The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a recent decision (June 12, 2019) in the case of Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority has joined the Second, Sixth and Eighth Circuit in finding that Obesity, standing alone, is not an impairment under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) absent an underlying psychological cause. This is an extremely important decision based on the fact that it is estimated that forty (40) percent of the current adult population is dealing with obesity.
While the statement "he who hesitates may be lost" has been around for decades, it may be the underpinning of a very recent Supreme Court decision. In a unanimous decision issued by the United States Supreme Court on June 3, 2019 (Fort Bend County vs. Davis, No. 18-525, Argued 4/22/19; Decided 6/3/19) the Supreme Court of the United States held that an employment discrimination plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to filing litigation and, therefore, Federal courts may be able to hear discrimination claims under Title VII even if workers fail to raise those claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or a state workplace bias watchdog group.
In 2016, under the Obama administration, the EEOC significantly revised its EEO-1 report to require that covered entities - private employers with 100 or more employees, or federal contractors with at least 50 employees - begin to report how much they pay workers, broken down between sex, race and ethnicity. The stated rationale for this change was to enable the EEOC to root out pay gaps presumed to exist between genders, races, and ethnic groups. Employers and eventually, the Trump administration, opposed the measure as being overly burdensome; however, those efforts were eventually unsuccessful in court. Therefore, barring further intervention from the courts it is no longer a question of whether employers must begin to provide payroll data to the federal government's EEOC, but when and how. These questions have now been answered, at least for now. On April 25th, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered that covered employers have until September 30, 2019 to comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) revised EEO-1 reporting requirements.
Workers filed 8,000 fewer charges in Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018) when the EEOC took in 76,418 charges. This total is the lowest since Fiscal 2006 when the agency took in a little under 76,000 charges.
Employers have a legal obligation to accommodate work-related conflicts posed by an employee's or applicant's disability or religious beliefs. This seems simple enough - be "reasonable." Yet as many business professionals and lawyers know all too well, there is a great deal of room for differences of opinion as to what constitutes a "reasonable accommodation." Considerable effort (and litigation) has gone into defining what is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (for religion). For its part the EEOC has routinely pushed the envelope; it expects employers to go to great lengths to satisfy their obligation to reasonably accommodate workers. Recent cases dealing with accommodations in the form of service dogs, sign-language interpreters, extended leaves of absence and adjusted work schedules, are just some of the positions taken by the EEOC in litigation (with varying degrees of success). Here are some examples:
Administering employee leaves of absence is complicated. For employers of 50 or more employees there obviously are the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and D.O.L. regulations to deal with. Then there is the EEOC, which has interpreted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require leaves of absence, or extending them under certain circumstances as a reasonable accommodation of an individual's disability. Add worker compensation laws that provide for reinstatement of employees following a work-related illness or injury, as well as an ever growing list of other federal, state and, more recently, local laws governing what employers may or may not do about employee absences and even the most experienced HR professionals have their hands full. Monitoring FMLA leave (especially intermittent leave), work-related absences, military leave, leave as an accommodation and all the legalities of when and how to return workers from such leaves, can be overwhelming. Not surprisingly, many employers have turned to outsourcing these functions, ostensibly to avoid all the hassles and legal pitfalls they present. However, as a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision demonstrates all too clearly, turning these responsibilities over to a third party does not rid an employer of responsibility, or liability, for complying with the many workplace leave laws that are at play.
It has become a "sign of the times" that many Employers, rather than attempting to negotiate the maze of potential Legal Issues with regard to Employee Absences for sickness, child care, etc., have gravitated to what has become identified as the "No Fault Attendance Policy". Under a No Fault Attendance Policy, Employees are assigned certain points for absences regardless of the reason for those absences, and are terminated after they have accumulated enough points to generate termination and, in some cases, have exceeded the maximum number of days absent in a "No Fault Absence Policy" during a calendar or running twelve (12) month period. Employers believe that this is a very efficient way to maintain neutrality and to avoid asking people the reasons for their absences. Unfortunately, it seems that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking a very staunch position of disagreement with this concept.
On November 15, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") issued its annual performance and accountability report. In the report the EEOC states that:
In a statement issued on August 29, 2017, the Acting Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - Victoria Lipnic, announced that she had received from the Office of Management and Budget Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) - Neomi Rao - Administrator - informing her (Ms. Lipnic) that the OIRA was initiating a comprehensive review and issued an immediate stay of the "effectiveness of the pay data collection aspects of the EEO-1 Form".
While there is no requirement for Employers to file an EEO-1 Report during Calendar 2017, do not start celebrating too quickly. The "New and Improved" EEO-1 Reports are due by March 31, 2018 and require expanded/new reporting requirements. These new/expanded reporting requirements not only require reporting with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, etc., but also require reporting on the basis of total compensation and total hours worked by race, ethnicity, gender, EEO-1 category and designated salary bands.