Sunday, September 18, 2016

EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions: Does prohibiting dreadlocks discriminate against black employees?

EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, No. 14-13482 (11th Cir. Sept. 15, 2016), is an important new decision addressing the bounds of what constitutes intentional race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In this case, the EEOC argued that CMS intentionally discriminated against Chastity Jones, a black applicant, based on her race by refusing to hire her unless she cut off her dreadlocks, which were prohibited by CMS's race-neutral grooming policy.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Making Sense of the Sixth Circuit's Honest Belief Rule

In numerous decisions over the years, including most recently in Richardson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 15-1142 (6th Cir. Sept. 9, 2016), the Sixth Circuit has applied the "honest belief" rule in evaluating whether a defendant intentionally discriminated against a plaintiff in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or another EEO law. Pursuant to the honest belief rule, a plaintiff cannot prevail if the evidence establishes that the employer honestly believed that its asserted reason for taking an action was based in fact, even if it turns out that the employer's belief was mistaken. In Reva, for instance, the court held that the employer's decision to terminate the plaintiff under its coaching policy was protected by the honest belief rule, and therefore, the plaintiff could not prevail on her age discrimination claim.

This post examines the Sixth Circuit's application of the honest belief rule and explains why it appears to be inconsistent with fundamental principles of disparate treatment and of burdens of proof.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Carcaño v. McCrory: Does Title VII prohibit single-sex bathrooms?

In Carcaño v. McCrory, No. 1:16cv236 (M.D.N.C. Aug. 26, 2016), U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder adopted a novel line of reasoning in concluding that the University of North Carolina would be engaging in unlawful sex discrimination by excluding transgender individuals from single-sex bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Under Judge Schroeder's reasoning, single-sex bathrooms, even if "separate but equal," presumptively constitute unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendment Acts of 1972, and therefore, they are only permitted if there is an applicable exception, such as a regulation, allowing for them. Following this reasoning, it would appear that sex-segregated facilities may violate sex discrimination prohibitions under other federal or state laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.