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EEOC Roundup: January 2015

Employment is heavily regulated in the U.S., where it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because he or she made a discrimination complaint, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment-discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Whistleblower Laws Increasingly Vital for Government Enforcement Efforts

In 2014, a crewman aboard a Japanese cargo ship videotaped the vessel illegally dumping oily waste into the ocean and later turned the tape over to the U.S. Coast Guard. One year later, the resulting $1.8 million penalty for violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) highlights the importance of government whistleblowing programs in its enforcement efforts.

UK Anti-Corruption Efforts Gain Momentum for 2015

Although initially touted as one of the world's toughest anti-corruption laws, a string of high-profile failures in the three years since the UK's Bribery Act went into effect have left many wondering about the ability of Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to enforce the law. The end of 2014, however, marked a pivotal turning point for the SFO, with its first prosecution and conviction under the UK Bribery Act — followed shortly thereafter by its first corporate bribery conviction — and proved its ability to enforce the country's anti-bribery laws.

FBI Report on Active Shooters Underscores Importance of Employer Readiness

Whenever a mass shooting occurs, it triggers the question: What went wrong? Could the incident have been prevented, or at least, could it have had a less tragic outcome? While we never want to blame victims of attacks, it is important to realize that preparedness can mitigate the damage caused by workplace violence.

OFCCP Modernizes Sex Discrimination Guidelines

On January 30, 2015, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published proposed updates to its Sex Discrimination Guidelines setting forth its interpretations and rules for complying with the nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements related to sex under Executive Order 11246. As the first update of these guidelines since 1970, the OFCCP maintains they impose no new obligations on federal contractors and subcontractors, but simply bring them in line with current law and societal norms.

DOJ Continues to Set Records with Antitrust Enforcement in 2014

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) recently reported its criminal prosecution of companies and individuals engaged in cartel, price-fixing or bid-rigging behavior resulted in $1.861 billion in criminal penalties for fiscal year 2014. Contributing to this record total were five penalties in excess of $100 million, including DOJ's fourth-largest criminal fine of $425 million levied against an individual corporate defendant. FY 2014 also saw jail terms for 21 individual defendants, with the third-highest average sentencing time of 26 months.

Attempt to Extend Minimum Wage and Overtime to Home Care Workers Overruled by Court

In October 2013, the Department of Labor's (DOL) new rule extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home-care workers prompted controversy over the Department's authority to reverse the 40-year old exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Less than two weeks before the rule was to go into effect, however, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated part of the DOL's regulation as a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

ACLU Sues Fabric Co for Discriminating against Medical Marijuana Patient

Changes in state laws concerning the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana have spawned a string of employment discrimination lawsuits by medical marijuana patients. The most recent case to seek guidance from the courts — filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — charges a Rhode Island fabrics company with discriminating against a graduate student when it denied her an internship after learning of her status as a registered medical marijuana user.

Is 2015 the Year of Data Protection?

The growing frequency, impact and sophistication of cyberattacks in the U.S. and abroad have highlighted the need to address America's lack of a unified federal cybersecurity framework. No single congressional committee or executive agency currently has primary responsibility for cybersecurity; rather, federal agencies oversee the security of their own systems as they enforce more than 40 separate statutes addressing various aspects of cybersecurity. As a result, an assortment of overlapping directives and responsibilities has multiple agencies or government bodies responsible for both the security of federal systems, as well as fulfilling the appropriate governmental role in protecting nonfederal systems.

A Look Back Offers Insights into the Year Ahead for Employers and the EEOC

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) litigation and enforcement efforts saw mixed results in FY 2014, highlighting the evolving nature of its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) and the agency's approach to enforcement. Despite several setbacks, the agency's actions offer important insight into the kinds of cases the EEOC is pursuing and the tactics used to enforce them.

ACC Alliance Partner
Thomson Reuters