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Sexual Harassment 101: Hague v. UT Health Science Center

The Fifth Circuit's March 28 decision in Monica Hague v. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio underscores some of the basics of sexual harassment cases and shows one major pitfall to avoid.

Monica Hague worked on a contract basis as a nurse for the University of Texas Health Science Center. She claimed (among other things) that she was sexually harassed when a Dr. Manifold read a sexually explicit article aloud during a meeting and gave another employee a sexually explicit doll.

Hague followed internal procedures to address the behavior and eventually filed an EEOC complaint. Three days later, she was informed that her contract would not be renewed. She sued, alleging sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded in an opinion that reads reminds us of the basics of sexual harassment law.

Texas filed suit on Monday over the right of Texas state employers to absolutely bar the hiring of felons that would be stymied by the EEOC's guidelines.

According to the Dallas Business Journal, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit in federal court challenging the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's enforcement guidelines which recommend that absolute bans on hiring felons run afoul of Title VII.

Does Abbott have a case here, or is this just an issue to ride in his race against Wendy Davis for the Texas governorship?

Age discrimination is a strange animal in the federal circuits. Case law-wise, it shares many similarities with Title VII cases, but the jurisprudence is slightly different.

In Leal v. McHugh, the Fifth Circuit tackled a case that exemplifies some of the quirks of age discrimination cases, as well as the low standard of meeting a pleading burden.

A Lowe's employee was properly denied ERISA benefits on her death because of an insurance administrator's interpretation of her plan's coverage of work trips.

In a very sad case before the Fifth Circuit, Elizabeth Porter died in 2008 when a car hit hers head-on, killing herself and her unborn child. Porter had insurance benefits through her employer, Lowe's, but the company refused to pay those benefits to her husband because Porter had died while going to and from work.

The Fifth Circuit sided with the insurance administrator in Porter v. Lowe's Companies, finding that despite the gruesome facts, the decision was reasonable enough.

A suit over whether handicapped parking is reasonable accommodation for a qualifying disability was dispatched by the Fifth Circuit on Monday, with the Court giving a resounding ... maybe.

In Feist v. State of Louisiana, the appellant Pauline G. Feist, a former assistant attorney general for the state of Louisiana, is appealing her disability discrimination claim after the district court granted a summary judgment motion against her.

The state of Louisiana didn't want her to have her own handicapped spot, but was it illegal?

Whistleblowers are all the rage this season, unless you count the increasingly unpopular Edward Snowden, but unfortunately for overseas employees, this whistleblowing craze is only available if you inform the SEC.

In Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA), L.L.C., the appellant Khaled Asadi learned this lesson the hard way, having the Fifth Circuit teach him a lengthy lesson about statutory interpretation and knock loose his dreams of being a rock star whistleblower.

So what happens if you don’t really blow the whistle to the SEC?

In a strange and salty case, the Fifth Circuit refused to essentially create a new remedy by right for maritime employers who are tricked into paying for employees' fake injuries.

The Boudreaux v. Transocean Deepwater court dealt with an offshore drilling company who wanted to extract all the benefits it had erroneously paid to a former employee, Boudreaux, due to his lying about a pre-existing condition that contributed to an at-work injury.

The key here is how Transocean asked the court to remedy the problem.

Fifth Circuit judges came down hard on traveling salesmen on Tuesday, after ruling that a weekly salary of $300 plus commissions was in accordance with minimum wage laws.

The salesman in question, Florentino Meza, works for Intelligent Mexican Marketing, Inc. (IMM), a company that sells food and drink products to convenience stores doing sales work.

The Fifth Circuit found that Meza’s work qualified under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) exemption for “outside salesmen,” which exempted him from receiving federal minimum wage and overtime.

Under Title VII, a woman should not be fired for expressing breast milk or lactating, a stance now confirmed by the Fifth Circuit in their EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd. opinion, filed in late May.

The Court found that firing Donnicia Venters for wishing to pump her breast milk at work was ultimately sex discrimination, which may help bridge the last four decades since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.

5th Circuit to Decide Arbitration Agreement Controversy

An important decision will soon be made by the Court of Appeals for the Firth Circuit. This decision will affect employment arbitration agreements. It can potentially prevent employers from pursuing class action waivers from their employees within the arbitration context.