Iowa Employment Law Blog

Iowa Employment Law Blog

Alert and inform about legal issues, risks, and solutions relating to employees

Category Archives: Litigation and Trials

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Another Court Rules Agreement to Arbitrate Employment Disputes is Enforceable

Posted in Litigation and Trials
Employers who want to bypass jury trials of employment disputes in favor of arbitration got another boost in a recent case from the Eastern District of Missouri. In Karzon v. AT&T, Inc. (E.D. Mo. 1/7/14), the court ruled that E-mail notification of an arbitration proposal combined with an “opt-put” option was sufficient to bind employees to the … Continue Reading

Don’t Assume An Applicant Is Not Qualified Because a Doctor Says So…

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
A federal district court in Michigan recently granted summary judgment for the plaintiff, (you read that correctly), ruling that the employer was liable for disability discrimination as a matter of law. (Lafata v. Dearborn Heights Sch. Dist. No.7 (E.D. Mich. 12/11/2013)).   A plaintiff hardly ever files for summary judgment in an employment case, let alone … Continue Reading

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Against Catholic Diocese of Sioux City Tests the Limits of the Ministerial Exception

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Religion
The CFO of Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City claims he was terminated because he is not Catholic.   He recently sued the Diocese, the school, and the Bishop alleging his termination violated the law against discrimination on the basis of religion. Does he have a case? Courts in the United States have uniformly recognized a … Continue Reading

Reinstatement of Jury Award After Employer Victory Shows Failure to Mitigate Defense Hard to Prove

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Litigation and Trials
The best outcome to a discrimination lawsuit from the employer’s perspective is to win outright—for the judge or jury to find that the employer did not unlawfully discriminate. But, even if you lose, there is a “Plan B” defense—the failure to mitigate damages.   An employee who is terminated (or not hired in the first place) can … Continue Reading

Employee Must Request Extension of Leave to Avoid Application of No-Fault Leave Policy

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
Fixed or no-fault leave policies were once considered easy way to manage attendance and long term leave of absence issues.   Once the employee reaches the maximum number of absences, or is gone the maximum number of weeks on medical leave, the employee is terminated; no questions asked, no exceptions.   The benefit of these kinds of … Continue Reading

Court Rules Government Agency Violated Employer’s Due Process Rights in Connection with Whistleblower Investigation

Posted in Eighth Circuit, Litigation and Trials
Good news for employers—you have due process rights too. So ruled the court in Business Communications, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Education  (8th Cir. 12/2/13).  The Federal Government awarded Business Communications, Inc. (BCI) contracts to install cables in two school districts. The money for the project was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA” a/k/a the … Continue Reading

Court Finds FMLA Interference Even Though Employee Was Not Qualified to Return to Former Job Because of Her Medical Condition

Posted in FMLA, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
FMLA provides a qualifying employee up twelve weeks of job protected leave. That means the employee is entitled to return to the same position held before the leave, or to an “equivalent position” with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions.   FMLA does not require an employer to restore employment if the employee is unable … Continue Reading

Iowa Court of Appeals Rules that ADA Amendments Apply to Iowa Civil Rights Act, Even in the Absence of Legislative Action

Posted in Disability Discrimination, Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials
A divided panel of the Iowa Court of Appeals recently ruled that the rules of construction in the ADA as amended in 2008 apply to the Iowa Civil RIghts Act when determining what constitutes a disability (Knudsen v. Tiger Tots Community Child Care Center, No. 2-1011, 1/9/13). Although Knudsen is a public accommodation and not an employment case, the opinion … Continue Reading

Critics are Unfairly Attacking the Iowa Supreme Court’s Sex Discrimination Ruling in Nelson v. Knight

Posted in Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination
Never has a Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in an employment dispute generated such strong reaction, not only locally, but internationally.   The case, of course, is Nelson v. Knight, the December 21, 2012 ruling involving the Fort Dodge dentist who was irresistibly attracted to one of his dental assistants. Dr. Knight’s wife, who also worked in his practice, found text messages … Continue Reading

