On the heels of the United States Supreme Court’s decision limiting affirmative action in college admissions, we have seen an increase in workers who do not belong to historically underrepresented demographic groups filing lawsuits challenging their employers’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.[1] As a result, some businesses may wonder: Are our DEI efforts worth the legal risk? For most businesses, the consensus answer appears to be “yes.”

What is caste and caste discrimination?

“Caste” or a “caste system” is a social hierarchy passed down through families and can dictate an individual’s permissible professions as well as aspects of their social life, including whom they can marry.[1] It exists in a variety of ways, but for purposes of defining a legally protected class, it most directly relates to persons of South Asian descent. Importantly, however, an individual’s race or religion is not a caste, and caste and race/religion should not be equated or conflated.[2]

As of September 13th, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (DOL-WHD) is partnering with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to focus on “enhanced law enforcement” through information sharing, joint investigations, training, and outreach.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is considered voluntary and is not legally binding, but may

When “Gymtimidation” Turns Into Discrimination

The issues of acceptance and comfort in fitness centers can pose serious challenges for owners. A healthy gym environment can empower all individuals, regardless of age, gender, ability, and race. However, if managed by inadequately trained staff or run without oversight, a gym can become a divisive place that breeds anxiety and fear. The phenomenon of “gymtimidation” is a popular topic among fitness center owners and gym enthusiasts alike. A 2022 study of roughly 3,000 individuals revealed that 90% of gym-goers are concerned about others’ opinions and 42% of gym-goers experience appearance-based anxiety while at the gym. Notably, Gen-Z gym-goers are the most affected by “gymtimidation,” with 38% of that demographic identifying “fear of judgment” as a reason for disliking gyms.

Third-party job posting sites such as Indeed, Job Recruiter, etc., can be an easy and efficient way for employers to fill positions with quality candidates; however, Wisconsin employers, including out-of-state employers with job postings in Wisconsin, need to be mindful when submitting a job posting or run the risk of inadvertently violating the state’s non-discrimination law.

On June 29, 2023, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Groff v. DeJoy, Postmaster General, increasing the employer’s burden to prove an undue hardship defense from the previous de minimis standard to a substantial hardship standard. Although the opinion is framed as a mere “clarification” of the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, in practice, the law now requires employers to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs under Title VII unless such accommodation would create a substantial hardship to the employer’s business.

Veteran Hiring Benchmark Decreased to 5.4%

OFCCP released the national annual veteran hiring benchmark effective March 31, 2023, which measures the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force. Federal contractors are required to compare their percentage of hires who are protected veterans in each establishment on a facility-wide basis to the annual veteran hiring benchmark to measure the effectiveness of outreach and recruitment of veterans for employment. The national annual veteran hiring benchmark was decreased from 5.5% to 5.4% as of March 31, 2023. If a federal contractor has elected to calculate an individualized hiring benchmark using state-level availability of veterans, OFCCP has also updated state-level availability data.

Husch Blackwell attorney Tracey O’Brien has posted about the March 31 OFCCP recission of the Trump administration’s Final Rule, Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption. The OFCCP refers to this recission as a return to “longstanding policy in place for more than 17 years to determine applicability of the religious