Volume 7, Issue 7
July 2018
New Louisiana Laws Protect Sexual Harassment Victims
Governor John Bel Edwards recently signed two new laws that will offer more protections for people who complain about sexual harassment. Both measures were sponsored by Senator J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans and will go into effect on August 1, 2018. The first law prevents people accused of sexual misconduct from moving forward with defamation or libel lawsuits against their accusers while the sexual misconduct complaint is being investigated. According to Morrell who was advised by a friend at Tulane University, this is a common intimidation tactic being used in universities when faculty members or other staff members are accused by students of sexual misconduct. It often leads to the student withdrawing the complaint because they cannot afford to fight a defamation or libel lawsuit. The law does allow a person to move forward with a defamation or libel suit only after the sexual  harassment complaint is resolved. The second law will allow courts to throw out non-disclosure agreements if they prevent a victim from discussing publicly or sharing information about criminal activity. The law was inspired by the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University Doctor Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal in which at least one young woman signed a non-disclosure agreement with USA Gymnastics and was not allowed to discuss the particulars of the abuse Nassar committed against her. The new law will apply to more than just criminal sexual misconduct, but only criminal activity will be grounds for the agreements to be thrown out. Non-disclosure agreements are popular among many of the celebrities who have recently been accused of sexual misconduct, including Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly and even President Trump.
Farmers and Farmworkers On Opposite Sides of Immigration Debate
The recent outcry over the Trump Administration's "zero-tolerance" and family separation approach to illegal immigration is highlighting the divide between American farmers and the largely foreign workforce they employ. On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that will stop family separation, but will not stop the "zero-tolerance" policy. U.S. farmworker advocates have been exceedingly vocal with their objections to the policy, while the leading farmer lobbying group, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), is sitting on the sidelines and hoping for separation agricultural legislation to address the ongoing worker shortage. The U.S. agriculture industry employs between 1.5 million and 2 million paid workers. About half of that workforce are unauthorized according the AFBF's website. Farmers have been finding it difficult to hire enough workers for decades, but is has become more difficult recently despite the number of migrant workers working on temporary agricultural visas surging in recent years. Paul Schlegel, managing director of public policy and economics at the AFBF and farmworkers groups attribute this difficulty in finding hired hands to the Trump Administration's strict enforcement policy. Schlegel said the AFBF does not have a position on current immigration bill proposals or the Trump Administration's policies, including family separation. The National Farmers Union, the second-largest farm organization after AFBF has also chosen to remain quiet on the Administration's policies. On the opposite side, several Farmworker groups and smaller farmer organizations have firmly opposed current legislation awaiting approval in Congress, even signing a letter to Congress in protest. 
Trump Administration Proposes Merging Education and Labor Departments

On June 21, the Trump Administration proposed merging the Education and Labor Departments in to a single agency: The Department of Education and the Workforce. The merger, part of a plan announced in 2017 by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, would require congressional approval. The proposal outlines the creation of four subagencies under the new department, including one called the American Workforce and Higher Education Administration which would "bring together current [Department of Labor] workforce development programs and [Department of Education] vocational education, rehabilitation, and higher education programs," in an effort to eliminate redundancy across multiple agencies. The other three subagencies would cover K-12 education, research/evaluation/administration and enforcement. The latter would enforce both worker protections and civil rights laws that protect students. 
FedEx Fails to Convince Judge to Dismiss Transgender Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claim

FedEx was unable to convince a federal judge to dismiss a transgender former employee's sexual orientation discrimination claim. The decision comes during an ongoing judicial conversation on the relativity of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a case in December that questioned whether sexual orientation is protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Despite this, the First, Second and Seventh Circuits have all opened the door that could result in the interpretation that it is protected.  The former FedEx employee, Miko Squire, filed suit against FedEx under the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act after he was fired in March 2017. FedEx says it fired Squire because he refused to work extra shifts and that his sexual orientation claim should have been dismissed because it was not alleged on his Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charge, which is the foundation of his discrimination suit. FedEx was able to have Squire's retaliation charge dismissed because it was not flagged on his EEOC Charge form, however, the form does not have a box for sexual orientation discrimination, but it does have a box for sex discrimination. Normally, courts only consider claims marked on an employee's EEOC Charge. Since there was no opportunity for Squire to claim sexual orientation bias on his EEOC Charge, combined with EEOC precedent that considers sexual orientation bias a form of gender stereotyping, the federal district judge denied FedEx's motion to dismiss the claim. 
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