Employers can be liable for sexual harassment under federal law (Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) if “sexually explicit” or “aggressive” music is played in the workplace, the Ninth Circuit recently ruled in Sharp v S&S Activewear, L.L.C, 9th Cir. (June 2023).

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling directly applies to employers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. However, given the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s amici brief in support of the plaintiffs’ position and the Court’s reliance on opinions from the Second, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits that held that sights and sounds that pervade the work environment may constitute sex discrimination, it is likely other circuits may follow suit.Continue Reading When Harmony Becomes Hostile: The Ninth Circuit Notes that Offensive Music in the Workplace Can Constitute Harassment

California legislators met on April 11, 2023 to discuss a proposed overhaul of employment-related criminal background checks. Simply put, if the Fair Chance Act of 2023 (SB 809) is passed into law, California will have the most restrictive criminal background check law in the country, and will significantly limit the way California employers can vet applicants for employment. Under existing state law, California employers may conduct a criminal background check for most positions only after making an initial offer of employment, and they may make adverse employment decisions based on criminal history only after conducting an individualized assessment that considers the nature of the offense and the duties of the job. While these existing restrictions are significant in their own right, the proposed new law will effectively eliminate criminal history consideration in most circumstances, allowing legislators to further reduce barriers to employment for people with criminal histories.

The Fair Chance Act will, among other things, “make it an unlawful employment practice to take adverse action against an employee or discriminate against an employee in the terms, conditions, or privileges of their employment based on their arrest or conviction history.” SB 809. In essence, the proposed law will all but ban employment-related criminal background checks, except for positions for which such checks are authorized or required by statute. And in the limited circumstances where criminal history checks are permitted, the Fair Chance Act will require employers to post a clear and conspicuous notice informing applicants and employees of their rights. The new law also will impose on employers additional document and data retention obligations for completed background checks.Continue Reading California Seeks to Ban Most Criminal Background Checks