Friday, January 4, 2008

What else I'm reading this week #12

Last week I reported on Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson, in which the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Ohio's tort reform legislation. Teri Rasmussen at the Ohio Practical Business Law Counsel provides a detailed examination of the opinion. She also questions my supposition that tort reform does not apply to discrimination claims. So that my conclusion is clear, in light of the Ohio Supreme Court's recent narrowing of the public policy tort, discrimination claims under Ohio law are now almost certainly purely statutory. Because they present statutory claims, any caps on damages for those claims would have to come from an amendment to the statute. There are a host of non-statutory employment tort claims (defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference, to name a few) that are impacted by the tort reform caps on damages.

On to other matters.

Kris Dunn, The HR Capitalist, always an excellent resource, writes about the NLRB's Register-Guard decision, and concludes that it stinks to have to say no to girl scout cookies to keep unions out of your workplace.

If a union does come knocking, Guerilla HR gives some helpful advice on what to do and what not to do in response. Most importantly, do not threaten or intimidate employees about their union support.

John Phillips' Word on Employment Law discusses employee privacy rights (or lack thereof) in off-work, personal Internet activity. For my thoughts on this issue, see Can employers base employment decisions on employees' personal Internet activities? As a bonus, John gives us a very thorough crib sheet covering the Presidential candidates' positions on various labor and employment issues.

Finally, Michael Moore at the Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog draws some good lessons from yesterday's reported $2.5 million settlement by the EEOC on behalf of one employee for a racial harassment claim. According to the EEOC's press release, the now wealthy employee was the target of repeated verbal abuse by coworkers and a supervisor, including calling him the "N-word" and saying "we should do to blacks what Hitler did to the Jews." For the company's part, it failed to discipline the harassers and instead allowed the discrimination to continue unabated even though it was aware of the unlawful conduct. I'm as against this type of conduct as anybody, but $2.5 million? Seems awfully excessive for someone who was subjected to words, no matter how offensive they might be.