6th Circuit Employment Law News - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit heard oral arguments in two en banc cases that we've been covering: the "irritable bowel" telecommuting case and a habeas case where a man claims that he was denied his right to self-representation.

The former case asks whether summary judgment in favor of Ford Motor Co. was proper when an employee requested to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation of her disability -- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The latter case, Hill v. Curtin, is about a man who asked to represent himself on the first day of trial, before a jury was empaneled. His request was denied as untimely by the trial court and by the state appellate courts, but the district court granted habeas relief.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits, among other things, employment discrimination based on religion. That's great, but what about volunteers? Sister Michael Marie and Sister Mary Cabrini, two Catholic nuns, were Red Cross volunteers in Chillicothe, Ohio.

They were never employees, but they believe the positive reviews they received over the years should have entitled them to "promotions" that would have altered their roles and responsibilities. They never received those promotions -- because, they alleged, the Executive Director of the local chapter of the Red Cross was biased against them because they were "traditional" Catholics.

Back in April, we covered EEOC v. Ford, in which an employee with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) alleged that Ford failed to make reasonable accommodations for her disability. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit found that telecommuting was a reasonable accommodation, so Ford had to make that accommodation.

Last week, the Sixth Circuit granted a petition for rehearing en banc. The panel decision will be vacated and the case will be reheard in front of all 13 of the Sixth Circuit's active judges.

6th Cir: Not Allowing Telecommuting for IBS Is a Load of ...

Let's say you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a disease that causes fecal incontinence. Sometimes it's so bad that you can't drive to work without soiling yourself, or, if you get to work, you can't get up from your desk without soiling yourself. Might telecommuting be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

On April 22, the Sixth Circuit decided yes.

It is a rare benchslap that lasts seven pages. It's not uncommon to see a paragraph or two that mocks a party's unreasonable position. And we've seen Judge Kethledge mock parties' unreasonable stances before, but a full seven pages? Well done, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -- you've surpassed the "golden sombrero" to reach a whole new level of ineptitude.

What caused the seven page rant/affirmed dismissal? Only a hypocritical lawsuit supported by a comical attempt at producing scientific methodology in support a frivolous case of alleged disparate impact discrimination.

Basketball Coach Fails to Meet Prima Facie Retaliation Burden

In 1999, Geraldine Fuhr filed a successful lawsuit to be instated as varsity boys basketball coach at Hazel Park High School, where she had been employed as varsity girls basketball coach. For five years she coached both the girls and boys varsity basketball teams. In 2006, she was removed from her position coaching varsity girls basketball.

Fuhr says she was removed in retaliation for her lawsuit. The school district claimed that she was removed to allow for even more equality.

So who wins? According to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the school district gets the W because Fuhr failed to state a prima facie case for her claims.

Fired University Official's 'Gay Lifestyle' Op-Ed Isn't Protected Speech

In 2008, Crystal Dixon — then-interim Associate Vice President for Human Resources at the University of Toledo — penned an op-ed column in the Toledo Free Press criticizing comparisons between the civil rights and gay rights movements.

Dixon wrote, "As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are 'civil rights victims.' Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman ... Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few."

Shortly thereafter, Dixon was fired.

Nurse Loses FLSA Meal Break Case, Should Have Followed Protocol

If you want to win a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) compensation dispute, you have to prove that an employer knew or should have known that it owed your client for her work.

If your client -- like today's Sixth Circuit appellant -- failed to comply with internal reporting protocols, she may be out of luck.

Fired Employee's Discrimination Claim Belongs to Bankruptcy Estate

There are bad weeks, and then there are lose-your-job-and-file-for-bankruptcy bad weeks. Karen Auday had the unfortunate distinction of enduring the latter.

To make matters worse, Auday alleges that she was a victim of age discrimination. While that may be true, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that Auday can't sue her former employer because the claim now belongs to her bankruptcy estate.

Seriously, this woman can't catch a break.

Age Gap Must Be 'Significant' to Support Discrimination Claim

Peggy Blizzard was hired as a part-time Associate Accounts Payable Clerk in the Business Office at Marion Technical College (MTC) in 1992. She was promoted to Accounts Payable Clerk 1 in 1996, and terminated from that position in April 2008, when she was 57. Blizzard sued MTC, claiming that her termination was based on age discrimination.

This week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that there wasn't a large enough age gap between Blizzard and her replacement to prove support the age discrimination claim.