State Specific Developments: March 2013
Iowa: A transgender Iowa City woman, born male and presenting as female, recently prevailed in the civil rights complaint she filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission after a sheriff’s deputy ordered her to leave a women’s restroom at the courthouse, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. A state administrative law judge ruled in the woman’s favor, concluding that there was probable cause to support her claims of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation in public accommodation. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission states that Iowa law requires that individuals must be allowed to use facilities in accordance with their gender identities, rather than their assigned sex at birth, without being harassed or questioned.
Kansas: The Kansas City Chiefs have started 2013 with a win! Nine members of a twelve-person Jackson County jury recently sided with the Chiefs in an age discrimination lawsuit. Steve Cox, the team’s former maintenance manager, sued the Chiefs following his discharge in 2010 after he gave one of his subordinates an unauthorized raise. Cox claimed that he received good performance reviews and that his discharge was part of a larger plan to make the organization “go young.” The jury did not endorse Cox’s claims and did not award him any damages.
Minnesota: On February 11, 2013, two Minnesota State Representatives introduced H. F. No. 506, a bill that generally renders non-compete agreements void. The bill contains limited exceptions allowing non-compete agreements for: (1) sellers of a business’s good will, (2) partners in a dissolving partnership, and (3) members of a limited liability company who are dissolving or terminating their interest in the company. The State House referred the bill to the Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries Committee.
Missouri: On February 27, 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it established an “Alliance” with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City, Missouri to provide worker safety information to Mexican nationals working in Missouri and Kansas. The Alliance will provide information, guidance, and access to education and training resources which will be jointly developed by the Mexican Consulate and OSHA’s offices in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Wichita.
Montana: The Montana Supreme Court recently upheld a Motion to Compel Arbitration by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana. A terminated employee argued that his case against Blue Cross was covered by the Montana Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act (“WDEA”) since he claimed that Blue Cross had terminated him at will under the contract. Because that issue implicated the provisions of the employment contract, the court held that an arbitrator should decide the case and whether the WDEA applied to the claim.
North Dakota: An occupational therapist sued a long-term care health facility for sexual harassment after the CEO terminated her employment in 2008. She alleged that she got drunk at a conference with the CEO in 2005 and fell asleep in his hotel room. She awoke, found him naked on top of her trying to remove her clothes, resisted him, and left the room. She claimed that the CEO treated her differently thereafter, paid female employees less than a male employee, and refused to pay her a premium wage for working “short staffed” just days before her termination. The employer moved for summary judgment on grounds that the therapist’s sexual harassment claim was time-barred. The North Dakota Supreme Court recently rejected the employer’s argument, reasoning that it was possible that the alleged assault and subsequent incidents were related and part of the same actionable hostile work environment. The court reasoned that, since at least one incident contributing to the hostile work environment claim occurred within the 300-day statute of limitations period, the therapist’s claim could not be dismissed as untimely.
South Dakota: South Dakota passed a law this month allowing school employees to carry guns in school buildings. Other states have also made changes in their laws to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom, but this is the first legislation that specifically allows elementary school employees to carry guns in school. The law leaves it up to individual school districts to set the rules for their schools as to whether guns are allowed.