Category Archives: Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention

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Covert Employees: Recording Conversations at Work

Can an employee secretly record conversations with a co-worker, supervisor, human resources manager or executive and use that recording in a claim or lawsuit against his/her employer?  It depends.

First, where you live is important. While the federal Wiretap Act, as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, permits recording as long as one party consents, state lawsContinue Reading

Can Employers Refuse to Hire Smokers?

Are smokers in a protected class? Can a company refuse to hire them? After all, studies have repeatedly shown that smokers have higher absenteeism, are less productive and carry higher healthcare costs than non-smokers.

Not so fast. While smokers are not a protected class under federal anti-discrimination laws, statutes in more than half the states and the District of Columbia … Continue Reading

Job References in the #MeToo Era: Employers In Some States Now Have Privilege to Say #HimToo

Employers seeking to avoid liability often stick to dates of employment and position held when responding to reference requests. But there is a new trend in legislation offering protection to employers who disclose to prospective employers that the candidate was the subject of a sexual harassment investigation.

For example, effective January 1, 2019, California employers will be protected by an … Continue Reading

Employing Anyone in New York? New Anti-Harassment Laws Taking Effect

All employers with even a single employee working in New York City or New York State will be required to meet requirements designed to address sexual harassment under new city and state laws.  Employers with an employee working in New York City must post a formal notice regarding harassment in a conspicuous location on their premises and distribute a harassment … Continue Reading

One Visit and Vague Plans to Return Not Sufficient to Allow ADA Access Claim

Businesses might see a ray of hope in a recent federal appellate court decision that rejected the ability of a wheelchair-bound patron and “tester” to pursue her claim against a property owner and shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

There is a veritable cottage industry of plaintiffs who bring claims against businesses, even those they have never visited. In an effort … Continue Reading

Must An Employer Grant a Request for Indefinite Leave?

What do you do when an employee wants leave for a medical condition, but has already exhausted or is not eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act? Tread carefully.

Maybe you’re not a covered employer under the FMLA. Maybe the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, or has already exhausted all leave available under the FMLA. … Continue Reading

DOL Eases Standards for Unpaid Internships

With summer internships in full swing, it’s high time to revisit the Department of Labor’s recently-revised guidance on unpaid internships.  Guidelines issued in January abandoned the Department’s prior test – which required employers to meet each of six factors — in favor of a seven-factor test granting employers more flexibility to implement unpaid internship programs.

Under the new “primary beneficiary … Continue Reading

A Shield or a Sword? The Role of Performance Evaluations in Employment Litigation

Performance reviews are intended to provide feedback and identify opportunities for growth. They can also help an employee understand how well the employee is meeting the employer’s expectations. But make no mistake – the significance of performance reviews does not always cease at the time of termination. If the employment relationship goes south, performance reviews can develop a second life … Continue Reading

Congress and the Trump Administration Cannonballs into the Tip Pool

Buried in the 2,232 page omnibus budget bill recently signed by President Trump was an important change regarding the use of tip pools. Employers who do not take a tip credit are not required to police their employees to determine if their tip pool includes “back of the house” employees, which would have previously been unlawful. However,  an employer may … Continue Reading

Conditioning Severance on Post Employment Obligations: Tricky Business

Employers often want to be sure that departing employees won’t disclose confidential business information or make disparaging remarks about the company, and therefore include such obligations in severance agreements. But there are risks, unless the provisions are carefully tailored to account for recent legal developments.

For example, in Baylor Univ. Med. Ctr., an Administrative Law Judge found that Baylor … Continue Reading

#EqualPayMeToo

The #MeToo movement not only has highlighted harassment in the workplace; it also has prompted courts and lawmakers to take a closer look at pay equity.

