Nasdaq Amends Proposed Rule on Board Diversity to Provide Compliance Flexibility

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.

A Year Into the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Have We Learned About Workplaces and What Does the Future Hold?

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.

Connecticut Enacts the CROWN Act Banning Discrimination Based on Ethnic Traits

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.”

Equality Act Reintroduced to U.S. Congress

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.

Biden Administration Revokes Diversity Training Restrictions and Takes Further Actions to Address Diverse Groups

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.

On Day One of the Biden Administration, a Flurry of Executive Orders

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.

UK Publishes Updated Guidances on Gender Pay Gap Reporting Requirements

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).

CROWN Act Ordinance: New Orleans Enacts Law to Prohibit Hairstyle Discrimination

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.

Race and Sex Stereotyping Executive Order Subject to Preliminary Injunction

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.

Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed to Strike Down EO 13950

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).

The New ‘Race and Sex Stereotyping’ Executive Order Affecting Federal Contractors

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.

Practical Questions for Employers Following the Bostock Decision, Part 3: Pronouns and Honorifics

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.

Practical Questions for Employers Following the Bostock Decision, Part 2: 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, 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.

‘But-For’ Causation Under Bostock

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.

Social Media Posts During Turbulent Times: FAQs on Employee Rights and Employer Responsibilities

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.

Supreme Court Justices Dissent: The Opposition to Extending Title VII’s Protections to Gay and Transgender Employees

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.

Recognizing Juneteenth and Strengthening Company Culture: Tips for Employers

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.

In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Rules That Title VII Prohibits Employment Discrimination of Gay and Transgender Individuals

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.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Pay Equality in the UK Workplace

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.

Maryland Legislature Passes Hairstyle Discrimination, Facial Recognition in Hiring, Retaliation, and Equal Pay Laws

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.

Supreme Court Requires But-For Causation for Section 1981 Claims

On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African-American Owned Media, ruled that a plaintiff who alleges race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 must plead and has the ultimate burden of showing that race was a but-for cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and that burden remains constant over the life of the lawsuit.

Title III Coronavirus FAQs: Tips for Addressing Common ADA Title III Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While many traditional places of public accommodation, such as theaters, stadiums, restaurants, amusement parks, and retail stores, have shut down their operations in response to “shelter in place” and “social distancing” orders issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many businesses deemed “essential” by government orders or otherwise continuing operations have adopted sound safety rules designed to keep their employees safe.