Showing posts with label do you know. Show all posts
Showing posts with label do you know. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do you know? FMLA leave for unmarried fathers

Do you need another reason to get married? The FMLA provides husbands greater rights than unwed fathers.

The FMLA distinguishes between fathers and husbands based on the type of FMLA-leave sought:

  • Fathers are entitled to FMLA leave for the birth of their child and for paternity leave to be with the healthy newborn child (i.e., bonding time) during the 12-month period beginning on the date of birth.

  • However, only husbands are eligible to take leave to care for his incapacitated pregnant spouse, to care for her during her prenatal care, or to care for her following the birth of a child if she has a serious health condition.

The FMLA only grants unmarried fathers paternity leave rights. It gives no benefit to the unmarried for any leave to care for the baby’s mother, either prenatally or postnatally.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do you know? Do you need a moonlighting policy?

moonlightingMoonlighting is when an employee works a job other than their primary job. In today’s world, for example, many people find it necessary to work second or even third jobs just to get by. Assuming you want to permit employees work a second job, it is best to have a policy in place to address how it affects your business.

Such a policy should, at a minimum, address the following issues:

  1. Interference with primary job. The main purpose of most moonlighting policies is to set out your expectation that employees will treat their work at your business as their primary job and will not allow other jobs to interfere with the performance of the primary job. You should make it clear that you expect the employee to put your job first.

  2. Conflict of interest. Above all else, you need to protect your business. A conflict of interest policy can help ensure that your employees don’t work for a competitor while working for you. You should also consider the potential impact – positive and negative – of an employee working for a customer or vendor. The same should also cover confidential and other proprietary information.

  3. What about leaves of absence? Employees should not be able to work a second job while on a leave of absence – medical, for example – from their primary job.

  4. Approval of employment. Consider including a clause that requires approval of any outside employment. In implementing such a clause, however, be sure to do it fairly and equitably across the board, and avoid any appearance of preferential or discriminatory treatment.

You do not have to permit employees to hold other jobs. If you do, however, consider putting a policy in place to set expectations up-front and to give you the protection you need should an employee’s outside work interfere with your business.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do you know? Bankruptcy discrimination

The economy will continue to dominate the headlines in 2010. And, as the economy continues to struggle to rebound, it is likely that your business will have employees who have filed bankruptcy. The question is what do you do with this information.

Do you know that bankruptcy discrimination is unlawful under the Bankruptcy Code.

No private employer may terminate the employment of, or discriminate with respect to employment against, an individual who is or has been a debtor under this title, a debtor or bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act, or an individual associated with such debtor or bankrupt, solely because such debtor or bankrupt – (1) is or has been a debtor under this title or a debtor or bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act; (2) has been insolvent before the commencement of a case under this title or during the case but before the grant or denial of a discharge; or (3) has not paid a debt that is dischargeable in a case under this title or that was discharged under the Bankruptcy Act.

In other words, federal law prohibits an employer from terminating an employee or taking an other adverse action against an employee because that employee filed bankruptcy or is associated with someone else who filed bankruptcy.

Three key points to make about this statute:

  1. With one exception, every court that has applied this statute has found that it only applies to termination decisions – not hiring decisions. Thus, employers are reasonably safe taking a bankruptcy into consideration when making a hiring decision.

  2. The Fair Credit Reporting Act still applies to how employers obtain employee credit information from third parties, including information about bankruptcies. This law only impacts what employers do with the information once they get it.

  3. Unlike Title VII, this statute is narrowly written to provide that the bankruptcy must be the sole reason for the adverse action before liability attaches. This is a high standard for a plaintiff to meet, and perhaps explains why we see so few of these cases.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do you know? An employee’s (lack of) right to representation at an investigatory interviews or disciplinary meeting

Yesterday I discussed the illegality of firing an at-will employee for consulting with an attorney. Despite an employee’s right to talk to a lawyer about issues going on in your workplace, non-union employees do not have a right to representation at investigatory interviews or disciplinary meetings. In a union setting, rank-and-file employees enjoy what are called Weingarten Rights – the right to union representation at these encounters.

Those same rights do not extend to a non-union setting. In IBM Corp. (June 9, 2004) [pdf], the National Labor Relations Board concluded that “the right of an employee to a coworker’s presence in the absence of a union is outweighed by an employer’s right to conduct prompt, efficient, thorough, and confidential workplace investigations.” While the holding only mentioned a coworker representative, the employer had denied the employee’s request for a coworker or an attorney to be present.

It is important to note, however, that the federal courts and the NLRB have gone back and forth on this issue over the years, and that IBM was a tight 3-2 decision of a Bush-appointed NLRB. Even the IBM majority recognized that one could reasonably interpret the National Labor Relations Act to reach the opposite conclusion. Because President Obama has already appointed a new Chairperson, and will fill three other vacancies on the NLRB, there is a good chance this rule will change if the issue makes its way back to D.C. in the next three years.

