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News & Alerts

Employer Liability: Cleaning Up the Joint Employer Doctrine: Wage Violation Liability

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island recently ruled that a cleaning company that subcontracted work to other cleaning companies wasn’t a joint employer for one of its subcontractors. The district court focused on the economic reality test for determining liability under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act (RIMWA) and found that the company wasn’t liable.

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Arbitration Agreements – Does continued employment compel arbitration?

Continued employment is sufficient to enforce a new arbitration agreement between an employer and an employee, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island recently ruled, disagreeing with another Rhode Island district judge. Because an arbitration agreement’s validity is a question of state contract law, the issue of enforceability based on continued employment is one the Rhode Island Supreme Court ultimately must decide.

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Employer Liability: Mixed decision trims claims against Fidelity Investments

In a March 22, 2018, memorandum and order, Judge John McConnell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted summary judgment (i.e., dismissal without a trial) to Fidelity Investments on a female executive’s breach of contract and retaliation/discrimination claims associated with a temporary assignment, but her claims associated with a promotion she had been promised survived for trial.

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Failure To Promote

Since 2009, “Erin L.” has been employed by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT), where she serves as a senior employment and training interviewer at the “call center,” assisting people seeking unemployment benefits. She is a black woman with a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degrees in public administration and library and information science. Despite her years of service and strong educational background, she claimed that she was stymied from achieving a promotion because of two seemingly neutral practices that have a racially discriminatory impact.

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Sexual Harassment – Sexual Orientation Protected by Federal Law?

The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all Rhode Island employers) recently upheld a six-figure jury award for a firefighter’s “sex-plus” discrimination claim, ruling that federal antidiscrimination law extends protections to gay and lesbian workers in cases where they claim discrimination based on both their gender and sexual orientation.

The ruling, Franchina v. City of Providence, contributes to a widening division among federal courts about whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin—covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Hiring: Compensation ‘no-ask’ laws: A Primer for Rhode Island Attorneys

The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA) is a “no-ask” law that will become effective on July 1, 2018. California, Delaware, New York City, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and San Francisco also recently enacted no-ask laws. Rhode Island employers may need to change their hiring practices—including job applications, interviews, background checks, and the process of making initial compensation offers—in order to comply with these new state and local laws.

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Gender Discrimination: RI Federal Court: Paid Suspension Is Adverse Employment Action

In an August 16, 2017, decision, Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island declined to grant summary judgment (dismissal without a trial) in favor of an employer defending against a female employee’s gender discrimination and retaliation claims. Although the employer continued to pay the employee during a suspension, the court held that the suspension was punitive in nature, became part of her permanent employment record, and affected her ability to advance, find future employment, and gain valuable job experience.

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City’s Winning Defense: PPD Sergeant was Undeserving and Disliked

A federal court in Rhode Island recently rejected a sergeant’s claim that the Providence Police Department’s (PPD) failure to promote him to lieutenant was illegally based on disability discrimination. The court found the employment decision was based in part on the chief of police’s conclusion that the sergeant was undeserving of the promotion and wasn’t well liked by his colleagues, which were legitimate reasons not to promote him.

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Blowing A Whistle But Making No Sound: RN Did Not Report Illegal Acts

Joanne Chagnon was a registered nurse at Lifespan’s Miriam Hospital in Providence. She began working at the hospital in 1991 and was promoted four times. Her last review, in December 2014, was positive. As of February 2015, she supervised other nurses in two settings, a cardiovascular procedural care and endoscopy unit (PCU) and the cardiac catheterization and EP laboratory (cath lab).

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