Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The 6th nominee for the “worst employer of 2019” is … the diverse discriminator

How many different ways can one employer discriminate? How about eight.

The EEOC recently settled a national origin and disability discrimination lawsuit against a staffing agency, brought on behalf of a group of Latino employees working at an Alabama poultry plant.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The FMLA does not require that an employee use magic words to request leave

According to the FMLA's regulations, "When an employee seeks leave for the first time for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee need not expressly assert rights under the FMLA or even mention the FMLA." Courts do not interpret this burden as a heavy one. An employee need not use the letters "F-M-L-A," or any other magic words to request leave under the statute. As long as the employee provides enough information for the employer to reasonably conclude that an FMLA event described has occurred, the employee has met his or her obligation to provide notice of a request for an FMLA-qualifying leave.

What does this look like in practice? Consider the following two examples.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Do you know how to spot an employee at risk for violence?

Early Friday afternoon, Henry Pratt Co. informed one of its employees, Gary Martin, of his termination. Shortly thereafter, he opened fire with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson, killing five of his co-workers and wounding five police officers. Martin himself was the sixth casualty, killed in a shootout with police.

After the news of this tragedy broke, reports surfaced of Martin's history of violence—six prior arrests by the local police department for domestic violence, and a decades-old felony conviction for aggravated assault.

All of which begs the question, should this employer have known that Martin was prone to violence, and, if so, should it have taken added measures in connection with his termination.

Friday, February 15, 2019

WIRTW #542 (the “Scared. Ashamed. Crippled.” edition)

A few days ago, Mark Goldstein, an attorney at Reed Smith, tweeted me (and others) this:

If you read on thing this week, read Mark's article, 'Scared. Ashamed. Crippled.': How One Lawyer Overcame Living With Depression in Big Law. We are in the middle of a mental health crisis in America. The more we talk openly about it, the more it becomes de-stigmatized, and the more comfortable those suffering will be to come forward and seek the help they need. It took a lot of courage for Mark to write this article. If you are suffering with mental health issues, or know someone who is, use Mark's example to ask for help. As Mark says, "You are not alone." We are here to help you, and will gladly do so, without judgment or scorn. 

Here's what else I read this week:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When the rumor mill creates a sexually hostile work environment

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I bring you the story of a employee rumored to be sleeping with her boss to get a promotion. She wasn't, but the workplace rumor mill sure thought she was.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The way we work might be changing, but independent contractors risks are staying exactly the same

The way we work in America is changing. The relationships between companies and their workers are more fluid and varied than in decades past. Our task in this appeal is to apply traditional legal protections to one such relationship. 

So starts the 6th Circuit's opinion in Acosta v. Off Duty Police Servs., which applies the traditional "economic realities" test to determine whether private security and traffic control officers are employees or independent contractors.

One would think that with such a pronouncement at the head of the 6th Circuit's opinion, the court would be making a startling pronouncement broadening the landscape of who qualifies as an independent contractor. Those making that assumption, however, are sorely mistaken.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A textbook lesson the ADA's interactive process

Does an employer have an obligation to return an employee to work following an extended unpaid leave of absence granted as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA?

You might be inclined to say, "Of course." The answer, however, is nuanced, and depends on the length of the leave, the composition of your workforce at the time the employee seeks to return to work, and your efforts to engage in the ADA's interactive process with the employee during the leave.

For your consideration: Brunckhorst v. City of Oak Park Heights.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Emojis are starting to pop up in discrmination and harassment cases 🤔🤷‍♂️ recently pronounced, "The Emojis are Coming!" That article got me thinking, are they coming to workplace litigation, too? After all, emojis are a form of communication, and work is all about communication. Which would suggest that we would start seeing them in harassment and discrimination cases.

According to Bloomberg Law, mentions of emojis in federal discrimination lawsuits doubled from 2016 to 2017. Let's not get crazy. The doubling went from six cases to 12 cases. But, a trend is a trend.

Friday, February 8, 2019

WIRTW #541 (the “Purl” edition)

Purl is an online-only Pixar short about a ball of yarn appropriately named Purl who gets a job in a bro-tastic workplace. As the only female, and only ball of yarn, working at B.R.O. Capital, she struggles to fit and yearns for acceptance from her all male, all human, co-workers. Purl's story has a lot to say about diversity and inclusion, and is well worth the just under nine minutes of your time.

Here's what I read this week:

Thursday, February 7, 2019

FINRA's new "Best Practices" for Cybersecurity is MUST reading for any employer

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently issued its Report on Selected Cybersecurity Practices – 2018 [pdf].

The Report identifies five common cybersecurity risks and outlines recommended practices for each:

  • Branch controls
  • Phishing attacks
  • Insider threats
  • Penetration testing
  • Mobile devices 

While FINRA only regulates securities firms, the five topics its Report covers should be required reading for any employer that wants to understand how to implement cybersecurity best practices.

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