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SCOTUS Victory for Employees in Employment Discrimination Deadline Case

Per federal employment discrimination laws timelines are short and decisive. If an employee misses a deadline his or her case is over. If such timelines aren’t forgiving the Supreme Court is in Green v. Brennan. The Court chose a deadline for constructive discharge cases, where an employee feels compelled to quit due to intolerable working conditions, more favorable to employees. Continue reading

 

SCOTUS Rules No Favored Nation Status for Pregnant Workers

Young v. United Parcel Service presents a dilemma most employers, including states, can relate to.  What should an employer do if a pregnant employee’s job requires that she lift an amount well above what her doctor has approved during pregnancy?

The specific issue the Court had to decide in this case was whether an employer violated Title VII because it accommodated many but not all nonpregnancy-related disabilities but did not accommodate pregnancy-related disabilities.  Maybe, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision. Continue reading

 

Who Asks Who Tells: IMLA Writes SCOTUS Amicus Brief in Religious Accommodation Case

HR 101: Don’t ask prospective employees about protected characteristics such as age, sex, race, national origin, religion, etc. No, no says the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC), if an employer thinks an employee may need a religious accommodation an employer must ask about religion. Is the EEOC’s (new) view correct?

That is what the Supreme Court will decide in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores. Who must ask about the need for a religious accommodation—the employer or the employee/applicant? The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief, which IMLA wrote, argues the employee/applicant should ask.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy” requires sale-floor employees to wear clothing consistent with what Abercrombie sells in it stores and prohibits headwear. Samantha Elauf wore a head scarf to an interview at Abercrombie but didn’t ask for a religious accommodation. Her interviewer assumed but did not ask if she were Muslim and wore the headscarf for religious reasons. Ms. Elauf was ultimately not hired because of the headscarf. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Abercrombie alleging it violated Title VII by failing to accommodate Ms. Elauf’s religious beliefs. At trial, EEOC’s expert testified that some women wear headscarves for cultural rather than religious reasons. Continue reading

 

Outer Limits of the ADA’s Applicability?: Must Police Officers Accommodate Mentally Ill Arrestees?

Per the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accommodating persons with disabilities is the norm.  Twenty-five years after the Act’s passage, the Supreme Court will decide whether it applies to police officers arresting a mentally ill suspect one who is armed and violent.

In City & County of San Francisco v. Sheehan the Supreme Court will decide whether, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), police must accommodate a suspect’s mental illness when arresting him or her.  The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief argues no because no conclusive evidence indicates that accommodating mentally ill suspects reduces injuries or the use of force.  IMLA filed a separate amicus brief in this case making different arguments than those made in the SLLC’s brief.

When police officers entered Teresa Sheehan’s room in a group home for persons with mental illness she threatened to kill them with a knife she held, so they retreated.  When the officers reentered her room soon after leaving it, Sheehan stepped toward them with her knife raised and continued to hold it after the officers pepper sprayed and ultimately shot her.  Sheehan survived.

Title II of the ADA provides that individuals with a disability must be able to participate in the “services, programs, or activities of a public entity,” and that their disability must be reasonably accommodated.

Sheehan argues that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests and that the officers should have taken her mental illness into account when reentering her room.  Her proposed accommodations included:  respecting her comfort zone, engaging in non-threatening communications, and using the passage of time to defuse the situation.

The Ninth Circuit agreed with Sheehan that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests.  The ADA applies broadly to police “services, programs, or activities,” which the Ninth Circuit interpreted to mean “anything a public entity does,” including arresting people.  The court refused to dismiss Sheehan’s ADA claim against the city reasoning that whether her proposed accommodations are reasonable is a question of fact for a jury.

The Ninth Circuit also concluded that reentry into Sheehan’s room violated the Fourth Amendment because it was unreasonable.  Although Sheehan needed help, “the officers had no reason to believe that a delay in entering her room would cause her serious harm, especially when weighed against the high likelihood that a deadly confrontation would ensue if they forced a confrontation.”

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages in their individual capacity if they violate a person’s constitutional rights.  Qualified immunity protects government officials from such lawsuits where the law they violated isn’t “clearly established.”

