Member Groups

The Challenge
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law

June 2015, vol. 25, no. 2

The ISBA and Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP co-host a seminar titled “Workplace Discrimination: Current Issues in Employment Law”

On April 23, 2015, the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law and the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP co-sponsored a continuing legal education seminar entitled “Workplace Discrimination: Current Issues in Employment Law.” The program had a strong lineup of diverse speakers, representing the plaintiff and defense perspectives, as well as that of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Taft Stettinius lawyer Allan Slagel, a prominent employment and civil rights defense attorney, moderated the program.

Approximately 80 individuals attended the seminar at the offices of Taft Stettinius, and received 2.5 hours of free CLE provided by the ISBA and Taft Stettinius. The following are summaries of each of the six excellent presentations, which were divided into two panels of approximately 75 minutes each:

Panel 1

Eileen Geary, of the City of Chicago Corporation Counsel, Labor Division, first noted the differences between municipal liability and private employer liability in Title VII cases. She provided a brief history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent civil rights laws. She then discussed the process by which the EEOC receives and investigates charges of discrimination against state and local government employers, and noted the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is charged with bringing suits against state and local government employers where it believes a violation of Title VII has occurred.

Cary Donham, an experienced Taft Stettinius attorney practicing employment law and government defense litigation, next presented on class certification issues in employment discrimination cases. He first discussed the legal standards for certifying a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b). He then analyzed the Supreme Court’s recent Wal-Mart case, which clarified how commonality under Rule 23(a) is evaluated. Cary also examined several prominent Seventh Circuit employment-related class action cases following Wal-Mart, and explained the current legal landscape on class certification.

Matt Piers, a well-known plaintiff’s class action attorney and named partner of the law firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., discussed standardized employment tests under Title VII. He analyzed this topic using as an example Lewis v. City of Chicago, a case involving a challenge to the standardized employment test used by the City of Chicago for firefighters. Lewis was ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court. Matt provided an informative and entertaining analysis as to the efficacy of standardized tests in predicting job performance.

Panel 2

Amy Ramsey, a labor and employment law partner at Littler Mendelson, P.C., discussed recent developments relating to Title VII protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. She focused particularly on recent cases involving transgender employees and employer best practices for making sure these employees are not discriminated against in the workplace. Amy also discussed Executive Order 13672 which prohibits discrimination in the civilian federal workforce on the basis of gender identity.

Tom Luetkemeyer, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, frequent speaker and Adjunct Professor at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, discussed new rules for Illinois employers regarding pregnancy and workplace discrimination. Specifically, he analyzed the Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Bill, a new law effective January 1, 2015 which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to provide protections against discrimination for pregnant employees. He also examined employer best practices related to pregnant employees.

Justin Mulaire, an attorney for the EEOC in its Chicago office, discussed recent EEOC litigation related to severance agreements that either prohibit employees from reporting discriminatory practices or effectively chill the exercise of the right to report. As an example, Justin discussed recent litigation by the EEOC against CVS Pharmacy, Inc., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The CVS case is currently being appealed in the Seventh Circuit. Justin noted the EEOC’s position is intended to protect employees’ right to seek relief with the EEOC and, ultimately. the courts.

Seminar attendees each received a packet of materials consisting of slides, outlines, cases and briefs related to the above presentations.1 Attendees then had an opportunity to network at a reception following the seminar.

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1. Readers who are interested in receiving a copy of these materials may email Daniel Saeedi at dsaeedi@taftlaw.com.