Can My Employer Discriminate Against Me? SCOTUS and LGBT Workers

Recent Law Changes and LGBT Worker Protections

Using the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that it unlawful to discriminate against an employee on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity. Now LGBTQ+ workers have a legal recourse to pursue workplace discrimination claims, even in states that do not already have protections in place. The 6-3 decision was a consolidation of three cases: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. The majority ruled this way as they reasoned that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

 

To prove an employment discrimination claim, an employee must prove either disparate treatment or discriminatory harassment. Generally, this means an employee must prove they are a member of a protected class, that their employer or workplace harasser knew that they were a member of a protected class, that they were harmed by the actions of their employer or harasser, and finally, that others of that class were similarly treated or that the harassment was because of their status as a member of a protected class. The Supreme Court also held that although there can be multiple “but for” causes of employee discrimination, termination, or harassment, if any of them are because of a protected classification then there has been a violation of federal law.

 

This landmark case will be a drastic change for the 27 states that prior to this decision did not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. These states include: Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. This may mean employers in these states will need to offer new anti-discrimination training and update their employee handbooks regarding gender and sexuality issues in the workplace.

However, this decision does not provide all the answers that employees will need regarding gender and sexuality-minorities in the workplace. The Supreme Court themselves noted there will likely be more cases in the future that further addressing the extent and influence of this opinion. For example, the disputes over restrooms and other gender-specific facilities being available for transgender employees may still be an issue as well as mandating certain healthcare benefits for transgender employees and potential religious liberty claims.

 

-Audrey Bidwell

Press Release: Barkan Meizlish, LLP Files Class Action against Nationwide Children’s Hospital

For Immediate Release:

COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST NATIONWIDE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

On June 24, 2020 Attorneys with Barkan Meizlish DeRose Wentz McInerney Peifer, LLP filed a federal collective and Ohio class action Complaint against Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

According to the Complaint, Nationwide Children’s Hospital (“NCH”) participated in acts of wage theft against employees in the Psychometric position. These violations include failure to compensate employees for all hours worked and failure to pay overtime, in violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§201, et seq., the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act [“the Ohio Wage Act”], O.R.C. §§4111.01., 4111.03 and 4111.10, and the Ohio Prompt Pay Act [“the OPPA”].

Natalie Morris, a psychometrician, brought this lawsuit on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated current and former NCH psychometricians who worked for NCH since June 24, 2017. Originally, an unnamed NCH psychometrician filed a wage theft complaint against NCH with the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”). In response to that complaint the DOL investigated. While the substance of that investigation is not public, the DOL and NCH are attempting to resolve all the psychometrician’s wage claims by offering a lump-sum payment to affected employees. This lawsuit was brought by Ms. Morris to secure complete payment of all the hours she is owed.  She also brought this lawsuit to obtain payment for all the hours owed on behalf of all current and former NCH psychometricians who worked for NCH since June 24, 2017.

 

Plaintiffs’ Attorney, Robert E. DeRose official statement:

“Although the DOL investigated this case, it is apparent from the facts that Nationwide Children’s Hospital did not have a good faith basis for paying its psychometricians the way it did and that is wage theft. Wage theft in any form cannot be tolerated.  The hospital willfully paid these employees in violation of the wage laws and they should be paid for three years of time and liquidated damages.  The amount the hospital is trying to pay to get out of trouble is far below what the employees are due.  That is why the court will decide this case.”

A copy of the complaint can be found here

 

About Barkan Meizlish, LLP: The law firm of Barkan Meizlish, LLP is over sixty years old, with a national practice, focused on union side labor law, wage and hour/overtime litigation, worker’s compensation, Social Security disability, personal injury, and medical malpractice.

Temperature Checks and the FLSA

Changing Workplace Culture during COVID-19

As with most aspects of life, COVID-19 has changed the daily routine of many workers. Today, the average worker is usually asked to have their temperature checked before beginning their workday. While the effectiveness of the practice in preventing the spread of the virus is debatable, the practice is currently required by many employers. Currently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces civil rights in the workplace, has stated that while conducting temperature checks does not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, it may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and some state employment compensation laws.

These temperature checks may be a violation of the FLSA because employees who have to spend several minutes waiting their turn for the check may be uncompensated for this time. The FLSA states that activities that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities” of an employee are compensable. While activities that are preliminary and postliminary to principle activities are not compensable under the FLSA. When an employee cannot perform his “regular” job without first engaging in the preliminary activity, then the preliminary activity becomes ‘integral and indispensable’ and therefore compensable.

Temperature Checks and Compensation

These temperature checks could be argued to be ‘principle’ or ‘preliminary’ depending on your perspective. Time spent by employees putting on and taking off protective gear and walking between their work station and the protective gear changing areas were both deemed compensable activities. So, if we could liken the temperature check to being a protective measure against infecting their fellow employees like putting on protective gear would likely be a principle and compensable activity. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that time spent waiting to put on protective gear is not a compensable activity. Since waiting in line for the temperature check will likely be the most time-consuming activity, this activity may be considered preliminary and non- compensable.

Depending on how the federal or state courts rule on this issue, employers could face potential wage and hour claims related to this activity. It may be most advisable to employers to compensate the temperature checks before this becomes a litigated issue.

