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The Sovereign, Not the Plaintiff, Is King

John D. King was mad when he discovered the government had settled a case for $7.5 million -- because it was his case!

Or so he alleged in King v. United States Government. King said the government secretly settled his qui tam action, which he had initiated on behalf of the federal government.

In that underlying case, he claimed several corporations violated the False Claims Act. But to get a share of the recovery, he had to get around the United States' sovereign immunity.

Court Revives Officer's Tase-Me-Not Case

Jacqueline Lewis had a good reason not to get tased as part of her police training.

Nobody wants to get tased, but Lewis had another reason. She had a minor heart condition, and her doctor said she should not be subjected to the shock devices.

So the Union City Police Department didn't tase her; it fired her. She sued and asked for a jury to decide her case, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals saw it her way in Lewis v. City of Union City.

Breastfeeding Decision Upheld for Constructive Discharge

Working on the narcotics task force, Stephanie Hicks wore a bulletproof vest to protect her from criminals.

That all changed after she returned from maternity leave, however. She asked for an accommodation at work because she was breastfeeding, but then the attacks came from her department.

She won a pregnancy discrimination case, and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. In Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, the appeals court said employers can be liable for constructive discharge when a breastfeeding mother quits.

In a recent ruling out of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel of three justices reversed the lower court's dismissal on summary judgment in the First Amendment retaliation case, Rodriguez v. City of Doral et al. The case involved the alleged constructive termination of a police officer due to his support of a rival political candidate.

The reversal is significant not just for the plaintiff, but for the entire circuit. In issuing its ruling, the panel of judges explained:

The Civil Rights Act's protections against discrimination 'on the basis of sex' do not protect gay and lesbian workers who face discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, the Eleven Circuit ruled on Friday.

That wouldn't be a terribly noteworthy outcome, if this were still the 1970s, or even the early 2000s. During those periods of civil rights litigation, courts routinely refused to extend employment protections to gay, lesbian, and transgender employees. But in recent years, the consensus has started to shift. The EEOC has interpreted the Civil Rights Act to protect gay workers, for example, and the Eleventh itself has extended protections to transgender employees.

But those earlier cases still stand, the Eleventh ruled, and they still bind the court's interpretation of civil rights laws today.

ADA Doesn't Require Reassignment of a Disabled Employee

An employer does not have to reassign a disabled employee to a vacant position ahead of more qualified, non-disabled employees, a federal appeals court said.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said the American with Disabilities Act "only requires an employer allow a disabled person to compete equally with the rest of the world for a vacant position" as a reasonable accommodation.

"The ADA does not require reassignment without competition for, or preferential treatment of, the disabled," the panel said.

A police officer in Georgia, who claims he was punished for reporting racial profiling, can pursue his section 1983 and defamation suit against the local sheriff's department, the Eleventh Circuit ruled last week.

Derrick Bailey, a law-enforcement officer with more than 17 years of experience, alleges that he was terminated and harassed for reporting racial profiling and constitutional violations in the Douglasville police department and Douglas County sheriffs office. That retaliation included a "BOLO," or "be-on-the-lookout" advisory to all law enforcement in the county, describing Bailey as a "loose cannon" and danger to any cop -- a warning the Eleventh Circuit notes could have left him dead at the hands of his fellow officers.

Does a prohibition on employee dreadlocks amount to racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act? Not according to the Eleventh Circuit. Though dreads may be closely associated with African American race and culture, a ban on the hairstyle doesn't amount to racial discrimination, the court ruled last Thursday.

The ruling came after the EEOC brought a lawsuit on behalf of Chastity Jones, an applicant who was offered a job at a customer service call center, on the condition that she chop off her dreadlocks.

Atlanta-area stagehands are contractors, not employees, the Eleventh Circuit ruled last week. In so doing, the court reversed a finding by the National Labor Relations Board that stagehands placed through Crew One Productions were employees entitled to union representation.

Instead, the court found that Crew One exercised too little control over the stagehands for them to be considered employees. The finding could have an impact on similar lawsuits throughout the country, including recent challenges to "sharing economy" companies like Uber.

11th Circuit Revives Age Discrimination Suit Against MetLife

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a lower district court's grant of summary judgment on age discrimination issues, finding that the trial court failed to apply relevant law and came to its conclusions erroneously.

It's a small victory for the plaintiff, who was subjected to the ridiculous drama of employee jealousy and company re-organization.