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On June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, in which the Court held that claims of retaliation must be proved using a “but for” standard as opposed to the seemingly lower “motivating factor” standard of causation.

The plaintiff had argued that in order to prevail on his claim of retaliation, he had to show that his engaging in protected activity was a motivating factor in his termination. The motivating factor standard, which applies to claims of status discrimination (e.g., sex, race, religion, national origin and disability), provides that to prevail on an employment discrimination claim, an employee need only “show that the motive to discriminate was one of the employer’s motives, even if the employer also had other, lawful motives for the decision.”

Based upon its review of the language of Title VII, the Supreme Court stated that the motivating factor standard did not apply to claims of retaliation, and that, instead, traditional principles of but-for causation applied.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Vance v. Ball State University (No. 11-556), which considered who qualified as a supervisor for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The determination of this issue was critical because employer liability for unlawful harassment under Title VII is less difficult to establish when the harasser is a supervisor, and not just a coworker of the victim. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority that a harasser is not a supervisor unless he or she has the power to “take tangible employment actions against the victim.”

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Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation increasing the New York State minimum wage in three stages. Currently, the New York and federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. The legislation was included in the new budget, and provides that the minimum wage rate will increase to $8.00 on December 31, 2013; to $8.75 on December 31, 2014; and to $9.00 on December 31, 2015.
Excluded from the increase is the minimum wage currently paid to food service and other tipped employees. It appears, however, that minimum wage increases to these employees will be implemented in the future.
As a result of the New York minimum wage increases, as of December 31, 2013, New York’s minimum wage rate will be higher than that under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). New York employers will be required to comply with the higher minimum wage rate.

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