Seventh Circuit Revives Teacher’s Religious Discrimination Case Over Transgender Students’ Names and Pronouns

On July 31, 2023, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals revived a Christian teacher’s religious discrimination lawsuit over his refusal to refer to transgender students by their names and pronouns with which they identified. The case highlights the tension between discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and discrimination based on religion amid evolving and sometimes conflicting legal standards and guidance, including based on the Supreme Court of the United States’ heightened standard for undue hardship for religious accommodations.

The Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling: A Shift in How Private Employers Approach DEI?

The Supreme Court of the United States’ recent decision to strike down affirmative action admissions policies in higher education is having significant indirect consequences for private employers and their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. While the decisions will directly affect admissions policies at higher education institutions across the country, private employer DEI policies and initiatives, voluntary affirmative action programs, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts are facing greater scrutiny and legal challenges and employers may need to adapt to this quickly evolving legal landscape.

The Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling: 6 Takeaways for Government Contractors

How does the Supreme Court of the United States’ ban on affirmative action in higher education affect government contractors? In short—it doesn’t. Covered federal contractors and subcontractors must continue to comply with their regulatory obligations under Executive Order (EO) 11246, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. However, federal contractors can expect that their diversity efforts will receive more scrutiny going forward.

Supreme Court Debates U.S. Government’s Race and Ethnicity Categories: What Employers Need to Know

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down affirmative action in college admissions, leaving employers to wrestle with the implications of the decision for various diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The decision also contained a robust debate over the government’s race and ethnicity categories, which the university respondents used in their admissions processes. Many employers use those same race and ethnicity categories for various government reporting and recordkeeping purposes.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Affirmative Action in College Admissions

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States held that certain race-conscious college admissions policies violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on race. The ruling comes in a decision consolidating two cases that challenged the use of race-conscious admissions policies by private and public universities aimed at maintaining racially diverse student bodies.

EEOC Issues Joint Statement on Automated Systems and AI Concerns With Other Agencies

On April 25, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a joint statement pledging to enforce federal laws to “promote responsible innovation” in the context of automated decision-making and artificial intelligence (AI) systems that are increasingly being used by public and private organizations, including to make employment-related decisions.

ESG: Important New Considerations for Employers

Consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues is becoming increasingly important for companies when conducting business and in dealings with investors and employees. The increased emphasis on ESG poses unique and difficult challenges for companies that can have a direct impact on their financial performance and broader perception as responsible corporate citizens.

Collecting Data on Race and Ethnicity: White House Launches New Plan

The White House recently launched an effort to revise and update the statistical standards for race and ethnicity data collection across federal agencies with a stated goal of better reflecting the growing diversity of people in the United States. On January 26, 2023, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a notice in the Federal Register in OMB’s 1997 Statistical Policy Directive No. 15: Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (SPD 15).

Florida’s Stop Woke Law Is Sedated—Judge Blocks Law Limiting Workplace Bias Trainings

On August 18, 2022, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker issued a preliminary injunction blocking part of a Florida’s H.B. 7, known as the Individual Freedom Act (IFA), which prohibits employers from requiring employees to undergo a training “that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” employees to believe any of various sex- and race-based discrimination concepts.

Nonbinary Pronoun Usage in the Workplace: What Employers Are Doing to Promote Inclusivity

Using the correct pronouns and honorifics in the workplace has become an increasingly important part of maintaining an inclusive workplace. At the same time, the sensitive nature of this trend and the many variations of pronouns and honorifics in use may leave employers confused as to how to accomplish that goal. Moreover, employers may be concerned with how to comply with employees’ requests in an ever-evolving space and with the increasing use of nonbinary pronouns.

Illinois Enacts Law Banning Racial Discrimination Based on Hairstyle or Hair Texture

On July 1, 2022, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 3616, also known as the CROWN Act. The CROWN (“Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”) Act (Public Act 102-1102) amends the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to expand the definition of “race” for the purposes of combatting unlawful discrimination in Illinois.

Employee Activism, Safety, and Support Amid Difficult Issues

Recent social and political controversies, such as rulings from the Supreme Court of the United States, international conflicts, and mass shootings, are likely to cause more employees to voice their opinions and frustrations both in and outside the workplace, whether through conversations, social media, or participation in marches, protests, and similar events.

Minnesota Legislative Update: Employment-Related Bills to Watch

The Minnesota Legislature, currently in regular session until mid- to late May 2022, has drafted various bills that may impact Minnesota employers and employees. Notably, some of the major bills under consideration (or already enacted) include a hair antidiscrimination bill, a measure extending the COVID-19 presumption of workers’ compensation eligibility for certain healthcare workers, and a proposal to restrict noncompete agreements.

Juneteenth Is a Federal Holiday: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tips for Proactive Employers

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.