Friday Flurry: Updates on the News from this Week

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Friday Flurry: Updates on the News from This Week:

Senate Approves Acosta as Labor Chief

By: Rebecca Hause-Schultz

On April 27, 2017, Alexander Acosta was confirmed to serve as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor. Acosta is the dean of the Florida International University Law School, and served as a member of the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Labor Relations Board during President George W. Bush’s presidency.

Now that Mr. Acosta has been confirmed, it is expected that the Department of Labor (“DOL”) will weigh in on the current administration’s position in relation to President Obama’s overtime rule, which doubled the minimum salary threshold to qualify for the “white collar” exemption to $47,476.00 per year. From his testimony at his confirmation hearing, it seems Mr. Acosta is in favor of some type of increase in the minimum salary threshold. You can read more about Mr. Acosta’s confirmation hearing here. As we have reported here, since President Trump has taken office, his administration has requested several delays until a head of the DOL was in place.


Now that the Mr. Acosta has been confirmed, employers will soon receive much needed guidance on the current administration’s position on labor issues, including the white collar exemption. The Saqui Law Group will continue to provide updates as Mr. Acosta takes office.


Single Use of Racial Slur Enough for Hostile Work Environment Claim

By: Jason Yang

On April 25, 2017, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, “the one-time use of a severe racial slur could, by itself, support a hostile work environment.”  In Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, LLC, No. 15-560-cv, (2d Cir. April 25, 2017), Plaintiff, a gay, black man, was referred to by his supervisor using a particularly offensive racial slur.  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals went out of its way to specifically overrule the Southern District of New York’s underlying grant of summary judgment which concluded, in part, that the one-time use of a severe racial slur could not support a hostile work environment claim.  The 2nd Circuit did not actually address whether the racial slur actually constituted a hostile work environment claim, but this ruling discourages the 2nd Circuit’s lower courts from dismissing hostile work environment claims because supervisors only directed racial slurs at their employees, once.


The use of racial slurs is not appropriate in the workplace and can give rise to hostile work environment claims.  It is important to make sure your supervisors are made aware this is inappropriate behavior and any employee complaints regarding their use are appropriately managed. Call the legal experts at the Saqui Law Group if you need assistance with a hostile work environment claim.


9th Circuit Decision on Equal Pay for Women

By: Jarred Lieber

In an opinion filed yesterday, the 9th Circuit threw out the district court’s order denying the defendant employer’s motion for summary judgment on a claim under the Equal Pay Act. The defendant admitted that it paid the female plaintiff less than males in similar positions but argued that this was proper because her pay was based on her “prior salary” and not her sex. The 9th Circuit stated that “prior salary” may be an appropriate reason to pay a female plaintiff less than her male colleagues so long as the employer uses “prior salary” to further some business policy and that the factor is reasonable given the stated business purpose.  Accordingly, the 9th Circuit sent the case back down to the district court to reconsider.


This is a small and probably short lived victory for the defendant, but it does show that courts are required to at least consider whether there are legitimate business reasons for paying male and female employees differently. That being said, as discussed here and here employers should continue to make sure that any wage differentials between men and women or employees of different ethnicities doing substantially similar work can be justified. If you have any questions about equal pay issues, make sure to call the legal experts at the Saqui Law Group.



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