Friday, May 26, 2017

WIRTW #463 (the “so special” edition)

This weekend is a big one for Norah. Today, she graduates from 5th grade and walks across the quad to become a middle schooler. And tomorrow, she turns 11. I think she’s more excited than usual about this birthday, because 10 was not her favorite year. Let’s just say that she and preteen girl-drama have not mixed well, and some have gone out of their way to make her feel less than special. (and, yes, I realize that the drama is only going to get worse).

Which is why I legit teared up this past weekend when she sang, “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

When equal pay is not “equal” pay

The Equal Pay Act requires that an employer pay its male and female employees equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal, and substantial equality is measured by job content, not job titles. This Act is a strict liability law, which means that intent does not matter. If a women is paid less than male for substantially similar work, then the law has been violated, regardless of the employer’s intent.

This strict liability, however, does not mean that pay disparities always equal liability. The EPA has several built-in defenses, including when the pay differential was “based on any other factor other than sex.” So, what happens if two comparable employees, one male and one female, come to you with different salary histories. Does the Equal Pay Act require that you gross up a lower earning female to match the salary of a higher paid male, or do the mere disparate prior salaries justify the pay disparity under the Equal Pay Act?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Federal court breaks new ground with transgender disability discrimination claim

The ADA expressly excludes from its coverage “transvestism, transsexualism, … [and] gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments….”

Thus, it should be an easy call for a court to dismiss a lawsuit in which an employee, born a male but who identifies and presents as a female, alleges disability discrimination because of her gender identity disorder.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I still despise the misnamed and overused phrase “wage theft”

Writing at, Suzanne Lucas (aka Evil HR Lady) reports on a study published by the Economics Policy Institute, which says that employers short their employees $15 billion in wages per year. According to Suzanne, “Wage theft isn’t always the case of a corrupt boss attempting to take advantage of employees.” She is 100 percent correct. In fact, most instances of an employer not paying an employee all he or she is owed under the law results from our overly complex and anachronistic wage and hour laws, not a malicious skinflint of a boss intentionally stealing from workers. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of non-employees under other statutes‽

In MEI-GSR Holdings, LLC (5/16/17) [pdf], a two-member majority of the National Labor Relations Board held that an employer violated section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act when it banned from its property an ex-employee who had filed against it a wage/hour collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Let me pause for a second to let this sink in.

Friday, May 19, 2017

WIRTW #462 (the “those were the days” edition)

I write a lot about music (particularly for a legal blog), which means that if you are any sort of regular reader, you read a lot about music. What can I say? You write what you know. I we do a lot of music in my house. Between my two kids we have three bands, three weekly lessons, three rehearsals, and gigs, gigs, and more gigs (including three this weekend).

Much of my writing about music is about my favorite band, Old 97’s. And, I don’t apologize for it. Yes, I love their music, and their songs, and how damn good they are live. But I also love who they are, as noted by this clip from their Cleveland show last week.

Who else gets a shout-out from the stage in the middle of a concert? Norah, that’s who. I can only assume she’s learning and will pay it all back when she’s famous some day.

(Bonus, check out Nicole Atkins, who we knew very little about before last week, and she converted us all to huge fans with one 40-minute opening set).

Here’s what I read this week:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The 10th nominee for the “worst employer of 2017” is … guess who?

Let’s play a game. Close you eyes and imagine. Imagine you’re the CEO of a company. And let’s also imagine your VP of HR is investigating a former executive of the company (who happens to be close friend and confidant of yours) for illegal or unethical conduct. And imagine that you privately ask said VP of HR, on the down-low, if maybe he can give your good-guy buddy a pass and end his investigation.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Is your non-compete agreement killing a fly with a sledgehammer?

At least half of my legal practice is serving as outside labor-and-employment counsel for small to midsize businesses. And, increasingly, much of that practice is consumed with drafting post-employment covenants, sending cease-and-desist letters to employees who are in violation of said covenants, or filing lawsuits to enforce said covenants; or, conversely, advising a business whether it can hire an employee with a non-compete agreement, responding to cease-and-desist letters, or defending a lawsuit seeking to enforce said covenants.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A better take on what creates a hostile work environment

Last week, I nominated Target Corporation and MarketSource for the worst employer of 2017, because they ignored the approximately 10 incidents of vile ethnic harassment a Palestinian employee suffered during the brief two month tenure of his employment. Almost as bad was the logic of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that, as matter of law, the employee failed to state a claim for ethnic harassment because the “morally repulsive” comments “were not physically threatening.”

Some courts, however, do get this issue correct. Case in point? The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in Ahmed v. Astoria Bank (5/9/17) [pdf].

Monday, May 15, 2017

WannaCry? Then ignore cybersecurity

Friday, the largest cyber-attack in history hit 150 different countries. The ransomware, known as WannaCry, infects via a link in a malicious email, encrypts the local files, and spreads to other computers. It then demands a ransom of $300 in bitcoin for the unlock key. 

What can, should, and must you do, immediately, to protect your business? For starters, ensure that all computers are patched to the latest Windows update (Mac computers are unaffected). 

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