In the wake of an increased focus on racial justice in the summer of 2020, many employers began to recognize and observe Juneteenth as a way to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. On June 17, 2021—25 years after the first bill to recognize Juneteenth was introduced—President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, designating Juneteenth as the 11th federally recognized public holiday.
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19 a legal public holiday. Juneteenth is the day that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. June 19, 2021 will be the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth.
On June 11, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law House Bill 2935, also known as the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), joining several other states in explicitly prohibiting employers and public schools from discriminating against individuals based on physical characteristics historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has held in Asda Stores Ltd v. Brierley and others that Asda supermarket retail employees can appoint Asda depot workers as their comparators in an equal pay claim despite their working in different ‘establishments’ of the business.
On December 1, 2020, Nasdaq filed a proposed rule with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would require certain Nasdaq-listed companies to have at least two diverse directors (according to self-reported gender, race, and sexual orientation) or explain why the company has not been able to meet the proposed minimum diversity standards, and disclose certain board diversity-related statistics.
March 2021 marks one year since the beginning of state-mandated stay-at-home orders and workplace shutdowns due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to workplaces in generations, and not just in terms of barking dogs, homeschooling, gate-crashers at virtual meetings, and sweat pants. The pandemic forced employers and employees to quickly pivot and change. Many of these changes will undoubtedly impact the workplace for years to come. The following is a roundup of 10 ways in which the pandemic may have a lasting influence on how we work.
On March 4, 2021, Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of ethnic traits historically associated with race. The CROWN Act (Bill No. 6515), also known as the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” Act, amends the definition of race in the state’s anti-discrimination laws to be “inclusive of ethnic traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
On February 18, 2021, U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) reintroduced the Equality Act (H.R. 5), a bill that would amend federal law (including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nearly identical version of the Equality Act in 2019, the bill never gained traction in the U.S. Senate and died in committee.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s flurry of executive actions upon his inauguration into office signals diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as a significant area of focus for the administration. As of January 26, 2021, President Biden has signed a total of more than 40 executive orders and actions aimed at addressing and reversing some of the most controversial orders of the prior administration, including a number of actions addressing DE&I matters. One of these—Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (Executive Order (EO) 13985)—includes the much-anticipated revocation of EO 13950’s ban on diversity training content for federal agencies, contractors, and grant recipients.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021. President Biden hit the ground running, issuing 17 executive orders, proclamations, memoranda, and similar actions on his first day. Many of these presidential actions have impacts that go beyond the day-to-day activities of the workplace, but employers may still want to have an understanding of these policy changes. Set forth below is a summary of the actions that President Biden took on his first day in office.
As the 4 April 2021, gender pay gap reporting deadline approaches, the UK government has published an updated set of guidance for employers on the gender pay gap reporting requirements. Although the reporting requirements have not changed, the guidance has been updated to include information for employers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular relating to furlough leave and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
On December 22, 2020, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed into law the CROWN Act (Calendar No. 33,184). The new law prohibits employment discrimination in the City of New Orleans based on hairstyles. The law is modeled after federal legislation introduced in January 2020—the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act)—designed to correct racial and cultural inequities by making hair discrimination illegal in the United States.
Some anticipate that President-elect Joseph Biden will revoke the Trump administration’s Executive Order (EO) 13950 that restricts the content of certain diversity-related workplace trainings. On December 22, 2020, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction in the case of Santa Cruz Lesbian and Gay Community Center d/b/a The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz v. Trump, holding that the plaintiffs had demonstrated (among other things) a sufficient likelihood of success on their claims that EO 13950 is unconstitutional on its face. The order, which went into effect immediately and on a nationwide basis, allows private federal contractors and federal grant recipients to conduct workplace training programs and related activities without facing penalties for “stereotyping” or “scapegoating” under EO 13950. While the injunction does not impact trainings provided to federal employees, on December 22, 2020, a group of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) employees circulated a letter calling for an official investigation into EO 13950 and related executive branch actions targeting diversity-and-inclusion programs.
