#MeToo Movement Spurs a 50 Percent Increase in EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



It comes as no surprise that one year after the rise of the #MeToo movement, more women are not just speaking up about sexual harassment in the workplace, but they are taking action in the courthouse.

According to a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) press release, the EEOC has already filed 66 harassment lawsuits in 2018, including 41 specifically citing sexual harassment – a 50 percent increase over 2017.

The EEOC also reported that it recovered almost $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through administrative enforcement and litigation in 2018, up from $47.5 million in 2017. Interestingly, the overall number of discrimination charges are down, but charges for sexual harassment are up.

Victoria Lipnic, acting chair of the agency, commented during an interview with The Washington Post that she believe the increase is a result of the #MeToo movement, saying “This stuff happens everywhere. If you don’t address it in your workplace, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a federal enforcement [action].” Continue reading »

Employers With Arbitration Clauses Win – Part Two: Factors Employers Should Consider When Determining Whether to Incorporate an Employee Arbitration Program

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



One of the many employment-related decisions a company must make is whether it wishes to require employees to give up their rights to file an employment action in court, and instead to require employees to use arbitration.

In Part One, we discussed how employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis. This much-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis allows employers to use arbitration agreements as a tool to avoid costly class action claims with more certainty that they will be enforced by the courts.

The decision in Epic also added an additional favorable factor to the arbitration choice column. The Court ruled that employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis and thus avoid class actions. Epic Systems (which was decided along with two sister cases) involved employees seeking class action litigation, despite having employment contracts with provisions that required individualized arbitration proceedings.

Although Missouri is an employment at will state, employees can sue employers under various state and federal statutes in state or federal court. Some of those statues, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act, allow class actions. Litigation is very costly and there could always be a runaway jury. Arbitration, on the other hand, is designed to avoid complex and time-consuming litigation and to provide an alternate source of justice. An arbitration could take six months to resolve but the decision will be final and binding and unappealable, while a court proceeding through a jury trial could take 21-41 months and the decision is always appealable. Continue reading »

Employers With Arbitration Clauses Win – Part One: The U.S. Supreme Court Embraces Arbitration Agreements with Class Action Waivers

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of class action waivers in employee arbitration agreements by issuing a 5-4 decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis on March 21, 2018.

In short, employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis. This much-anticipated decision allows employers to use arbitration agreements as a tool to avoid costly class action claims with more certainty that they will be enforced by the courts.

Brief History of Arbitration Clauses and Class Action Waivers in the Employment Context

The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) was enacted in 1925 in response to hostility toward arbitration agreements. The FAA provides that a written agreement to submit a controversy arising out of the agreement to arbitration is to be enforced unless “grounds exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” Since the enactment of the FAA, the Supreme Court has consistently recognized the establishment of a federal policy supporting arbitration agreements.

However, in 2012, the National Labor Relations (“NLRB”) found in D.R. Horton, Inc., that mandatory arbitration agreements with class action waivers were violative of employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), which guarantees employees the right to self-organize, bargain collectively, and “engage in activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Following the NLRB’s decision, a split among the circuits developed. While the Second, Fifth and Eighth Circuits rejected the NLRB’s reasoning in D.R. Horton, the Seventh and Ninth Circuits sided with the NLRB and refused to enforce employee arbitration agreements with class action waivers.

Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis

On May 21, 2018, the Supreme Court resolved the circuit split and upheld the use of class action waivers in arbitration agreements in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.  Epic Systems, which was decided along with two sister cases, involved employees seeking class action litigation despite having employment contracts with provisions that required individualized arbitration proceedings. The following are the three key arguments by employees and the Court’s decisions: Continue reading »

Masterpiece Cakeshop: Maintaining the Status Quo

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



authored by Laura Gerdes Long with the assistance of Jessica Gottsacker, law clerk

In agreeing to review Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court faced questions involving both constitutional protections for LGBTQ rights and the free exercise of religious beliefs. In the end, the Court followed the facts of this particular case, making a decision that was narrower than anticipated while still upholding both rights.

In 2012, a same-sex couple visited Masterpiece Cakeshop, a custom bakery in Colorado, to order a wedding cake. The shop’s owner, Jack Phillips, refused because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages, saying that he would make any other kind of cake, such as a birthday cake. At the time, Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriages since the Court had not yet handed down Obergefell v. Hodges. The couple filed suit with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Colorado Anti–Discrimination Act (CADA). CADA makes it unlawful to discriminate in public accommodations or “place[s] of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services … to the public.” (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24–34–601(1) (2017)).The Commission determined there was probable cause that discrimination had occurred. Unwilling to ignore his religious beliefs, Phillips stopped selling wedding cakes altogether and his profits fell forty percent. Eventually, Phillips brought his lawsuit to the Supreme Court.

The Court faced two issues: Continue reading »

Update on the EEOC and the Prohibition of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



In an article in the inaugural issue of DMPC’s Employment News You Can Use, EEOC: Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is Prohibited, we discussed the state of the current contradictory precedent out of the Missouri Courts of Appeals.

