Exploring New Approaches to Unsettled Legal Questions

Tag: Labor and Employment Law

Maintaining the Narrow Scope of the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification: Rejecting Gender Discrimination in Bartender Hiring

by Matthew A. Peterson*

This Contribution examines whether a bar can discriminate on the basis of gender in its bartender hiring practices. Matthew Peterson (’21) argues that Title VII’s bona fide occupational qualification (“BFOQ”) exception should not shield bars from gender discrimination liability. The text and purpose of Title VII command a narrow interpretation of the BFOQ exception, and a bar catering to preferences for female bartenders is precisely the type of undesirable hiring practice that Title VII seeks to prohibit. The “essence” of a bar is making and distributing drinks, and the completion of these tasks does not depend upon the gender of a bartender. Courts should not permit bars to justify such discrimination with claims of supporting “authentic entertainment.” Unlike an actor or dancer, whose core job function is performance, a bartender’s primary responsibility is providing service.

Are Drug-Free Workplace Policies Discriminatory?

by Tian Lei*

Do state laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of medical marijuana cardholder status effectively protect cardholder employees? In this Contribution, Tian Lei (’21) argues that when courts recognize and legitimize employers’ interest in maintaining drug-free work-place policies, cardholder employees become especially vulnerable to adverse employment action. This Contribution establishes that drug-free workplace policies often leave cardholder employees with a choice between their health and their job and that the scope and legitimacy of such policies must be interrogated if the law is to protect medical marijuana cardholders from employment discrimination.

Prejudgment Interest in Hybrid Jones Act-Unseaworthiness Claims

by Nate Blevins*

Are plaintiffs who raise hybrid claims for unseaworthiness under the common law of admiralty and negligence under the Jones Act ineligible to obtain prejudgment interest? In this Contribution, Nate Blevins (’19) discusses the interaction of admiralty common law and the Jones Act—along with the Federal Employers Liability Act incorporated therein—that has led to a circuit split on this issue. Ultimately, this Contribution argues that, contrary to the rule in most circuits, a plaintiff who prevails on both counts of a hybrid claim should be eligible for prejudgment interest.

Ensuring Equality in Employment: A plaintiff alleging sexual orientation discrimination necessarily states a valid sex discrimination claim under Title VII

by Erika Murdoch*

Does a plaintiff alleging sexual orientation discrimination state a valid cause of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? In this Contribution, Erika Murdock (’19) discusses whether sexual orientation discrimination is encompassed within the language of Title VII after recent EEOC and appellate court cases. Ultimately, this Contribution argues that Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of “sex” inherently encompasses sexual orientation as a subset of the sex discrimination it bans.

Is This What We Bargained For?: Allowing the Preemption of State Law through Collective Bargaining Agreements

by Micaela Heery*

Can a term in a collective bargaining agreement displace state law under any circumstance? How should a court balance the need for consistent, nationwide labor standards with constitutional concerns for preserving States’ police powers? In this Contribution, Micaela Heery (’19) offers an analytical framework for resolving these preemption issues under the Labor Management Relations Act. This Contribution argues that the right legal analysis must consider both whether a claim arises independently of the collective bargaining agreement and whether preemption would be appropriate given Congress’ power over interstate commerce and notions of state sovereignty.

License Denied: Some State Occupational Licensing Laws Might be Unconstitutional Under the Equal Protection Clause

by Maya Danaher*

Are state occupational licensing laws that prohibit certain people convicted of crimes from receiving Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) licenses unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? In this Contribution, Maya Danaher (’18) discusses the constitutional issues arising from state licensing laws that withhold EMT licensure from people convicted of crimes. Ultimately, this Contribution argues that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits such state laws.

Sustaining Academic Freedom: The Need to Redefine the Threshold Question in First Amendment Claims Brought by Public University Professors

by Emily Several*

Can a public university terminate a professor for speech made related to the university? In this Contribution, Emily Several (’18) analyzes the scope of public employees’ First Amendment rights with regard to speech made in their personal and professional capacities. This Contribution ultimately argues that the Supreme Court should establish an exception to the threshold requirement set in Garcetti v. Ceballos in order to preserve academic freedom on public university campuses.

Moving Beyond a Symptom-Based Test: Gender Dysphoria and the Family Medical Leave Act

by Josh Thorn*

How should courts assess whether employees suffering from symptoms associated with gender dysphoria are entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? Josh Thorn (’17) explores this question, based on his experience competing at the Wagner Moot Court Competition, held at New York Law School in March 2016. The FMLA limits eligibility for leave to employees with “serious health conditions” preventing the employee from working. This Contribution urges courts to primarily consider whether the treatment required for employees diagnosed with depression and anxiety resulting from gender dysphoria — and not merely the symptoms of the condition itself — would prevent the employee from working in determining whether there exists a “serious health condition” under the FMLA.

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