Filing a charge with the EEOC
In Ernst v. Methodist Hospital System, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 17015 (5th Cir. 2021) (unpublished), an employee’s EEOC intake questionnaire did not satisfy Title VII’s charge-filing requirements because it was not verified as required by EEOC regulations and the employer was not provided with notice of the questionnaire or the claims therein. This is an important distinction employees should be aware of when pursuing an EEOC claim against an employer, as failing to timely file an EEOC charge may bar an employee's ability to pursue litigation.
Required proof for age discrimination
The court in Fenley v. Texas Plumbing Supply Company, Inc., No. 14-19-00851, 2021 WL 1881273 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] May 11, 2021) (mem. op.), held direct evidence can support a prima facie showing of age discrimination even where the plaintiff is replaced by someone 40 or older.
The court further ruled on another important conflict among courts reviewing age discrimination claims--whether the "same actor inference" absolutely precludes the possibility of bias. Many courts also apply the “same actor inference” to find that if the person wo hired the plaintiff is the same person who fired the plaintiff, a factfinder should infer that person was not biased. The court held that the same actor inference can be overcome by direct evidence of bias. In this case, there was direct evidence that a supervisor told the 70-year-old plaintiff “you are too old for this job.”
Single event of sexual harassment
The court held that the plaintiff could establish “severe or pervasive” harassment despite her being unaware of the camera for several months and despite the employer immediately removing it and firing the supervisor upon discovering the camera. Thus, a single event alone can be severe or pervasive.
The court further held that an employer must prove both elements of the Ellerth affirmative defense, which requires the employer show: (1) it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior and (2) the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.
Employee's electronic signature
The court relied upon a provision of the Texas Uniform Electronics Transactions Act that provides “[a]n electronic record or electronic signature is attributable to a person [by] showing. . .the efficacy of any security procedure applied to determine the person to which the electronic record or electronic signature was attributable.”
Standing alone, the plaintiff employees’ sworn denials that the electronic signatures at issue here with respect to an arbitration agreement was insufficient to create an issue of fact.
Diabetes not a "per se" disability
Despite the ADA requiring that the substantial limitation requirement shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage and diabetes being virtually always found to impose a substantial limitation under federal regulations, the court held a determination of whether an impairment is substantially limiting still requires an individualized assessment.
Thus, a plaintiff must also show that diabetes substantially limits the plaintiff’s endocrine function or another major life activity. Diabetes is not a “per se” disability.