Employment Law New Challenges You Should Be Preparing For

Changes are afoot in United States employment law. Employers need to begin preparing in order to avoid unintended and detrimental consequences.

Discrimination Against Military Personnel

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the main route through which employees in the United States pursue discrimination claims against their employers.

The title prevents discriminated based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, however judgements have been made recently which could extend its remit.

In the case of Vincent Staub v. Proctor Hospital, in Peoria, army reserve Staub argued he was being discriminated against because of his weekend military duties. He claimed he was fired because supervisors in his department were biased.

Sitting at the heart of the case was the issue as to whether, even if the person who did the firing did so for valid reasons, a company is liable if other biased supervisors may have influenced the income. The Supreme Court ruled they did and restored a $57,640 jury verdict to Staub.

This case, which was brought under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, has wider implications on discrimination against military personnel.

Rae Vann, representative of the Equal Employment Advisory Council, told Bloomberg "There is every reason to believe that the ruling could and would be extended to the Title VII context."

Retaliation Under Title VII

The Supreme Court was also recently involved in a case which potentially opens the door for employers facing third party retaliation claims under Title VII.

Thompson v. North American Stainless LP relates to a case brought by two employers of the company who were publically engaged. Miriam Regaldo filed a sex discrimination claim against her employer and three weeks later her fiancêe, Eric Thompson.

Mr. Thompson claimed he had been fired as a result of the discrimination claim and brought a case under the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII, which the Supreme Court upheld. The court said Mr. Thompson was covered under the title as the intention of their actions was to harm his fiancêe, who was involved in a protected activity.

The case means employers must now pay greater attention to the possibility of facing retaliation claims from third parties. To avoid this, they must encourage early reporting of complaints and investigate all such grievances promptly.

"Employers should adopt and communicate clear written policies stating that the organization will not tolerate unlawful retaliation and establishing a procedure for employees to report any concerns of retaliation," Meghann Kantke and Abigail Crouse from Grant Plant Mooty said.

Mandated Paid Leave

Fresh calls are also being made in the United States for the introduction of mandated paid leave for staff members, which could include either paid family leave or sick leave.

Currently, California and New Jersey are the only two states to have in place family leave insurance programs, which are paid for by small employee contributions. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are entitled to take time off work if they have new children or family members who are seriously ill, however this must be unpaid.

Human Rights Watch is now calling for this to be changed.

"Congress and state legislatures should enact public paid leave insurance for new parents and for workers caring for family members with serious health conditions," Human Rights Watch said. Federal and state authorities were also called upon to expand coverage of laws which are designed to protect parents in the workplace.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Connecticut are being lobbied by workers to mandate paid sick leave by law. Some cities, including San Francisco and Washington DC, have already passed such laws, however the state would become the first to do so if the proposals are approved.

The proposals would affect those with 50 employees or more and would mean workers would accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

However, there are those, including the Employment Policies Institute, who warn this could have a seriously detrimental effect on business.

Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the institute, said "Many impacted employers have low profit margins, so for each dollar in revenue, only a few cents are made in profit - meaning there's not a lot of leeway for added labor costs."