Friday, December 30, 2016

Jones v. City of Boston: Does the use of hair samples to test for illegal drug use discriminate against African Americans?

In Jones v. City of Boston, No. 15-2015 (1st Cir. Dec. 29, 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit concluded that African American former police officers had presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that they were subjected to unlawful race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they were fired or suspended by the Boston Police Department because they had tested positive for cocaine use.

As recognized by the court, the Boston Police Department has a legitimate need to ensure that its officers abstain from drug use. However, in testing for drug use, the Department must minimize any potential discriminatory effects.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Summers v. Whitis: Title VII, Religious Freedom, and the Nine Circles of Hell

In Summers v. Whitis, No. 4:15-cv-00093-RLY-DML (S.D. Ind. Dec. 15, 2016), District Court Judge Richard L. Young concluded that the Harrison County Clerk's Office did not discriminate against Linda G. Summers based on her religion when it fired her for refusing to process a marriage license for a same-sex couple. Judge Young reasoned that there was "no objective conflict between Summers' duties as deputy clerk and her religious opposition to same-sex marriage."

Although the defendant may very well have acted lawfully, Judge Young's legal reasoning leaves much to be desired.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hively v. Ivy Tech Community Coll.: Seventh Circuit seems poised to interpret Title VII as covering sexual orientation discrimination

On November 30, 2016, the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in the en banc rehearing in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College. Based on the questions, it appears likely that the court will conclude that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. Although it's not clear what the court's ultimate reasoning will be, most judges were apparently swayed by the straightforward, though formalistic, argument that it is sex discrimination to treat a man who is sexually attracted to men less favorably than a woman who is sexually attracted to men.