminates On Basis Of Union Activity

The City of Saginaw, Michigan Police Department permits its employees to use the City’s e-mail system for non-work-related purposes. Daniel Kuhn is the president of the Saginaw local of the Police Officers Association of Michigan. On October 16, 2008, Kuhn used the City’s e-mail system to send his members a message about the City’s deferred compensation system. In the e-mail, Kuhn wrote the following about the general status of…

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Supreme Court Holds That Company May Be Liable For The Discriminatory Motives Of Non-Decision Makers

On March 1, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employer may be liable for the discriminatory motives of a supervisor who influences but does not make the ultimate employment decision. The Court’s ruling will impact employment discrimination claims where multiple individuals are claimed to have made, caused, or influenced the ultimate employment decision. The Cat’s Paw Theory Of Liability In employment discrimination claims, plaintiffs must establish that…

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The Supreme Court And The Scope Of Title VII’s Anti-Discrimination Clause

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has a broad anti-discrimination clause. 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-3(a) provides that it “shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees…because he has made a charge” under Title VII. Title VII permits “a person claiming to be aggrieved” to file a charge with the EEOC alleging that the employer committed an unlawful employment practice, and,…

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Fire Department Has Right To Rely On Own Color Vision Test

When Cory James applied to be a firefighter for the City of Los Angeles, he received an offer of employment contingent on passing a City-administered medical examination. When the examination revealed that James had inadequate color vision, the City withdrew its offer. James then sued the City, claiming he was the victim of illegal discrimination. The California Court of Appeals upheld the City’s decision. James argued that because he…

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Officer Wins Lawsuit and $600K, Loses Claim For Reinstatement

Darren Nance was terminated as a Newark, New Jersey police officer on September 3, 1996 and has not served as a police officer in the past 14 years. On June 24, 2010, a jury found that Nance’s termination was in retaliation for invoking his right to petition the government under the First Amendment and that Nance was subject to retaliation in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Subsequently,…

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