For now, employers are well within their rights to prohibit employees from having representation during investigatory interviews or disciplinary meetings.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do you know? 10 tips for drafting a workplace electronic communications policy

Does your business have an electronic communications policy? Last week, Bowman v. Butler Township provided a gentle reminder of why your business should have one. Here are some points to consider when putting a technology policy in place in your workplace.

  1. Is your technology limited to work-related use only, or will you permit some personal non-work use? For example, can email be used for personal reasons? What websites (YouTube, Amazon, eBay, CNN, ESPN?) are off-limits?

  2. Account for the handling of your business’s trade secrets, confidential, and proprietary information.

  3. Remind employees of their non-harassment obligations. Offensive, demeaning, or disruptive messages should always be prohibited, as should offensive racist, discriminatory, or sexual content.

  4. Advise employees that what is transmitted over the company’s system belongs to the company and employee do not have any expectation of privacy.

  5. Whatever degree of monitoring you are going to undertake, let employees know and obtain their consent.

  6. For how long are you going to store electronic content and how often is it deleted? Tie together your communications policy and records retention policy.

  7. Are employees allowed to remove electronic data from the workplace?

  8. Provide for virus protection.

  9. Don’t forget social media.

  10. As with all employment policies, account for discipline for violations.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do you know? Recertification of FMLA leave

Asking an employee taking leave under the FMLA to recertify the need for the leave is a powerful tool employers can use to curb FMLA abuse. However, there are specific rules employers must follow to ensure that they are not the one accused of abuse.

1. 30-day rule.

Generally, an employer may request recertification no more often than once every 30 days, and only in connection with an absence by the employee. An employer can never ask for or require a second or third opinion on recertification. It must wait for the next 30-day period to request another recertification.

2. More than 30 days.

If the employee’s medical certification shows that the minimum duration of the condition is more than 30 days, an employer must wait for that minimum duration to expire before requesting a recertification.

Regardless of the minimum duration, an employer may always request a recertification of a medical condition at least once every six months in connection with an employee’s absence.

3. Less than 30 days. 

An employer may request recertification in less than 30 days if:

  • The employee requests an extension of a leave; or
  • Circumstances described by the previous certification have changed significantly (e.g., the duration or frequency of the absence, the nature or severity of the illness, complications); or
  • The employer receives information that casts doubt upon the employee’s stated reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the certification (e.g., an employee with a knee injury playing on the company softball team). 

4. Timing.

An employer must give the employee at least 15 days to provide the recertification. The employee must meet that deadline to keep his or her FMLA leave, unless it is not practicable under the particular circumstances to do so despite the employee’s diligent, good faith efforts.

5. Content.

The employer may ask for the same information when obtaining recertification as permitted for the original certification. The employee has the same obligations to participate and cooperate in the recertification process as in the initial certification process. Importantly, as part of the information allowed to be obtained on recertification, the employer may provide the health care provider with a record of the employee’s absence pattern and ask the health care provider if the serious health condition and need for leave is consistent with such a pattern.

6. Expense.

An employer can require that the employee bear the cost of the recertification.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Do you know? Employee witness statements

Last week I discussed opposing counsel’s ability to interview your company’s current and former employees, even during active litigation. Today, I’ll discuss how you can get your hands on those witness statements without having your counsel engage in expensive discovery fights over work product issues.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3)(C) states:

Previous Statement. Any party or other person may, on request and without the required showing, obtain the person’s own previous statement about the action or its subject matter. If the request is refused, the person may move for a court order, and Rule 37(a)(5) applies to the award of expenses. A previous statement is either:

     (i) a written statement that the person has signed or otherwise adopted or approved; or

     (ii) a contemporaneous stenographic, mechanical, electrical, or other recording – or a transcription of it – that recites substantially verbatim the person's oral statement.

The catch – you have to be in federal court. Ohio’s parallel rule is limited to statements of parties only.

If you are in federal court, anyone who previously gave a written or recorded statement to an attorney has a right to receive a copy of that statement upon request. What does this rule mean for employers? It is in your best interest to maintain good relations with all current and former employees. You cannot stop an employee from talking to a plaintiff’s attorney, but you can prod that employee to request a copy of his or her statement. What do you think the likelihood is of an employee with whom you have a bad relationship helping you out?

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do you know? Opposing counsel may have access to your employees during litigation

Businesses often think that once litigation is filed, their employees are off limits to the other side, absent a deposition subpoena. After all, conventional wisdom teaches that it is unethical for an attorney to communicate with someone known to be represented by an attorney without the other attorney’s consent. At least in Ohio, however, such thinking is incorrect and can lead to disastrous results.

According to Advisory Opinion 2005-03 [DOC], an opposing party is only prohibited from speaking to a small fraction of a business’s current employees. 

Communications with Current Employees

  • Opposing counsel is only prohibited from communicating with corporate employees who supervise, direct or regularly consult with the corporation’s lawyer concerning the matter, or has authority to obligate the corporation with respect to the matter, or whose act or omission in connection with the matter may be imputed to the corporation for purposes of civil or criminal liability.

  • Opposing counsel may always communicate without the consent of a corporation’s lawyer with any other current employees.

Communications with Former Employees

  • Opposing counsel may communicate with any former employees of the corporation without notification or consent of corporate counsel.

