[With special thanks to our summer associate Lennox Mark for his contribution to this post.]

From coast to coast, state and local governments are debating and enacting legislation to broaden workplace protections for employee dress and grooming practices. And not surprisingly, employee complaints regarding employer grooming policies — that such policies contribute to discrimination by unduly burdening certain racial characteristics, religious beliefs or health conditions — are on the rise.

In February 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a statement of legal enforcement guidance expanding the definition of prohibited race discrimination to include discrimination based on hairstyle. The Commission explained that workplace “grooming or appearance policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hairstyles or hairstyles associated with Black people generally violate [local law].” By expressly including hairstyle as a protected characteristic, the Commission effectively created a new legal claim for Black employees who suffer adverse employment actions because their natural hairstyles fail to comport with previously accepted workplace rules.


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On April 10, the EEOC released its charge filing statistics for Fiscal Year 2018, which ran from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018. These annually disclosed statistics reveal continued trends in the employment litigation space and provide an opportunity for employers to ensure their policies and practices address issues arising in the ever-changing modern workplace.

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Only one thing is certain: Nothing is certain. The global transactions market remained robust in 2018 and still into 2019, despite well publicized macro-economic uncertainty, stemming from Brexit concerns, among other developments. Real threats to free trade and investment flows remain, with the potential for a much more serious outbreak of protectionism and isolation on