Don’t Forget About the Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Defense: Eighth Circuit Holds that it Still Applies to Retaliation Claims, Overruling Precedent to the Contrary

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Title VII
Title VII requires an employee alleging unlawful discrimination or retaliation to file an administrative charge with the EEOC (or a similar a state or local agency with authority to seek relief) before bringing a suit in court.   EEOC is charged with investigating claims and pursuing conciliation between the employee and employer where appropriate. The purpose of the … Continue Reading

Court Applies “Cat’s Paw” Theory to Liquidated Damages under FMLA

Posted in FMLA, Litigation and Trials
Under the FMLA, liquidated damages are a form of “extra” damage a court may award over and above other damages an employee is awarded.   The employer can avoid liquidated damages, however, if it proves the FMLA violation was in good faith, that is, the employer reasonably believed its action did not violate the FMLA. Marez v. Saint Gobain … Continue Reading

Similarly Situated in All Relevant Aspects

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination, Title VII
Very seldom is there overt evidence an employer discriminated on the basis of race, sex, disability, etc.   Most of the time plaintiff employees have to prove their claim by showing they were treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who were not in the protected class.   For example, if there is evidence the employer imposed … Continue Reading

Implicit Bias, Disparate Impact, and Class Actions: Iowa District Court Rules in Favor of the State, but Employers Should Remain Wary.

Posted in Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination, Title VII
Earlier this week Iowa District Court Judge Robert Blink granted judgment for the State of Iowa in a high profile class action race discrimination lawsuit.   (Pippen v. State of Iowa, link here). The plaintiffs alleged that 37 departments in the State’s executive branch maintained hiring and promotion practices that had an adverse disparate impact on African … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Reverses $4.5 Million Sanction Against EEOC

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, Title VII
Two years ago, Judge Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa made headlines when she dismissed an EEOC lawsuit on behalf of 270 current and former female long haul drivers of Cedar Rapids based CRST Van Expedited.   What was notable about the decision was not so much the dismissal itself as the … Continue Reading

NAACP’s Criticism of Iowa Civil Rights Commission is Misplaced

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination
Two local branches of the NAACP recently issued a report criticizing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission because of the low percentage of “probable cause” findings in discrimination complaints filed with the agency.   Although the report was issued December 31, it was recently publicized in a series of three stories appearing over the course of one … Continue Reading

Political Discrimination Case Involving UI Law School is Making Waves

Posted in Eighth Circuit, Litigation and Trials
In my practice I frequently represent counties, municipalities, school districts and other public entities.   Just like their counterparts in the private sector, public employees are protected against discrimination because of race, sex, age, religion, disability, and other protected statuses. However, public employees have one important right their private sector brethren do not share: the right under … Continue Reading

Iowa Supreme Court Stems the Tide of Public Policy Wrongful Discharge Claims (At Least for Now)

Posted in Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials
Almost twenty-five years ago, the Iowa Supreme Court recognized a new cause of action for the benefit of terminated employees: wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. (See Springer v. Weeks & Leo Co.).   What it means is that an employee cannot be terminated if the employer is motivated by reasons that would frustrate a well-recognized … Continue Reading

Judge’s Pregnancy Discrimination Ruling Prompts Debate About Work-Life Balance

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, Title VII
Last week a federal judge in the Southern District of New York Judge dismissed the EEOC’s long running sex and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against financial media company Bloomberg, LP.    EEOC claimed Bloomberg engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers returning from maternity leave by reducing their pay, demoting them in title, removing … Continue Reading

Wal-Mart v. Dukes May Bar Class Action Race Discrimination Suit Against the State of Iowa

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination, U.S. Supreme Court
Wal-Mart v. Dukes, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, could derail a class action race discrimination case against the State of Iowa that has been pending since 2007 (See our posts here and here on the Wal-Mart case).    The Iowa case involves 32 named plaintiffs who claim the State maintained hiring and promotion … Continue Reading