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The Cincinnati Workers’ Rights Project

Jon Allison

Monday Blog

In my most recent blog, I described a problem with Ohio law that has a significant negative impact on low-wage workers and prevents many of them from realizing the promises of state laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Low-wage workers attempting to use federal law to confront discrimination face similar barriers. So how about some good news?

There is a new nonprofit in Cincinnati dedicated to advocating for the rights of low-wage workers – The Cincinnati Workers’ Rights Project. The mission of the Cincinnati Workers’ Rights Project is to advocate for low-wage workers, to educate them regarding their rights and to provide pro-bono advice to workers who have been terminated from their jobs.

The Project advocates for low-wage workers in multiple ways, including promoting social and political change that will improve the lives of low-wage workers. Its primary focus is on educating individuals via pro-bono 30-60 minute post-termination consultations with the Legal Director, law students working under the direction of the Legal Director, or volunteer attorneys. The Project also offers preliminary representation and referrals to volunteer attorneys in appropriate cases.

Follow this link to the Cincinnati Workers’ Rights Project’s website. You can reach its Executive Director/Legal Director, Ann Koize Wittenauer, at 513-592-2318 or via email at info@workersrightsproject.org.

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Losing My Religion

Jon Allison

Monday Blog

Earlier this month NPR ran a story on the growing number of Religious “Nones” (persons who do not identify with any religion) and the political implications of the growth of that group.  NPR reported in the story that this group is growing rapidly.  Religious “nones” include atheists, agnostics and people who report they just don’t belong to any religion in particular.  From 2007 to 2014 the adult population of “nones” increased by over 50%.  Of those born from 1928 to 1945, 11% are “nones.”  Of those born from 1946 to 1964 (baby boomers), it is 17%.  23% of those born from 1965 to 1980 (Gen. Xers) are “nones.”  34% of Old Millennials (born 1981 to 1989) and 36% of New Millennials (born 1990 to 1996) are “nones.”  From an employment lawyer’s perspective, it will be interesting to see the impact of this trend on employment claims.  As more and more “nones” take on management and decision making roles in organizations, will they be more or less tolerant of employees’ and applicants’ religious practices?  Will there be an increase or decrease in religious discrimination claims by employees who practice a particular religion.  As their numbers grow will there be an increase in religious discrimination claims by “nones” who say they are being discriminated against for being atheist or agnostic?  What about the impact of the growth of this group on equal employment opportunity in general?  Looks like we may be finding out sooner rather than later.
The NPR story is linked here . . .

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Inside Job

Jon Allison

Monday Blog
Last week a group of four former store detectives filed a class-action lawsuit against CVS alleging that it directed them to racially profile African-American and Hispanic customers and then retaliated against the detectives when they complained that the practice was discriminatory.  The plaintiffs say that two loss-prevention supervisors for the Manhattan and Queens store locations on a regular basis told the detectives to profile African-American and Hispanic customers because they were the ones who were always the thieves.  After complaining to superiors, the plaintiffs say they were subjected to false criticism of their performance.  Three of the plaintiffs were then terminated earlier this year while one was terminated before that.  One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs said that, while there have been profiling cases filed by customers, “this is the first time a group of employees has banded together to provide an inside account and expose the blatant racial profiling policy at one of the largest retailers in the world.”
Find more information here.

The Expectation That Dads Prioritize Work
Josh Levs was the fatherhood reporter for CNN in the summer of 2013 when his wife gave birth prematurely while suffering from a severe pregnancy complication.  Months prior to the premature birth of his daughter he had requested 10 weeks of paid leave.  At the time CNN offered 10 weeks of paid leave under CNN’s leave policies.  He found out that the 10 weeks of leave only applied to men in cases of adoption or a surrogate birth.  He asked if CNN would change the policy.  He was told no 11 days after the premature birth of his daughter.  Instead, when his family needed him most, he got 2 weeks of leave which was at that point used up.  He filed an EEOC complaint which is not yet resolved.  CNN has, however, changed its policy.  Read this article for more details.

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Blog Update: Supreme Court Issues Decision On Religious Accomodation

Jon Allison

On Monday the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Samantha Elauf/Abercrombie & Fitch case ruling in favor of Elauf.  The Court held “Title VII forbids adverse employment decisions made with a forbidden motive, whether this motive derives from actual knowledge, a well-founded suspicion or merely a hunch.”  Abercrombie denied Elauf employment because she wore a headscarf to her interview that Abercrombie says conflicted with its dress code.  But Abercrombie did not tell Elauf of the dress code during the interview so Elauf did not know to request a religious accommodation allowing her to wear it.  Abercrombie then argued that Elauf never brought it up, so Abercrombie should be off the hook.  The Supreme Court found that Abercrombie at least suspected that Elauf wore the headscarf for religious reasons and it could have easily offered her the accommodation of allowing her to wear it.  This case makes it clear that employers can’t just put their head in the sand when it appears an applicant may request a religious accommodation.

This is an update on Jon’s original blog post from March 2, 2015 titled We Don’t Allow Hats. You Got A Problem With That? .  Click on the title to read the original post.

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A Step In The Right Direction For Working Parents

Jon Allison

Monday Blog

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey will be providing to all employees in her office 6 weeks of paid parental leave.  This is a step in the right direction toward providing economic security for working mothers and fathers.  Others should follow suit and do even more.  Currently, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993, new parents in the United States are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  However, the United States lags far behind other industrialized nations with respect to leave provided to working parents.  We are the only nation that does not require paid leave and we offer the least amount of unpaid leave.  Most other countries require significantly more than 6 weeks of paid parental leave.  We have work to do.  Read more here.

A Literature/Gym Teacher And The Ministerial Exemption

Shaela Evenson was terminated last year from her Catholic school teaching job at Butte Central in Helena, Montana after the school learned she was unmarried and pregnant.  Evenson recently filed suit for pregnancy discrimination, sex discrimination and breach of contract.  The school and co-defendant the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena is taking the position that Evenson cannot pursue any discrimination claims because she was a ministerial employee and the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized a ministerial exemption preventing such suits.  Evenson’s position is that the ministerial exemption only applies to employees “whose primary duties consist of engaging in church governance, supervising a religious order, or conducting religious ritual, worship or instruction.”  Evenson says the exemption doesn’t apply to her because she taught literature and physical education.  The school and diocese say the exemption applies because she led her homeroom class in a daily prayer, accompanied them to Mass, and took religious education classes.  See this article for additional information.

 

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