As of the date of this post, the uncertainty of whether employment decisions based on sexual orientation are prohibited remains; however, limited movement was made by the Western District’s Court of Appeals when it reversed a summary judgment ruling in Lampley v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights.

Harold Lampley alleged his employer, the State of Missouri, Department of Social Services Child Support Enforcement Division, discriminated against him based on sex because his behavior and appearance contradicted the stereotypes of males held by his employer and managers. Lampley argued that because he did not conform to the stereotype of males, his employer treated him differently from other employees who conformed with gender stereotypes. Lampley postured his sex discrimination case as supported by evidence of sex stereotyping. It is important to note that Lampley brought his lawsuit against his employer for sex discrimination, not discrimination based on sexual orientation. Continue reading »

Salaries Speak Louder than Words: The Ninth Circuit Holds that Prior Salary Cannot Justify Wage Disparities

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



In April 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Rizo v. Yovino that an employee’s pay history is not a legal justification for a wage disparity under the Equal Pay Act.

The Equal Pay Act (the “Act”) stands for a principle as simple as its title: men and women should receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex.  While sex-based wage discrimination has been prohibited under the Act for over fifty years, the pay gap between men and women continues to be a disconcerting reality in our society.

The Act provides that an employer may justify wage disparities if it is able to prove that it relied not on sex, but on one of the following exceptions: (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on “any factor other than sex.” It is the last “catch-all” exception that was the subject of Rizo v. Yovino. Continue reading »

The EEOC Catches the Flu: A Cautionary Tale for Employers With Mandatory Flu Vaccination Programs

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



After enduring one of the worst flu seasons in nearly a decade, there is no question why more employers are instituting mandatory flu vaccination programs. In fact, mandatory flu vaccination programs are increasingly popular for healthcare employees.

No current laws in Missouri or Illinois mandate all health care employees to be vaccinated against the flu. That being said, nursing home employers in Missouri are required to either offer the flu shot to all employees and volunteers who have direct contact with residents, or provide the employees and volunteers with information about how they can obtain the flu shot independently. Similarly, health care employers in Illinois are required to provide all employees with education on influenza, as well as the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Some states, such as California and Maryland, require hospitals to publish their employee vaccination rates to the public.

When instituting a mandatory flu vaccination program, however, an employer should be aware of the possible ramifications of denying or terminating employment for refusal to comply with a mandatory flu vaccination program on the basis of religious beliefs.  Continue reading »

Employment News You Can Use

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



Welcome to the inaugural issue of “Employment News You Can Use,” Danna McKitrick’s Employment Law Educational Alliance newsletter.

After a busy legislative session, employers may find several reasons to be encouraged.

Continue reading »

“Motivating Factor” Standard Replaces “Contributory Factor”

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



Over the past decade, Missouri has been viewed as a plaintiff-friendly state in workplace discrimination lawsuits. Effective August 28, 2017, Senate Bill 43 was signed into law by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, which amends the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). The law changes the applicable standard for liability of an employer and more closely aligns Missouri law with federal policies and law. The standard for liability has moved from proof that the discriminatory conduct was a “contributing factor” to “the motivating factor.”

Under the more strict “motivating factor” standard, a plaintiff must prove, not only that the accused employer was unlawfully biased against the plaintiff’s protected classification, but also that this bias had a “determinative influence” on the employer’s decision to terminate the plaintiff. (Missouri Revised Statutes 213.010(19) 2017). The MHRA specifies that only employers are considered entities, not individuals, subject to liability for proven discrimination.

Also important, the MHRA changes language of the Act and now requires that a complaint must be formally filed by the victim within 180 days of any alleged discriminatory offense. Previously, in Missouri, a victim could file a complaint of discrimination within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct. Continue reading »

Preventing Sex Discrimination: The Case for Implementing More Guard Rails

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



One of the hottest topics today is the accusations of some form of sex discrimination – which includes sexual harassment and sexual assault – related to employment. From the entertainment industry to media organizations, professional services firms, restaurants, venture capital firms, legislative bodies, and many others, the problem is widespread – but it is not new. It is just an age-old story with new players.

Lawyers are brought in after the allegations are made. Those burning allegations must be dealt with very quickly under the law. The intent is to contain the fire by creating legal closure which, in most cases, involves settling the subject claim(s) through release agreements that contain confidentiality agreements and non-disparagement clauses. With respect to  advice to prevent sexual harassment in the future, lawyers often recommend a myriad of actions including  installing new leaders, overhauling management, conducing outside legal reviews into unreported claims, creating employee advisory committees, updating sexual harassment policies, offering  more employee services, and providing more training and education to employees. Depending on whether the ultimate decision maker sincerely “walks this talk,” this all could be simple symbolic noise.

Setting aside the allegations and rumored settlements, the common threads are as follows: Continue reading »