4th Circuit Employment Law News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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The repeated use of a racial slur in an isolated incident can create a hostile work environment, the Fourth Circuit ruled en banc earlier this month. While the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that outlying incidents of discriminatory language or actions often do not create an hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; at the same time, the Court has emphasized that some instances, when sufficiently severe, can alone create such a violation.

The Fourth Circuit is one of the first courts of appeals to find that a single incidents of racially discriminatory language can create be sufficient enough to violate the Civil Rights Act. Further, the court found that employees who report those isolated incidents of harassment are protected from retaliation.

4th Cir.: Trafficked Domestic Worker's Lawsuit Not Time-Barred

When Cristina Cruz left the Philippines to come to the United States, she thought she was getting a great opportunity. A friend told her that she could work for Nilda Maypa, a World Bank employee. So Cruz got the job and came to the United States. Her employment contract seemed solid: $6.50 an hour, 35 to 40 hours a week, plus medical insurance.

What she got was entirely different. Maypa paid her $250 a month -- that's a little over $8 a day -- required her to work 17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, cook, clean, take care of the kids, clean the pool, mow the lawn ... and on and on.

4 From the 4th: SCOTUS Grants Include Pregnancy, Teeth Whitening

Our "SCOTUS Week" coverage continues with the Fourth Circuit, where the Court has granted certiorari in four cases, with a massive amount of petitions still pending, according to CertPool's tracker. And while some of those pending petitions are likely grants and will be among the most heavily watched of the Court's cases (we're thinking King v. Burwell, the Obamacare subsidies case specifically), today we're looking at the birds in hand, not the ones in the bush.

What've we got? How about a bank robber, alleged fraud on the government, pregnancy discrimination, and a state-sanctioned monopoly on teeth whitening.

Roundup: Prison Contraband, Pregnancy Case, W.Va. Gay Marriage

Happy Friday! We know, you're not in the mood to read dense case law right now -- you want something lighter. In fact, you're reading this blog for just that purpose.

We've got your back. Here are three quick, local updates from Fourth Circuit cases, including oral arguments in a prison contraband smuggling sentence appeal, an interesting note on amici in the Supreme Court's UPS pregnancy discrimination case (originally out of the Fourth Circuit), and a federal judge in West Virginia's decision to stay out of the gay marriage controversy until the Supreme Court steps in.

En Banc Denied in Family Dollar; SCOTUS-Ignoring Opinion Stands

This case is now doubly-interesting, and a possible candidate for Supreme Court review.

Way back in 2008, a putative class of female store managers sued Family Dollar Stores, Inc., a chain of discount retail stores, alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and Section 216(b) of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d).

Last week, the Fourth Circuit denied a request for en banc rehearing of the case, leaving an opinion in place that many are arguing goes against controlling Supreme Court precedent. Judge Wilkinson, who wrote a 40-page dissent to the panel's opinion, dissented from the denial as well, calling the panel's decision, "so contrary to the [Supreme] Court's Wal-Mart decision as to whittle it down to near meaninglessness."

SCOTUS Sends Liberty Back to Fourth Circuit

Affordable Care Act litigation is a lot like Ghostface in the Scream movies. At the end of each film, you think that you have closure. Then another Scream comes along, proving you wrong.

That's pretty much what we have today with the Supreme Court's decision to remand Liberty University's employer mandate and contraceptive coverage mandate challenges: You may have thought the Court's healthcare decision in June signaled the end of ACA litigation until 2014.

You were mistaken.

Obamacare Headed Back to Fourth Circuit for Religious Challenge

We should've known that the decision upholding Obamacare by the nation's highest court wouldn't be the end of the battle. Back in 2011, Liberty University, a Christian college located in Lynchburg, Virginia, challenged the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on religious freedom and equal protection grounds.

The Fourth Circuit dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because the federal tax Anti-Injunction Act banned lawsuits seeking to halt a tax.

Facebook Likes Free Speech

Be careful what you "like” on Facebook.

This week, the social network filed a brief in a First Amendment retaliation challenge before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Facebook “likes” are free speech, reports GigaOM. A district court previously dismissed the case, finding that clicking that tiny thumbs-up button was “insignificant speech” that did not involve “actual statements.”

So how does a click-of-the-thumb turn into a tort?

Fourth Circuit Refuses to Apply CFAA to Employee Data Breach

Mike Miller resigned from his position as Project Director for WEC Carolina Energy Solutions, Inc. (WEC). Twenty days later, he made a presentation to a potential WEC customer on behalf of WEC's competitor, Arc Energy Services, Inc. (Arc). The customer ultimately chose to do business with Arc.

WEC contends that before resigning, Miller, acting at Arc's direction, downloaded WEC's proprietary information and used it in making the presentation. WEC sued Miller, his assistant Emily Kelley, and Arc for, among other things, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The district court dismissed WEC's CFAA claim, holding that the CFAA provides no relief for an employee data breach.

This week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

Court Upholds Newport News Cop's Section 1983 Challenge

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part a case involving the dismissal of a police officer’s claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after he was reinstated by the Police Department.

Cory Hall was fired by the Newport News Police Department in 2006, when he was charged with improper procedure, untruthfulness during the course of an investigation, excessive use of force, and improper or unlawful arrest. After appealing his discharge, he was reinstated when three of the four disciplinary charges were dropped.