When Chastity Jones, a black woman from Alabama, lost a job offer because she refused to cut her natural locs, she turned to the federal courts. The company told Ms. Jones that her natural hairstyle violated the company’s grooming policy because locs “tend to get messy.” In response, Jones sought the assistance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) which brought a Title VII claim against the company alleging racial discrimination. That case was EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions.

The EEOC’s argument was that Jones was denied a job based on a racial stereotype that certain natural hairstyles worn by African-Americans and other black people are unprofessional. The federal district court dismissed the EEOC’s claim on the ground that racial discrimination under Title VII must be based on immutable characteristics that a person cannot change, such as skin color. According to the district court, the EEOC could not state a Title VII claim of racial discrimination because hairstyles can be changed. After the Eleventh Circuit affirmed this decision, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a petition in 2018 for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Although Catastrophe Management Solutions is still good law, employers should remember that local anti-discrimination laws might differ from the circuit court ruling. For instance, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”) recently issued guidance that banning or restricting hairstyles that are associated with African-American or other black people is a form of racial discrimination. The enforcement guidance points out that there is often a misconception that natural hairstyles associated with black people are improper for formal settings. To combat that misconception, the Commission stated in the enforcement guidance that black people have “the right to maintain natural hair” including “locs.” Another example is that in Washington, D.C., the D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on “personal appearance.” That statute can be interpreted quite broadly to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s choice of hairstyle.
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Last year, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, resulting in numerous implications for public sector employers (you can read our guidance on the topic here). Now, several months later, we are taking a fresh look at how Janus continues to impact public employers and their relationships with

Back last fall, we anticipated that this legislative session would be a busy one and so far, the number of bills being considered by the Connecticut General Assembly for employers is substantial. One of the bills that is receiving a fair amount of attention is one limiting employer use of so-called “captive audiences.”

Senate Bills

On April 1, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new rule for the lottery process for H-lB cap-subject petitions will become final. The significant changes are as follows:

  1. An electronic registration requirement for U.S. employers wishing to file H-lB cap subject petitions; and
  2. Reversal of the order by which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will select petitions under the H-1B cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemptions.

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For years now, the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS), the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been targeting Connecticut employers for worker misclassification audits. When a misclassification is discovered, these government entities can share information about employers who have misclassified employees as independent contractors. Thus, when one of these government entities finds a misclassification during an audit, audits from the other governmental entities are likely to arise.
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Shipman & Goodwin attorney Gabriel Jiran weighs in on the growing trend of employees using social media to communicate about issues of concern regarding their employers in the Law360 article “Digital-Age Workers Are Finding Their Voice On Social Media.”

To read the full article, click here.

Last week, New York’s Governor Cuomo signed into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).  The new law, which had languished in the New York legislature for nearly 16 years, will go into effect in 30 days.  GENDA makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of their gender identity or gender

Once again, the Trump-era National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has overruled a previous Obama-era Labor Board decision, establishing an objective test for determining whether statements made by an employee constitutes protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

The case, Alstate Maintenance, LLC and Greenidge, 367 NLRB No. 68 (2019), came before the Labor Board

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed an earlier Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision and held that courts may not decide a question of arbitrability when parties have contractually delegated that question to an arbitrator. Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., No. 17-1272 (U.S. January 8, 2019).

While on its

The IRS recently released two notices to provide guidance for tax-exempt organizations about how to comply with the new provision that they treat employer-provided parking and qualified transportation fringe benefits as unrelated business taxable income (“UBTI”).

This unprecedented treatment of expenses as income created substantial uncertainty about how to calculate the UBTI from the parking