Articles Posted in Discrimination and Unlawful Harassment

A fork in the road - - 558151

You’re right, Commissioner Feldblum. Social media is awesome!

Last Friday, I posted here about a recent federal-court decision addressing the sex discrimination claims of a transgender employee. What drew my attention to the case was this Facebook status update from EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, in which she touted the court’s decision as further support for the EEOC’s position that transgender discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII. In my Friday post, I concluded that, while the court did allow the plaintiff’s sex discrimination claims to proceed to trial, it wasn’t because of her transgender status. Rather, the court reasoned that the employer may have engaged in unlawful sex stereotyping. Sex stereotyping definitely violates Title VII.

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Back in April, the EEOC concluded that transgender discrimination is discrimination based on sex and, therefore, violates Title VII. That same month, a federal court denied another employer’s motion to dismiss the sex discrimination claims of a transgender employee. However, in denying the motion to dismiss, the court did not conclude that transgender discrimination is sex discrimination. Rather, it reaffirmed that Title VII prohibits sex stereotyping; i.e., when an employer takes action because an employee does not conform to the employer’s sex- or gender-based preferences, expectations, or stereotypes.

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The Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to accommodate an employee with a disability, if doing so will enable that individual to perform the essential functions of the job. The exception is if the accommodation would create undue hardship for the employer.

But when is that duty to accommodate triggered?

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An alcoholic employee can present a number of tricky legal issues affecting the workplace. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there’s a certain dichotomy. That is, alcoholism is a disability under the Act. However, an employer can ban alcohol in the workplace and require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.

But what about an alcoholic employee, who, while remaining sober at work, seeks a leave of absence to treat?

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One of my all-time favorite ADA cases — God, am I a dork — is Keith v. County of Oakland, which I previously blogged about here. It involves a deaf lifeguard who applies for a position at a public pool and what, accommodations, if any are reasonable to allow him to perform the essential functions of the job. Why I like the case — in addition to singing the Baywatch theme when I speak about it at SHRM events — is it teaches employers never to judge a book by its cover. Even a deaf lifeguard may be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job.

Yesterday, I read about another case involving a deaf applicant for a safety-sensitive position.

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