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Title VII to Protect LGBTQ Community

It is not every day that the United States Supreme Court issues a decision that dramatically changes the workplace, but it happened this week. In a landmark decision captioned as Bostock v. Clayton County, issued by the Court on June 15th, the Court ruled that federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “sex” will now include protections for individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, transgender, and gender identity.

On its face, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides, in pertinent part, that it is an “unlawful employment practice for an employer” to discriminate against an individual “because of such individual’s race, color, sex, or national origin” (emphasis added).

In the decades since its passing, courts across the country have grappled with the meaning of “sex” within the text of Title VII and the extent of its coverage; however, today, the Court clarified that “sex” includes sexual orientation, transgender, and gender identity, extending employment protections to these protected classes of people.

Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court in which he writes:

In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires [or discriminates against] an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.

This is a very important decision for all employers in America to recognize and follow as it will surely lead to liability and lawsuits for those employers that choose to ignore it. Practically, this decision prohibits an employer from considering an employee’s sexual orientation, transgender, or gender identification when making decisions concerning hiring, discipline, pay rate, job duties, and termination. As a result, employers should take this ruling as an opportunity to update employee handbooks and ensure provisions reflect the newly identified protected classes. As an additional measure, employers should use this decision as an opportunity to conduct re-trainings for all employees to ensure company-wide compliance with anti-discrimination and harassment policies, including the recent protections afforded to the LGBTQ community. Finally, this decision should spark employers to consider purchasing or reviewing their current Employment Practices Liability Insurance (“EPLI”) plan to ensure protection in the event of claims arising out of this decision.

Bryan Meek is a member of Brennan, Manna & Diamond’s Employment & Labor team and is available to assist you with responding to requests for information and/or appealing unfavorable unemployment decisions. Bryan can be reached at 330.253.5586, or bmeek@bmdllc.com

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

Looking for good news? If so, you are not alone. Aside from the collective mental, physical and emotional human toll imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, entire sectors of the economy have been ravaged, and old, familiar ways of doing business have been disrupted. Although deemed essential, the construction industry has not been immune to interruption and uncertainty during these unprecedented times. Amid new health and safety concerns, coupled with financial uncertainty, progress on projects has slowed, and the start dates for a number of new projects slated to begin in 2020 have been deferred. However, resilience has always been a trademark of contractors, subcontractors and other industry professionals. Reports indicate that while the construction industry lost more than one million jobs February through April, at least 600,000 of those jobs had been gained back by the end of June.

Yard Sign Do’s and Don’ts: How to Avoid Legal Challenges to Municipal Sign Codes this Election Season

As the nation heads into the tail end of the 2020 general election, municipalities will inevitably face challenges as they seek to regulate the seasonal proliferation of yard signs on residential property. While the matter may seem trifling, a seemingly benign yet content-based sign ordinance can result in significant legal exposure for municipalities that have not heeded recent Supreme Court decisions on content neutrality.

Time to Update Your HIPAA Compliance Plan for Telehealth Policies and Procedures

The delivery of healthcare in this country may be forever changed following the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing services through telehealth technologies initially allowed providers to connect with patients in a safe and socially distant manner and helped keep vital hospital beds free for COVID-19 care. Now, while still a safe, socially distant option, telehealth allows patients to access healthcare services in an efficient manner, decreases the likelihood of cancellations, and expands access to services that do not require an in-person encounter (i.e., surgery, procedure, or test). Telehealth is now widely reimbursed by both federal and commercial payors and more provider types are able to provide telehealth services within their licensed scope of practice.