Category Archives: Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention

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Political Speech Inside (and Outside) of the Workplace

The new year has brought a new Congress, an ongoing government shutdown, and rumblings of the first formal campaign announcements for 2020. With more voters participating in last year’s election than ever before, employers should be prepared to handle issues arising from employees’ political speech and conduct.

The 2018 midterms were the first in history with a turnout surpassing 100 … Continue Reading

Arbitration Agreements: Tips for Enforceability

Arbitration agreements can be an effective tool to avoid costly litigation, and, in particular, to prevent class and collective actions. But, will your arbitration agreement withstand scrutiny? Here are some tips on what to do—and not do—when drafting arbitration agreements for new hires.

First, consider whether and for what kinds of employment disputes you might want arbitration. Arbitration has some … Continue Reading

Avoiding Office Holiday Party Headaches

The annual holiday party is a great time of the year to celebrate employees and business successes, but it can be fraught with peril. Wise employers will plan holiday celebrations carefully.

  1. Consider the timing.

Some employees would rather limit their time with work colleagues to workplace hours. Others may stress over childcare, transportation or other commitments, but feel obligated to … Continue Reading

A Tip from the Department of Labor: The 80/20 Rule Has Been Rescinded

Employers are no longer barred from taking the tip credit for tipped employees who spend more than 20% of their time doing non-tipped activities, according to a new U.S. Department of Labor opinion letter doing away with the so-called “80/20 rule.” As restaurant and hospitality employers are aware, the tip credit provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act permits an … Continue Reading

Avoiding Age Discrimination Claims During Succession Planning

As “baby boomers” come of retirement age, employers may find themselves between a rock and a hard place: they can either ask employees about their retirement plans and risk being accused of age discrimination, or they can avoid those conversations and risk being woefully underprepared for the retirements of key employees.

When done right, succession planning affords employers an opportunity … Continue Reading

English-Only Workplace Rules: Risky in a Diversifying Workplace

A manufacturer has “subjected its employees to an ugly mix of sexism, racism, and xenophobia and violated federal law prohibiting harassment and retaliation” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit recently filed in New York. What led to such an inflammatory charge from the EEOC? Among other things, the employer’s implementation of an English-only rule in the workplace.… Continue Reading

DOJ Contradicts EEOC over Title VII’s Applicability to Transgender Employees

The Department of Justice is now squarely at odds with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission over whether Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination also applies to discrimination against transgender employees.  Specifically, in EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., the EEOC had filed suit against a funeral home for terminating a transgender funeral director (who was born … Continue Reading

Reducing Risks Associated With Temporary Staffing Agencies

Staffing agencies may provide the solution to a company’s short-term staffing needs. However, clients should not assume they can avoid liability for workplace issues by using a staffing agency; indeed, in some cases, a client is exposed to liability as a result of using a staffing agency. Engaging a staffing agency provides no protection against employment liability and, in some … Continue Reading

Filing Bankruptcy May Not Stop EEOC Suits

Hoping that declaring bankruptcy will stay a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit against you brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) on behalf of a current or former employee? Think again.

On October 11, 2018, a Texas federal court in EEOC v. Tim Shepherd, M.D. ruled that filing for bankruptcy did not automatically stay a lawsuit brought by … Continue Reading

Court Says Employer Cannot Refuse to Hire Based on Medical Marijuana Use

A Connecticut federal district court has found an employer liable for discrimination for failing to hire a medical marijuana user based on a drug test.

Prior to the September 5 decision in Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co., d/b/a Bride Brook Nursing & Rehab. Ctr., No. 3:16-cv-01938, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150453 (D. Conn. Sept. 5, 2018), https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20180906954, it … Continue Reading

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

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