The EEOC warned employers about “[e]nsuring equal pay protections for all workers” when it identified this area as one of its priorities in its Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2017-2021, and it is … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Class Action Waivers Are Enforceable

Employers may require employees to enter into arbitration agreements that waive such employees’ ability to participate in a class or collective action lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week. In a long-awaited decision that represents a significant victory for employers, the Court in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis held that such agreements do not violate the National Labor Relations … Continue Reading

DOL Again Offers Opinion Letters to Employers

Employers will once again have another source of guidance on wage and hour issues from the U. S. Department of Labor, which last month reinstated the practice of issuing opinion letters. The DOL stopped issuing opinion letters during the Obama administration, and instead switched to a practice of offering Administrator’s Interpretations (AI), which have broader applicability. Employers, who can rely … Continue Reading

Say Goodbye to Independent Contractors: The New “ABC” Test of Employee Status

The circumstances under which California businesses may classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees under California wage laws have been greatly narrowed by a decision the California Supreme Court issued April 30, 2018. The landmark decision in the case known as Dynamex presumes that all workers are employees, sets out a new three-part “ABC” test businesses must satisfy in … Continue Reading

#HimToo

The headlines may feature the names of powerful businessmen and stars who’ve been accused of sexual harassment, but employers should remember the perpetrator may not always be a man. Powerful women can be harassers, too. And there is the key: harassment is more about power than gender.

Abigail Saguy, a Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at UCLA who has … Continue Reading

The Nation’s Employers Just Got PAID

Employers who would like to work with the Department of Labor to correct potential wage and hour violations before they get sued may get their wish: the DOL has launched a Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program. The agency has invited all employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act to consider participating in this six-month pilot program. However, … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Expands Interpretation of Overtime Exemption

Employers may have a bit more flexibility in determining which employees are exempt from overtime following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued this week that specifically rejected the decades-old principle that exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) should be “narrowly construed.” In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Encino Motor Cars, LLC v. Navarro that an … Continue Reading

Department of Health and Human Services Proposes New Rule For Healthcare Workers In The Name of Religious Freedom

Healthcare employers take note:  the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has issued a proposed rule that, if passed, will allow healthcare workers who object to performing certain medical procedures like abortions and gender reassignment surgeries to refuse to perform such procedures on the grounds of religious freedom. If passed, the proposed rule would apply to over 700,000 healthcare … Continue Reading

Transgender Rights Trump Religious Rights in Sixth Circuit Case

Title VII’s protections against sex discrimination extend to transgender workers, even in the face of a challenge based on the employer’s religious rights, a federal appellate court has held. A funeral home violated Title VII when it terminated its funeral home director after she disclosed that she planned to transition from male to female and thus wanted to dress in … Continue Reading

Joint Employer Standard: Whiplash!

In a surprising move, the National Labor Relations Board has overturned its recent decision that had overruled an expansive joint employer standard set forth by the previous Obama-era Board.  So, at least for the time being, where an entity has reserved the right to control employees with another entity – even if that control was never exercised –  the Board … Continue Reading

Another Circuit Says Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

A second federal appellate court has ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation. The ruling is in line with the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, but at odds with the interpretation by the current administration’s Department of Justice.

The case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., involved … Continue Reading

Is The EEOC’s Background Check Guidance In Jeopardy?

Employers that have been frustrated with the EEOC’s position on how they can use arrest and conviction records, take note: earlier this month, a federal court in Texas enjoined the EEOC and the Attorney General of the United States from enforcing the EEOC’s “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII” (the … Continue Reading

Technical Violations of Statutes May No Longer Be Enough

“Have you been injured?”  No longer just a query for auto accident victims, plaintiffs must increasingly be able to answer “yes” to that question before bringing suits for violations of statutory rights.

Once upon a time, a technical violation was enough. However, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo v. Robbins (2016), courts have been increasingly reluctant to permit … Continue Reading

An Employer’s Guide to Litigation Holds

Employers have a duty to preserve information that is potentially relevant to anticipated or existing litigation and failure to comply with that duty can have dire consequences. As such, issuing a litigation hold should be at the top of every employer’s to-do list once placed on notice of a lawsuit, an administrative charge, an agency investigation or any other claim … Continue Reading

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