Cincinnati (513) 721-1975  
Dayton (937) 228-3731  

Time to Double Down Against the Double Standard

Ann Wittenauer

A lawsuit by a former employee of a Christian college in California reminds us of the continued need for laws protecting women from sex discrimination. A Christian college in San Diego terminated Teri James upon its discovery of her pregnancy. James, who is unmarried, had signed a pledge requiring employees to abstain from extra-marital sex. James claims, however, that after she lost her job, the school offered a position to her now-husband, even though it was aware that he also had engaged in extra-marital sex.

A court in Cincinnati, Ohio recently considered a similar case involving a termination for an extra-marital pregnancy resulting from artificial insemination, Dias v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In that case, when Dias, the computer technology coordinator at two of the Archdiocese’s schools told her principal that she was pregnant, the principal told Dias that she would probably lose her job because she was pregnant and unmarried.

Judge Arthur Spiegel noted that a school’s policy against its teachers engaging in sex outside of marriage might be “valid and non-pretextual [i.e., not a cover up for discrimination]” if it applied equally to men and women. Judge Spiegel recently decided that a jury should be allowed to determine whether the Archdiocese had applied its policies in a gender-neutral manner. Teri James should have the same opportunity to present her case to a jury in California.

To read more about James’ case, click here.


Yahoo! Telecommuting Ban Bad for Business

Randy Freking

Yahoo’s just announced edict that it will no longer allow employees to telecommute is bad for its business and a reversal of recent trends making it easier for families to balance work/life demands. It’s a strange policy change for a technology company from Silicon Valley. It is estimated that 1 in 10 Americans do some form of telecommuting, and it is recognized as a good business practice by many forward thinking companies.

In addition, the policy change may be unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act if it applies to persons with disabilities. Under the ADA, companies – even Yahoo – must “reasonably accommodate” employees’ disabilities. In some cases, telecommuting is the most reasonable accommodation for employees who are unable to work at a specific location due to a disability.

After deciding to put more pressure on working families, let’s hope Yahoo doesn’t choose to apply the policy in a way that reverses trends that have made it easier for the disabled to earn a living.

For more information about the ban, click here.


Federal Judge in Houston Accused of Racist Remarks

George Reul

U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes of Southern District of Texas has come under fire recently from legal blogs and litigants in his courtroom. On January 31, 2013, Plaintiff “JT” Shah filed a motion to have Judge Hughes recused from his discrimination case. Shah’s motion asserts that during a pre-trial conference Hughes made several comments that demonstrated actual bias or prejudice against Shaw including: “And what does a diversity director do? Go around and painting students different colors so that they would think they were mixed?”
Judge Hughes also came under fire for comments made in another discrimination case where he awarded the employer attorneys’ fees after he dismissed the case; a rare instance that would only be granted in frivolous cases. In this particular case the Plaintiff Albert Autry had a college degree and eleven years experience as an area supervisor in a school district facilities setting. The plaintiff had argued his race was a factor in the school district’s decision to hire a Caucasian facilities manager with a high school diploma, no prior experience with the school district, and eleven years working for a title insurance company. Mr. Autry alleged that the facilities director who supervised him had made comments during the hiring process that “[i]f President Obama’s elected, they’re going to have to take the Statute of Liberty and put a piece of fried chicken in his [sic] hand.” When Autry’s lawyer suggested that the supervisor’s reference to fried chicken was “a long-standing racial slur,” Judge Hughes responded “[t]hat’s really surprising to Colonel Sanders.”
It is surprising that the court held that this particular case did not have enough evidence to allow a jury to decide the evidence of discrimination. Although the Appeals Court reversed the decision to award attorneys fees to the Defendant, they upheld Judge Hughes’ decision to dismiss his case.
Click here to read The Houston Chronicle report on Judge Hughes
Click here to read the Court of Appeals decision


One in Five Commercial Trucks Unsafe

Mark Napier

In 2012, Roadcheck inspections placed 22.4% of commercial vehicles and 3.9% of drivers out of service. This means that more than one in five trucks were taken off the road for safety violations so severe the truck and driver were not allowed to continue. This highlights the fact that despite comprehensive federal and state regulations, rogue companies and unqualified drivers still operate unsafe tractor-trailers on our highways. The 2013 Roadcheck for North America will be conducted on June 4-6, 2013.
Roadcheck is the largest commercial vehicle safety inspection program in the world, inspecting over 60,000 trucks or buses at 1,500 locations across North America during a 72 hour period.
For more information visit the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance website and its Roadcheck page.


UC President’s Contract Not Really for 10 Years

Randy Freking

There has been much written about the new contract for the President of the University of Cincinnati, Santa Ono.  The headlines say “Ono receives ten year contract!” (See Fox 19 article; WLWT article.)

A ten year employment contract would be way out of bounds in private industry, and much more so in the public sector. However, while the contract says it has a ten year term, Section 15 of the Contract allows the University to terminate President Ono “without cause” at ANY time, and provides him one year severance. (To read the contract, click here.) Thus, while President Ono may feel secure for 10 years, his agreement is really for one year in terms of compensation. So, if he is terminated without cause (for example, U.C. finds someone else) in 2014, he will be paid for one year thereafter – not until 2022.

This is a relatively common misunderstanding for employees with contracts. What is important is not the stated term (“we are giving you a five year contract”); what is important is how long you get paid if the employer decides to end the contract early “without cause”.