Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top 10 Labor & Employment Law Stories of 2008: Nos. 10 and 9

A couple of Sundays ago, the New York Times suggested that more and more companies will be flat out shutting down for the last week of the year as a cost-savings move:

Normally, the unfortunate people who are stuck at work during the molasses-slow week between Christmas and New Year get to know its spooky charms. Corridors and conference rooms lie empty, the telephone on the desk sits as quiet as a headstone.

But this year, a week that is usually just carefree and unproductive is likely to be positively dead. Companies in industries like high technology and manufacturing, pressed to the wall by the recession, are forcing workers to take the week off for accounting reasons as well as to reduce lighting and heating bills. Other people will also be taking the week off for the first time — not to dash off to ski at Killington, Vt., but because they lost their jobs.

I normally don’t like to be labeled a bandwagon jumper, but I happily will be joining this trend by taking off for the remainder of the year. Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy Holidays (whatever your holiday of choice happens to be) and Happy New Year. I’ll see everyone back with fresh content in 2009.

Fear not, however, I will not leave everyone without something to read between now and Jan. 1. For the rest of the year, I will be counting down the top 10 labor and employment law stories of the year. We start today with numbers 10 and 9:

10. The 6th Circuit recognizes a claim for associational retaliation: In Thompson v. North Am.Stainless, the 6th Circuit expanded Title VII retaliation liability to cover adverse actions taken against those "who are so closely related to or associated" with employees who engage in protected activity. The question of how close is close enough is still open, and subject to lots of debate.

9. The 6th Circuit sets a very low bar to survive summary judgment in a mixed motive discrimination case: In White v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., the 6th Circuit held that the traditional McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework does not apply to the summary judgment analysis of a Title VII mixed-motive claim. Instead, to survive a motion for summary judgment, a Title VII plaintiff need only show: (1) that an adverse action occurred, and (2) some evidence that the protected class was a motivating factor for that adverse action. This is a very low threshold to meet, and will lead to fewer summary judgments being granted in this circuit.