 

– Audrey Bidwell

Does Social Security Disability Insurance Work for Disabled Ohio Residents?

Answering whether the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program works for Ohio residents with long-term disabilities requires specifying what you mean by “work.” It helps people who have few other means of support, but qualifying for SSDI benefits grows more difficult each year.

3 Ways That Social Security Works for People With Disabilities

Thousands of Ohioans rely on SSDI as a literal financial lifeline. While federal permanent disability benefits are not generous, receiving SSDI payments is the only thing that makes it possible for many people to afford housing, food and other necessities. Without SSDI, long-term care facilities would be overwhelmed, homelessness and hunger would worsen, and the amount of human suffering would be incalculable.

SSDI also works in the sense that it is open to nearly all U.S. citizens who have paid into the Social Security system while working. Children whose parents have established Social Security eligibility also have access to federal disability benefits.

A third way SSDI can work for people in Ohio who are too disabled to work is that the program recognizes all types of disability. People in Ohio can qualify for Social Security disability payments regardless of whether a physical, mental, intellectual, or emotional problem leaves them unable to hold a job.

3 Ways That SSDI May Work Against People With Disabilities

Getting approved to receive federal disability benefits is often difficult. Applicants must complete reams of paperwork, submit large amounts of medical documentation, and pass an assessment performed by a doctor chosen by the Social Security Administration. A large proportion of first-time applications for SSDI benefits are rejected, and appealing a rejection takes considerable time and effort.

A second problem is that a significant number of people will never be eligible for federal disability benefits at all. SSDI is only available to people who pay into Social Security. In Ohio, state employees such as public school teachers, police, professional firefighters, and civil servants do not have Social Security contributions withheld from their paychecks. State employees who never hold a private sector job cannot qualify for SSDI benefits. Instead, those individuals must rely on their pension plans if they become too disabled to work.

Last, Social Security requires longtime SSDI benefit recipients to reaffirm their need for disability payments. Completing that process involves submitting to another assessment, sending in new medical documentation and, possibly, appealing a suspension of benefits.

Since the SSDI program has limited funds, it looks for reasons to deny or stop paying benefits. It may do so by rejecting an initial application, strictly applying eligibility rules, or deciding that a long-term disability has become manageable to the point that a current beneficiary can return to work. In those ways, the Social Security disability program definitely works for itself rather than people with disabilities.

At Barkan Meizlish, LLP, our Social Security disability attorneys work exclusively for our fellow Ohio residents. We are available to help with every stage of the SSDI application, appeals, and recertification process. We also offer free consultations to all potential clients. If you need assistance, call (614) 221-4221 to speak with a lawyer or schedule an appointment online.

Summertime Revamp of FLSA is Underway

New FLSA Rules Rolling Out This Summer

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released two new rules relating to overtime calculations and employee compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Change to the Calculation of Overtime for Salaried Workers

Under the FLSA, there are two ways to determine overtime calculations, the “time and a half” method and the “fluctuating workweek” (FWW) method. The latter method is used when an employee receives a fixed salary for working fluctuating hours rather working on an hourly basis. FWW calculates a salaried employee’s overtime by computing the employee’s regular rate of pay each week based on the employee’s hours worked for that week. The new DOL regulations regarding DWW determine that all bonuses, premium payments, and other pay (such as commissions, hazard pay, or nighttime differentials) are included in the calculation of the FWW employee’s regular rate of pay for the purpose of calculating overtime.

This change may mean that salaried employees will see an increase in their overtime pay. However, it may also potentially hurt salaried employees because employers may choose to reduce an employee’s fixed weekly salary and shift considerable portions of an employee’s to bonuses and other forms of payment, all while the employees are averaging the same number of hours throughout the year.

Change to the Compensation of Commissioned Retail and Service Employees

Under the FLSA, commissioned employees working in a retail or service establishment may be exempt from receiving overtime pay. An employee falls within this exemption if they work for a “retail or service establishment,” if their regular rate of pay is in excess of one and one-half times the minimum wage, and if more than half of their compensation was derived from commissions earned from the sale of goods or services.

The most difficult part in determining if an employee fell within this exemption was determining if an employee was a ‘retail’ employee as the FLSA does not define what qualifies as a “retail or service establishment.”  In an attempt clarify if an individual worked in a retail establishment, the Wage & Hour Division of the DOL issued non-exhaustive lists of establishments that did and did not qualify as ‘retail’ under the FLSA.  However, because these lists were often vague, confusing and contradictory they were removed by the DOL. This update to regulation is effective on May 19th and will call for businesses to reevaluate whether they are considered ‘retail’ without the lists for guidance. This may lead to many businesses that formerly viewed themselves as ineligible for the exemption to begin implementing it on their commissioned employees.

Again, this change has the potential to both help and hurt employees depending on how their employers choose to implement the updates. In the worst cases, employees that long considered themselves to be safely outside of the “retail or service” work designation may begin to be considered within it according to their employer and lose the overtime pay they relied upon.

Overall, these updates could be simplifying and beneficial to employees in their shift to a more flexible, COVID-attuned work schedule. If you still have questions about how you may be impacted by these rules, a Wage & Hour attorney can help.

 

– Audrey Bidwell

Talk with an Experienced Lawyer Today

Fill out the form below to get started.