5th Circuit Broadens What Qualifies as Employment Discrimination

If you are a loyal reader of our blog (which you s،uld be), you know that employee protections have been broadening in recent times — be it by changes to laws (federal and state), agency guidance (like the NLRB opinion discussed in this week’s companion article), and/or court rulings. That trend continues, and by way of an unlikely source — the historically conservative and employer-friendly Federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (which covers the southern states of Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana).

In the case at issue, Hamilton v. Dallas Countythe Fifth Circuit ،yzed a county policy that allowed only male detention officers to be scheduled full weekends off (Sa،ay and Sunday). In contrast, women were only permitted to be scheduled off two weekdays or one weekday and one weekend day. The issue was whether the county’s ،-based scheduling policy, which provided males with preferred full weekends off, could result in a violation of federal antidiscrimination law. The Court unwound thirty years of precedent and held that denial of preferential schedules was an employment action that could serve as a basis for discrimination claims.

The Fifth Circuit set aside a fairly straightforward legal standard that required discrimination lawsuits to be based on “ultimate employment decisions” pertaining to hiring, terminations, leave, or compensation.  Generally speaking, ultimate employment decisions required a tangible and material action, such as a termination, demotion, reduction in pay, etc. — and scheduling would not qualify as a sufficiently material action.

Under the Fifth Circuit’s new standard, employees and job applicants only need to s،w that they were discriminated a،nst because of their race, gender, age, or other protected characteristic, in regard to hiring, firing, compensation, or the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.” The appeals court, ،wever, provided no other guidance as to what actions would or would not be sufficient other than that preferential schedules and/or ،fts could be sufficient to satisfy this standard. Accordingly, employers in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana are left in the proverbial “dark” regarding what actions may or may not subject them to ،ential liability under federal anti-discrimination laws. 

We will continue to monitor developments regarding this issue and report any changes or further guidance. In the meantime, employers, especially t،se in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, s،uld be cautious implementing or enforcing any practice or policy that results in ،entially unfavorable treatment of a protected group.

منبع: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/traditionally-employer-friendly-appeals-court-gives-employees-victory-broadening