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This week’s stories include ...

(1) Connecticut District Court: Title VII Covers Sexual Orientation

Our top story: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) covers sexual orientation, says one federal district court. A former teacher in Connecticut filed suit, claiming that she was mistreated by her school because she is a lesbian. The school sought dismissal, arguing that Title VII doesn’t extend to sexual orientation discrimination. The district court denied the school’s summary judgment motion, finding that Title VII’s protection against discrimination based on sex extends to sexual orientation discrimination. Federal courts across the country have been wrestling with this issue over the last few months, as we’ve covered here, and a split among the circuits could be brewing. Jennifer Barna, from Epstein Becker Green, comments:

“There's a bit of a turning of the tide at the district court level, where district courts are more broadly interpreting what it means to have sex discrimination under Title VII, and they're including sexual orientation discrimination claims. ... Many employers already have in place policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and, indeed, that is the law under the anti-discrimination statutes in about half the states and even some localities. I think it's a good reminder for employers to make decisions that are based on legitimate business reasons and not anything that could be or is a protected category, but certainly I think employers are going to need to keep an eye on this issue, and, if the trend continues, employers who don't already have these policies in place are going to need to revise their policies to include a prohibition on sexual orientation discrimination.”

Click here for more on this Title VII issue: http://bit.ly/2gio0KZ

(2) DOL Appeals Temporary Injunction on Overtime Laws

As we reported last week, a Texas federal court ruled that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) does not have the authority to implement new salary thresholds for overtime. The district judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on the DOL’s new rules and the department appealed. The DOL has now asked for an expedited briefing on its appeal to be completed by February 7, followed by oral arguments as soon as possible. But the Trump administration will be in place by then, and that could change the DOL’s position. We will continue to monitor developments in this case and the new administration’s position. Click here for more: http://bit.ly/2gJgmKw

(3) DOJ Publishes Final Rule for Movie Theaters

A new rule requires more accommodations at movie theaters for customers with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a final rule that requires movie theaters across the country to offer closed captioning and audio description for digital movies. The final rule also calls for movie theaters to have at least one staff member on site who can locate, operate, and troubleshoot the equipment. The final rule will take effect January 17, 2017.

(4) Los Angeles City Council Approves “Ban the Box” Law

The Los Angeles City Council recently passed a law that will prevent some employers from asking job applicants to disclose their criminal history before a conditional offer of employment is made. The Fair Chance Initiative will apply to private employers and city contractors with 10 or more employees. Twenty-three states and more than 100 cities and counties across the nation have implemented similar “ban the box” measures. The Los Angeles initiative heads to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is expected to sign it into law.

(5) Tip of the Week

James Gelfand, Senior Vice President of Health Policy for The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), is back this week with more on updating health insurance coverage for 2017—this time, with advice on dealing with new nondiscrimination requirements:

“Prior to the 2017 plan year, employers should consider whether their health insurance benefits are in compliance with new nondiscrimination requirements, which now include prohibitions on discrimination against beneficiaries on the basis of gender identity. ... Evaluate the aspects of your plan which employees may find discriminatory. For example, does the plan include an absolute ban on procedures, medications, or services that someone undergoing gender transition might need? ... If your plan is covered, make sure you've appointed an internal grievance coordinator to handle complaints and implemented a process for plan beneficiaries to lodge grievances.”