On December 1, 2020, the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC filed a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to establish a new rule that would require diversity on corporate boards of directors and transparency regarding the composition of boards.
On October 29, 2020, the National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance (represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.) filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of Executive Order (EO) 13950 and asking for injunctive and declaratory relief. The plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and a proposed class that includes federal contractors that the EO impacts, brought the lawsuit against the president, the secretary of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
On September 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 979, a measure that will require publicly held corporations in California to achieve diversity on their boards of directors by January 2023.
On September 22, 2020, President Donald Trump signed an executive order titled “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The executive order follows a September 4, 2020, memorandum from Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and introduces requirements for government contractors conducting diversity and inclusion (D&I) trainings. It is clear from the order that covered contracts, subcontracts, and grants with the U.S. federal government must control for specific language related to workplace trainings, but the order otherwise lacks guidance about changes covered contractors must make when training on D&I issues.
A federal court ruling staying key parts of new Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations in light of the landmark Supreme Court of the United States ruling on sexual orientation and gender identity will provide little certainty to employers about how federal discrimination law applies to their health plans.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, holding that, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, covered employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Part one covered the Bostock holding’s implications for sex-segregated facilities in the employment context. Part two addressed the holding’s consequences for dress codes and grooming standards. This final article in the series encompasses the Bostock holding’s implications for pronoun and honorific usage in the workplace.
Following recent events, employers may experience an increase in the number of race discrimination complaints in the workplace. Many organisations in the United Kingdom, in the United States, and globally have made public statements to reinforce their commitment to racial equality.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, holding that, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, covered employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In part one of this series, we discussed the holding’s implications for sex-segregated facilities in the employment context. This article discusses the holding’s implications for dress codes and grooming standards.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, holding that, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, covered employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The recent Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia decision, in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that an employer that fires an individual for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has received a tremendous amount of attention. The Court’s decision has broad implications for employers and their employment counsel. Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion devotes much space to a discussion of the “but-for” causation standard.
Many people have commented on social media regarding the anti-racist movement that has been gaining strength in the wake of police officers killings around the country. Unfortunately, some of these posts are inflammatory, derogatory, offensive, or racist. Even though employees are generally posting on their personal social media pages and are often doing so outside of work time, coworkers and even community-members to employers are increasingly complaining about offensive comments employees are posting on various social media platforms. While sometimes the conduct is so severe that employers can easily determine the appropriate consequences, in other cases employers must balance a variety of legal requirements, employee and public relations concerns, and their own company values. The following are answers to frequently asked questions about these issues.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 6-3 decision, held Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of sex discrimination encompassed discrimination against gay and transgender individuals. Two dissents followed the majority’s opinion—Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.’s, with whom Justice Clarence Thomas joined, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s.
Several prominent companies across the nation recently announced that they would observe Juneteenth as a holiday. This new trend of observing Juneteenth comes in the wake of several weeks of protests across the world advocating for an end to racial injustice and police brutality. These protests have generated discourse across the country, including in workplaces, about systemic racism and what actions we all can take to address the issues. Although Juneteenth is not a new holiday, recognizing and observing the holiday is one of many proactive measures that employers can take to demonstrate their commitment to fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces and to promoting racial justice.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of sex discrimination encompasses discrimination against gay and transgender individuals. Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the 6-3 majority opinion and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Elena Kagan.
In May 2020, the United Kingdom welcomed the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, which was enacted to ensure the equal treatment of men and women in terms of pay and the conditions of employment. However, in recent months, research has revealed that women have suffered a larger fall in earnings in the United Kingdom and are losing their jobs in greater numbers than men during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in a 6-to-3 decision, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from firing workers for being homosexual or transgender.
COVID-19 has certainly not slowed down legislators in Annapolis. Far from sitting idle, the Maryland General Assembly recently passed a broad array of workplace legislation without the governor’s signature. In addition to a significant expansion of Maryland’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, three new employment laws are set to take effect on October 1, 2020.