On Wednesday, May 30, 2018, NELA was proud to join with a coalition of women’s, employee, and civil rights groups led by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in filing an amicus brief in support of the Plaintiff-Appellant Evangeline Parker in Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, Inc., pending currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In the course of rising in the ranks while working at the defendant firm, the Plaintiff was subjected to a false and repugnant rumor that her professional advancement was due to her having a sexual relationship with a male manager. The rumor’s spreading resulted in Ms. Parker facing harassment and discrimination, and when she tried to stop the rumor and complained about the harassment she was facing, the company retaliated against her and ultimately terminated her employment. The district court relied on a number of inappropriate grounds in dismissing her claims, including erroneously holding that the type of rumor to which she was subjected could not support a claim for gender discrimination because it could be made about either a male or female employee. The amicus brief marshals a wide array of legal and social science evidence in demonstrating that … Read More
NELA Amicus Brief: Sharif v. United Airlines (4th Circuit)
On October 26, 2015, NELA joined the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association (MWELA) in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of the Plaintiff-Appellant in Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc.
Drawing on an extensive line of cases from the U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals, the amicus brief systematically dismantles the legal and practical reasoning underlying the so-called “honest belief” defense. To accept a defendant’s professed “honest belief” that the reasons for taking an adverse action against an employee are correct, when presented with evidence that the asserted reasons are unworthy of credence, requires the court to draw a series of inferences regarding the weight of that evidence and the credibility of those presenting it, in favor of the non-moving party. This is forbidden at summary judgment, as recently re-affirmed by the U.S Supreme Court in Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861 (2014). Further, the brief thoroughly demonstrates that the application of the “honest belief” defense is incompatible with the longstanding rules courts have used to determine whether a defendant’s proffered non-discriminatory reasons are in fact a pretext for unlawful behavior.
The brief was drafted by Stephen … Read More
NELA Amicus Brief: Carcaño v. McCrory (4th Circuit)
On October 25, 2016 NELA joined a coalition of groups led by Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) and the Impact Fund in signing onto an amicus brief in Carcaño v. McCrory, currently pending in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. This case involves a challenge to a portion of North Carolina’s notorious “HB-2” law that would prevent transgender persons from using public restrooms in line with their gender identity, if that identity does not match the gender on their birth certificate. The plaintiffs in this case sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the provision as applied to all transgender persons who reside in or visit North Carolina. The district court, however, chose only to enjoin enforcement of the law against the plaintiffs.
The amicus brief was drafted by NELA member Lindsay Nako and Lynnette Miner (Impact Fund, Berkeley, CA), and the amicus sign-on outreach was coordinated by NELA member Julie Wilensky (Disability Rights California, Oakland, CA), on behalf of BALIF.… Read More
NELA Amicus Brief: Stephenson v. Pfizer, Inc. (4th Circuit)
On March 9, 2015, NELA joined Disability Rights North Carolina and the National Disability Rights Network to file an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellant Whitney Stephenson in the case of Stephenson v. Pfizer, Inc., Case No. 14-2079, pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in interpreting the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding the nature of the essential functions of the job and the scope of reasonable accommodations as set forth in the statute.
Plaintiff-appellant Whitney Stephenson has worked for Pfizer, Inc. as a pharmaceutical sales representative since 1984. As a pharmaceutical sales representative, Stephenson was required to meet with approximately eight to ten physicians per day to sell them Pfizer products, which meant that she spent up to ninety percent of her time traveling between various physicians’ offices in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area. In October 2008, Stephenson was diagnosed with a disorder which caused a significant loss of vision in her left eye and the same condition affected her right eye in 2011. By October of that year she was legally blind and unable to drive safely. Stephenson had … Read More
NELA Amicus Brief: DeMasters v. Carilion Clinic (4th Circuit)
On February 25, 2014, NELA filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of plaintiff DeMasters who was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for using established internal complaint mechanisms to notify Carilion Clinic about the sexual harassment of a co-worker by a supervisor. The court in the Western District of Virginia granted Carilion’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, holding that DeMasters failed to state a plausible claim of retaliation under Title VII because he did not produce sufficient facts to establish that he engaged in a protected activity. The circumstances surrounding DeMasters’ termination were egregious. DeMasters worked as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor for Carilion Clinic for more than five years. In October 2008, DeMasters reported to Carilion’s human resources department that another employee, John Doe, had confided to DeMasters that Doe was being subjected to harassment. This was well before Doe filed an EEOC charge and subsequent lawsuit. In August 2011, shortly after Doe’s lawsuit was settled, DeMasters was questioned by Carilion managers about his involvement with Doe in 2008. DeMasters was asked why he had not taken the “pro-employer side” concerning Doe’s complaints. DeMasters also was told that he … Read More
NELA Amicus Brief: Tatum v. RJ Reynolds (RJR) (4th Circuit)
In the Fourth Circuit case, Tatum v. RJ Reynolds Investment Committee, et al. (Case No. 13-1360), after RJR Nabisco Holdings Inc. spun off defendants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. in 1999, Nabisco stock was sold and removed from the pension plan. The plaintiffs argue that defendants hoped this sale and removal decision would make raise the Nabisco stock’s value by distancing it from litigation against the tobacco companies. The district court found that the plan had breached its fiduciary duties of procedural prudence by removing and selling the stock without a proper investigation, but then found that because a hypothetical prudent fiduciary “could” have taken this same action, the plan was absolved of liability—this was a far more lenient standard than the “would” have taken standard that plaintiffs urged the court to use. Our amici brief argues that the protections afforded by ERISA are of vital concern to workers of all ages and to retirees, as the quality of workers’ lives in retirement depends heavily on their eligibility for, and the amount of, their retirement and welfare benefits. In order to provide participants’ retirement security, we advocate that ERISA must be construed to actually protect … Read More