Q & A

From Minnesota Question: Our chief is proposing to the Civil Service board to change the promotion process for sergeant. Currently it’s a test, interview and in-basket assessment. He wants to change it to just 100% interview. He has already done this for lieutenant, commander and also to become a patrol officer. Is there any research on the processes being strictly interview and any pros/cons to it? Answer: We’re not…

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Sexual Harassment Verdict For Tucson Firefighter Reinstated

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires anyone filing a hostile work environment harassment claim to lodge the claim within “300 days of any act that is part of the hostile work environment.” Michelle Maliniak is a fire engineer with the Tucson Fire Department. At Maliniak’s assigned station, male firefighters repeatedly used the women’s bathroom, leaving it dirty and walking in on Maliniak. After Maliniak brought the issue…

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No Hostile Work Environment Where ‘Harsh And Rude’ Boss Treats All Employees The Same

Some employees believe that a lawsuit exists simply because an employer maintains a “hostile work environment.” That notion is far too sweeping, though. What the law prohibits – and more specifically what Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits – is a hostile work environment based upon the victim’s presence in a protected class such as race or gender. Simply because a boss may be abusive is not…

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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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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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Age/Gender-Graded Physical Fitness Tests Violate Title VII

For many years, we have been warning that age/gender-graded physical fitness tests are on extremely shaky legal footing from the perspective of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. For the first time, a court has squarely analyzed the issue, and has found that age/gender-graded tests cannot be “job-related and consistent with business necessity” as required by Title VII. The case involved a lawsuit filed by Cherie Easterling against…

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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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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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Final GINA Regulations (Finally!) Published: Social Media And Employer Acquisition of Genetic Information

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finally issued final regulations implementing Title II (the employment provisions) of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Title II took effect on November 21, 2009. Though the Commission published proposed regulations last year, the final regulations were delayed. The Issue: Acquiring Employee Genetic Information Via Social Media – Violation? Recall that GINA makes the mere acquisition of genetic information illegal, and the…

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Supreme Court Allows Chicago Fire Department Race Discrimination Lawsuit To Proceed

In July 1995, the City of Chicago administered a written examination to over 26,000 applicants seeking to serve in the Chicago Fire Department. After scoring the examinations, the City announced that it would begin drawing randomly from the top tier of scorers, i.e., those who scored 89 or above (out of 100), whom the City called “well qualified.” Those drawn from this group would proceed to the next phase…

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African-American Officers Lose Challenge To ‘No-Beards’ Policy

After researching the issue for some time, the Houston Police Department selected the Scott Promask 40 respirator for all patrol officers. Once it was decided that bearded officers could not use the mask, the Department revised its grooming policy to prohibit beards on any uniformed officer, regardless of his medical condition. Under the revised policy, if a uniformed officer is unable to shave, for medical reasons, he is transferred…

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Fire Chief Cannot Be Sued Individually In Title VII Civil Rights Case

Tony McMillian is a firefighter working for the District of Columbia Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department. McMillian filed a broad-based discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that he was the victim of race discrimination. McMillian sued the District, the Department, and the Fire Chief, both in the Chief’s official role and in his personal capacity. A court dismissed all of McMillian’s claims except…

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