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by Vault Law Editors | February 26, 2009

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Among the few oases in a generally arid BigLaw landscape is labor and employment litigation. The confluence of a deteriorating job market and the new pro-union/employee-friendly Administration all but assures that the filing of employment lawsuits will accelerate. Common sense—not always a consideration in litigation—suggests that people who find themselves jobless and without much in the way of prospects will be more highly motivated to file suit. And a labor-friendly President can be expected to support new employee-friendly legislation, a raft of which is in the works. The passage of such laws will grant more legal options to aggrieved ex-employees, who will be more likely to pursue them, due to the scarcity of new jobs. And so on.

President Obama has already signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Act overturns a 2007 Supreme Court ruling and mandates that each alleged discriminatory paycheck be treated as a new instance of discrimination, thus restarting the 180-day clock for filing a claim.

Other major labor & employment bills still wending their way through Congress include:

Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would change the way unions are organized, including getting rid of secret ballot elections, changing the way first contracts are negotiated through mandatory arbitration, and impose stiffer fines for employers.

Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require employers to justify for paying men and women differently for the same job. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employers from refusing to hire or promote employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity

(For a management-side practitioner’s take on the implications of these new or proposed laws, see this interview with Fisher & Phillips partner Charles Caulkins.)

But that’s not to say potential plaintiffs are waiting for new laws to take effect. The past week has brought the filing of, among others, the following labor and employment suits:

  • A group of five female former employees of Citigroup have filed class charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Manhattan against Citi alleging that they were laid off in November 2008 as a result of unlawful discrimination and that women at Citi bore a disproportionate burden of the layoffs.
  • Yolanda Young, a former staff attorney at Attorney General Eric Holder’s alma mater, Covington & Burling, filed a discrimination suit in Superior Court for the District of Columbia against her former firm. (By the way, this spoof Holder Twitter is pretty funny.)
  • Maya (f/k/a Steven) Perez, a transgender woman, filed suit against her former employer, a Burlington Coat Factory store in San Francisco, under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act. Perez claims to have suffered years of physical and verbal abuse while working at the store, on the basis of her gender identity.

-posted by brian

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Filed Under: Law

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