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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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 Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities just released their annual statistics. For employers, understanding the trend lines represents an opportunity to focus on areas of compliance.  You can download the statistics here.

Here are three key takeaways:

  1. Employment Discrimination Claims Rise. With unemployment relatively low, the prevailing wisdom among employment lawyers has always

Does the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”) apply to all public employers regardless of how many employees they have, or does it only apply to public employers with at least 20 employees? This is the question that was argued at the Supreme Court on October 1, 2018 in Mount Lemmon Fire District v.

In its latest enforcement move to address workplace harassment, the EEOC has filed seven different lawsuits since June 11 seeking damages and an end to alleged harassment across a broad spectrum of settings.  The lawsuits are spread across many different industries–from one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, to a staffing agency, and even a

Cell phones are everywhere, and now smart phones with their apps have more functions than many computers. One of those functions is the ability to record without anyone knowing that they are being recorded. In the workplace, such actions can cause concerns as managers and supervisors frequently feel that employees are recording their conversations and

On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that upheld an arbitration clause requiring employees to arbitrate their claims in lieu of participating in a class action. In issuing its decision, the Supreme Court actually resolved three separate cases, all of which involved employees signing agreements to arbitrate individual employment claims. The

Most times on this blog, we report on developments in courts or in the legislature.

But today’s post focuses on something that didn’t happen — namely a bill that didn’t pass — even though it looked almost certain earlier this week.

Indeed, Senate Bill 132 looked to have momentum.

In this political and legal

In speaking to job applicants, interviewers need to be circumspect in what they say. There are questions that can be asked, and there are questions that can create real headaches, as well as liability. A recent case demonstrates how comments in an interview ended up in federal court litigation.

A University hired a woman to