The Ninth Circuit refused to grant the officers qualified immunity related to their reentry:  “If there was no pressing need to rush in, and every reason to expect that doing so would result in Sheehan’s death or serious injury, then any reasonable officer would have known that this use of force was excessive.”  The Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s qualified immunity ruling.

The SLLC’s amicus brief argues that the ADA should not apply to arrests.  While few police departments have the resources to adopt specialized approaches to responding to incidents involving the mentally ill, no conclusive evidence indicates that these approaches reduce the rate or severity of injuries to mentally ill suspects.  No one-size fits-all approach makes sense because police officers encounter a wide range of suspects with mental illnesses.  And even psychiatrists—much less police officers who aren’t mental health professionals—cannot predict with any reasonable degree of certainty whether an armed suspect with a mental illness will harm himself or herself or others in an emergency.  Finally, because the officers in this case could not predict whether Sheehan would harm herself or others if they did not reenter her room, they are entitled to qualified immunity.

Orry Korb, Danny Chou, Greta Hanson, and Melissa Kiniyalocts, County of Santa Clara, California wrote the SLLC’s amicus brief which was joined by the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, and the United States Conference of Mayors.

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Second Circuit

  • Raspardo v. Carlone, No. 12-1686 (Oct. 6, 2014): In 1983 Title VII employment discrimination case brought by female police officers alleging hostile work environment and disparate treatment, the court affirmed denial of qualified immunity for one officer on hostile-work-environment claim, and reversed denial of qualified immunity for other officers.
  • Sunrise Detox V, LLC v. City of White Plains, No. 13-2911 (Oct. 2, 2014): In case in which  City denied request for facility to provide care for those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse because facility did not satisfy zoning requirements, the court affirmed district court’s determination that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over ADA suit. Suit was not ripe because applicant had not sought variance or appealed the zoning decision.
  • Grogan v. Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps, No. 13-656 (Sept. 29, 2014): The court affirmed dismissal of 1983 action after it determined that private emergency medical care and general ambulance services contracted for by municipality do not constitute “state action.”

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Long Conference Results Are In!

Last Monday’s Supreme Court “long conference” did not disappoint.  The Supreme Court granted a total of 11 petitions.Supreme Court3  At least four of those cases are relevant to local government.

Housing discrimination.  For the third time the Court has accepted a case involving this issue of whether disparate-impact (as opposed to disparate treatment) claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  It remains to be seen if Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project will settle like its predecessors, Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Citizens in Action and Magner v. Gallagher.  The 11 federal circuits that have decided this issue have all held that disparate-impact claims are actionable.  The Supreme Court is expected to rule to the contrary.  Local government have been sued for disparate impact under the FHA and have sued other entities.

Fourth Amendment search.  In its second Fourth Amendment case of the term, Rodriguez v. United States, the Court will decide whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by extending (for just a few minutes) an already-completed traffic stop for a dog sniff.  The Eighth Circuit held the search in this case was reasonable.  The police officer waited seven or eight minutes after the traffic stop was completed before deploying his sniffer dog because he wanted backup given that there were two people in the stopped car.

Employment discriminationContinue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:Alexandria-court

First Circuit

Second Circuit

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:SCT pillars

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments. NYcourt

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit

(January 13, 2014, through January 17, 2014)

Credit: Image courtesy of Flickr by Tracy Collins (creative common license, no changes made)

 

Seventh Circuit: Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act Does Not Reach Employment Discrimination

Does Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to employment-related discrimination claims, even though Title I of the Act specifically addresses such claims?

Answering this “question of first impression” in the circuit, in Brumfield v. City of Chicago, No. 11-2265 (Nov. 6, 2013), the Seventh Circuit today joined the Ninth and Tenth Circuits in concluding that Title II does not extend to employment-discrimination claims. Such claims must be brought under Title I.

The court determined that because, read in context, Title II unambiguously does not reach employment-discrimination claims, the court need not defer to the Attorney General’s rule to the contrary.  The court acknowledged that the Eleventh Circuit has reached the opposite conclusion, but the court found that circuit’s analysis unpersuasive.