Volume 7, Issue 4
April 2018
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Highlights Need for Clear Vacation Policies
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a trial court's decision that a pest control company employee was not entitled to a payout for his accrued, but unused, vacation leave. The Court found that the terms of Carrolton Pest Control & Termite Co.'s policy were ambiguous and therefore, the employee was entitled to the payout. The employee had worked for Carrolton for twenty-three years before his resignation. During that time, he had accrued approximately 1.25 vacation days per month. When he resigned, he had only used three of his fifteen days for 2015 and none of the days he had accrued in 2016. He sought compensation for a combined 18.25 days of vacation, but was only paid for 3.25 days because Carrolton's interpretation of the vacation policy was different than his. The employee filed suit under La.R.S. 23:631 and 23:632 for unpaid vacation wages of $2,974.02 plus interest. The trial court ruled that the vacation policy was clear on the issue of whether unused vacation would roll over to a subsequent year or was forfeited at the end of each year. However, the Fourth Circuit reviewed the trial court's decision and, the policy and supporting documentation from both the employee and Carrolton and found that the policy was ambiguous regarding whether unused accrued vacation leave could be carried over to the next year, and that the language should be construed against the employer because it drafted the policy. The decision awarded the employee the requested vacation wages for 18.25 days. 
Fired Male VP Accuses HSBC of Sex Bias
Hussam Hariri, a male vice president of HSBC was fired after being accused of sexually harassing a female coworker. According to the March 27 lawsuit, Hariri claims he had been falsely accused of harassment and the human resources department presumed he was guilty before launching an investigation. Hariri claimed the female coworker was actually the one who was doing the harassing. He alleged that she worked with him in HSBC USA's commercial banking division and he had been complaining to the bank about her for months before she falsely reported to HR that he had asked her on a date.  He also said she had also discussed her misgivings about her upcoming wedding and that he was her "first choice" as a husband and invaded his "personal space" including hugging him inappropriately. In the lawsuit, Hariri says that the conversation in which he allegedly asked out the coworker occurred via WhatsApp and the relevant part of the chat is where the female coworker wrote to him, "Hi sexy." He reported the chat to HR and the commercial banking division Senior Vice President Amy Mauer-Litos immediately. He was then required to work from home for months and was asked to avoid contacting any member of his commercial banking team other than Mauer-Litos while the harassment allegation against him was investigated. The investigation concluded with Hariri being discharged for inappropriately communicating with his female colleagues. The HR representative who investigated the charge told him from the outset that he should answer the questions honestly because she already knew the answers. According to Hariri, he never saw any evidence from the HR representative that he had harassed anyone, and the HR representative had "failed to acknowledge documentation" Hariri had provided of his communications with his accuser and other colleagues through HSBC's intra-office messaging platform. 
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Against EEOC in Racial Discrimination Case
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against the EEOC in a lawsuit against Catastrophe Management Solutions. The ruling effectively said that refusing to hire someone because they had dreadlocks was legal. The EEOC's lawsuit, filed on behalf of Chastity Jones, claimed that Catastrophe Management Solutions rescinded a job offer because Jones had dreadlocks. According to the lawsuit, a CMS Human Resources Manager commented on Jones' dreadlocks during a private hiring meeting to discuss scheduling conflicts. The HR manager allegedly said "they tend to get messy, although I'm not saying yours are, but you know what I'm talking about," and then informed Jones that CMS would not hire Jones with dreadlocks, terminating the job offer. The EEOC claimed that rescinding the job offer was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's Title VII, which protects against discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, and religion. The EEOC argued that Jones' dreadlocks were a "racial characteristic" that have been used in history to stereotype African-Americans. The EEOC said CMS's claim that dreadlocks do no fit the grooming policy is inherently discriminatory because dreadlocks are "physiologically and culturally associated" with African-Americans. However, the 11th Circuit disagreed with the EEOC's argument, saying CMS's "race-neutral grooming policy" was not discriminatory and that dreadlocks are not an "immutable physical characteristic." The ruling essentially held that traits in a person's appearance tied to culture but otherwise changeable are not protected under Title VII and therefore can be used to deny job offers. 
The Wing Women's Club Being Examined By New York City Panel
The New York City Human Rights Commission has launched a sexual discrimination investigation into The Wing, a women-only private social club that offers co-working office space. The Commission's investigation stems from an inquiry by a member of the public and widespread media coverage of the organization's activities. The investigation seeks to determine whether or not what The Wing does is legal under the city's Human Rights Law's prohibition of sexual discrimination in public accommodations. The Commission issued a statement saying it is "proud of its record supporting and empowering women in New York City, many of whom have, for the first time in their lives, found a viable venue for justice, and we will continue to fight for equality for New Yorkers in every corner of our city." The Commission has faced public backlash since an article about the investigation was published on the online women's issues blog Jezebel.
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