Human Resources (HR) Compliance

On March 6, 2019, Shipman & Goodwin attorney Dan Schwartz presented to the next group of startups chosen to participate in the Accelerator for Biosciences in Connecticut, or ABCT.  ABCT is a Branford-based program spearheaded by Design Technologies LLC, which supports Connecticut’s aim of being a bioscience hub.

It’s an exciting time for new businesses

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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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

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

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Leander A. Dolphin will participate in the panel discussion “#Metoo: Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment in the Professional Workplace” hosted by the University of Saint Joseph.

When: November 26, 2018, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM EST

Where: University of Saint Joseph
West Hartford Campus, Crystal Room

For more information, please

This complimentary CLE webinar will offer a review of legal best practices for employers, in situations where mental health issues may be present in their workplaces. Presenters will discuss when, and how, to engage in interactive dialogues with employees, to determine if a qualifying disability exists and whether reasonable accommodations are available, and how to

If you work in the Human Resources field you almost certainly understand the basic obligations employers must deal with under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Most often the issue you face involves analysis of the essential functions of an employee’s job and consideration of reasonable accommodations to permit the employee to perform those functions.