Thursday, April 15, 2021

Coronavirus Update 4-15-2021: OSHA finally gets real about Covid safety

Consider the following Covid safety and health violations OSHA recently uncovered at a Massachusetts tax preparation business.

  • Employees and customers were prohibited from wearing face coverings in the workplace despite a statewide mask order that mandated the business to require employees and customers to wear masks.
  • Employees were required to work within 6 feet of each other and of customers for multiple hours while not wearing face coverings.
  • Adequate means of ventilation in the workplace were not provided.
  • Controls such as physical barriers, pre-shift screening of employees, enhanced cleaning, and other methods to reduce the potential for person-to-person transmission of the virus were not implemented.
What did these violations cost this employer in OSHA penalties? $5,000? $10,000? $25,000? 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

DOL reopens the floodgate to liquidated damages in wage and hour investigations

The Department of Labor's breakup with liquidated damages in wage and hour investigations lasted only four years. Late last week, the agency announced that it would again seek liquidated damages (an amount equal to the unpaid wages themselves) in investigations, undoing a  policy change made by the Trump administration.

According to the DOL, it will "return to pursuing liquidated damages from employers … in its pre-litigation investigations provided that the Regional Solicitor of Labor or their designee concurs with the liquidated damages request.… Liquidated damages shall not be assessed by WHD where the employer has set forth credible evidence of a good faith defense or the where the RSOL deems the matter inappropriate for litigation."

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The top 11 things you need to know about being sued by an (ex) employee

Because of the impending changes to Ohio's workplace discrimination law that take effect in two days, the filing of employment discrimination lawsuits in my state is seeing record numbers.

Do you know what to do when an employee sues your company? 

Here are the top 4 issues you to think about ASAYS (as soon as you're sued).

Monday, April 12, 2021

Coronavirus Update 4-12-2021: It’s time to end pandemic PTO hesitancy

I haven't taken a proper vacation in 25 months. We were supposed to go to Portugal last March, but then Covid happened. In the 13 months since, there's been little point in taking off from work for any length of time because I haven't been able to go anywhere. "I can't go anywhere, so I might as well work," has been a popular pandemic refrain (me included).

Americans were bad at vacations before Covid. The pandemic certainly hasn't helped our PTO hesitancy. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Coronavirus Update 4-9-2021: Income tax season has exacerbated the ongoing Covid plague of unemployment fraud

One of the lasting lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic for businesses is our broken state unemployment systems. State governments have paid out tens of billions of dollars in bogus unemployment claims. And with claims paid comes tax forms reporting the income related to those claims.

Consider the story of just one taxpayer, as relayed by the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Baird, a 33-year-old marketing manager in Chicago, hasn't lived in Texas for several years. And yet there was a tax form from the state of Texas sitting at his parents' house in Houston, showing that the state had paid him $1,014 in unemployment benefits.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Title VII and “fringe" religions

"A pagan says she faced religious discrimination while working at Panera. Now, she’s suing." So reads the headline at the Washington Post. The plaintiff claims that after she told an assistant manager that she was pagan, her hours were cut and she was told they wouldn't be restored until she "found God" (in addition to other alleged workplace harassment). 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

6th Circuit applies False Claim Act’s anti-retaliation protections to ex-employees

In the history of this blog's 3,603 posts, I've never written about the False Claim Act. If you've been waiting with bated breath for me to fix this omission, today's your lucky day, thanks to United States ex rel. David Felten, M.D., Ph.D. v. William Beaumont Hosp. (6th Cir. 3/31/21). Before diving into the Felten case, let's first take a 61-word peek at the False Claims Act and to what it applies.

The False Claims Act is a federal statute that imposes liability on people and companies that defraud the federal government, and further, relevant to Felten, permits private citizens (which the law calls "relators") to file lawsuits (known as qui tam claims) on behalf of the government and protects relators from retaliation when the lawsuit they are filing is against their employer.

At issue in Felten is whether the FCA's anti-retaliation protections only cover current employees, or whether they also extend to an employer's former employee who blows the whistle by filing a qui tam suit.