Last fall, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), filed a pregnancy discrimination claim against Bloomberg LP based upon complaints received from three employees. Since that time, the number of women charging Bloomberg LP with pregnancy discrimination has increased to 72. According to New York Magazine, that number constitutes about one in seven of the employees who became pregnant in the last six years. Although Bloomberg LP referred to the initial filing as a “publicity stunt,” the increase in the number of employees alleging sexual discrimination renders that characterization extremely difficult to sustain.
On September 17th, the United States House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (“ADAA”). The bill has now been sent to President Bush, who states that he will sign it. The amendments reflect the broadest changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) since its enactment in 1990.
In June 2008, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Amendment Act of 2008. (See Proposed Amendments to ADA Restore Disability Discrimination Protections, June 28, 2008.) Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed its own version of the ADA Amendment Act. A conformed version will be submitted to the President for signature within the next several weeks.
Earlier this week, Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Charles Grassley of Iowa submitted a letter to the Department of Labor accusing it of violating the “spirit and goals” of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”). The whistleblower provisions of SOX protect employees who report corporate wrongdoing.
According to the letter, the senators were displeased over the Department of Labor’s narrow interpretation of SOX’s whistleblower provisions, which has resulted in the dismissal of the majority of complaints filed with the Department of Labor. According to Department records, the government has only ruled in favor of whistleblowers 17 times out of 1,273 complaints since 2002. An additional 841 claims have been dismissed based upon a finding that the employee-claimants of the subsidiaries of publicly traded companies (or companies required to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission) are simply not covered under the law.
SOX’s whistleblower provisions expressly prohibit publicly traded companies or “any other officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent of such company” from retaliating against any employees who blow the whistle on corporate fraud. The Department of Labor has been dismissing claims of employees who work for nonpublicly traded companies, despite that those companies are subsidiaries of publicly traded companies. An example of such a situation is a nonpublic investment banking subsidiary of a publicly traded bank. Under the Department of Labor’s interpretation of SOX, the employees of the bank would be protected under the law, while those employed by the investment subsidiary would not.