  • An attorney may not, however, communicate if a former employee is represented by his or her own counsel in the matter, or if a former employee has asked the corporation’s counsel to provide representation in the matter.

Thus, the only employees to whom an opposing attorney absolutely cannot speak are current employees whose actions can bind the company or who are actively involved in the litigation decision making. All other employees – past and present – are fair game.

Further, businesses could find themselves defending an offshoot retaliation claim if they try to interfere with an employee who wants to talk to or assist the other side.

Next Tuesday we’ll look at Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3)(C), which gives employers some protections via the discovery of witness statements.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do you know? H1N1 and employees’ leave rights

The Department of Labor has published two guides for employers trying to navigate H1N1 and employees’ leave and pay rights (both PDFs):

Neither presents earth-shattering legal information. Having said that, the Department of Labor has done a nice job compiling useful tips for employers to turn to when an employee misses work because of the H1N1. Some of the more interesting nuggets are as follows:


  • The Department of Labor urges employees who themselves have H1N1, or who have family members with H1N1, to stay home. However, the DOL takes no position on whether H1N1 is covered under the FMLA as a “serious health condition.” Employers, though, are “encouraged to support these and other community mitigation strategies and should consider flexible leave policies for their employees.”
  • The FMLA does not cover leave taken by an employee to avoid exposure to the flu.
  • If an employee’s child’s school is closed, the FMLA does not require leave to care for a healthy child at home.
  • Federal law does not require employers to provide paid leave to employees who are absent from work because they are sick with pandemic flu, have been exposed to someone with the flu, or are caring for someone with the flu.
  • An employer may require an employee who is out sick with pandemic influenza to provide a doctor’s note, submit to a medical exam, or remain symptom-free for a specified amount of time before returning to work, potentially subject to limits in the FMLA and ADA.


  • If a business temporarily closes because of H1N1, that employer is not obligated to pay non-exempt employees for any hours they do not work.
  • An employer can require that an employee perform work outside of the employee’s job description to cover for an absent employee.
  • An employer may encourage or require employees to telework (work from an alternative location such as home) as an infection control strategy. Employers do not have to pay the same wage for telework, unless required to do so by a collective bargaining agreement or other contract.
  • Employers are not required to cover additional costs that employees may incur if they work from home (DSL line, computer, additional phone line, increased use of electricity, etc.)?

For more on H1N1 preparedness, I recommend the following earlier posts:

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do you know? Reliance on DOL opinions

Do you know that it is an absolute defense to a wage and hour claim that you relied on a written opinion of the Department of Labor in making your minimum wage or overtime payments? According to 29 U.S.C. 259:

[N]o employer shall be subject to any liability or punishment for or on account of the failure of the employer to pay minimum wages or overtime compensation if he pleads and proves that the act or omission complained of was in good faith in conformity with and in reliance on any written administrative regulation, order, ruling, approval, or interpretation, of the [Department of Labor].

The Department of Labor may not be the most friendly place for employers rights now (see Wage & Hour: Not Just Collective Actions Anymore), but its website is a wealth of wage and hour information for employers. It lists more than 200 formal opinion letters that provide a step-by-step guide on how to comply with the FLSA. And, if you rely on one of those letters in paying an employee, you have a defense to a minimum wage or overtime lawsuit.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do you know? Garden leave contracts

Last week I attended the ABA’s Labor & Employment Conference. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing with my readers some of the best and most interesting nuggets of information I took away from the meeting. We start today with garden leave contracts.

<div xmlns:cc="" about=""><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=""></a> / <a rel="license" href="">CC BY 2.0</a></div> There is nothing more frustrating for a company than a court refusing to enforce a noncompetition agreement, permitting an employee to work for a competitor. Courts have been historically skeptical about the enforcement of such agreements. In today’s economy it has become even more difficult to enforce them. Judges simply do not want to enjoin a family’s breadwinner from working. At best, the enforcement of even the most narrowly drafted noncompetition agreement is a roll of the dice, dependent as much upon the personal whims of the judge hearing the case as the law of your specific jurisdiction.

So, how do you protect your employees, confidential information, customers, and good will without using a suspect noncompetition agreement? Think about using a garden leave contract.

The concept of “garden leave” originated in the UK. It describes the practice of an employer paying an employee to stay on the sidelines during a set period of time following the end of their employment (the garden being where a UK employee would spend free time). A typical garden leave contract requires a lengthy advance notice of resignation, prohibits certain competitive activities during the notice period, and requires that the employee be sent home but still get paid his or her full salary and benefits during the notice period. Alternatively, employers can modify a traditional noncompetition agreement to provide pay during the employee’s time on the sidelines. The latter, however, carries greater risk as it would still be subject to the same analysis as a traditional noncompetition agreement, albeit with less impact on the employee.

Provided that an employee has enough value, garden leave clauses provide many of the same benefits as a traditional noncompetition agreement – the employer is provided time to replace the departing employee, delay competition by the departing employee, cultivate relationships with clients and customers, and maintain good will. Also, because the employee remains an employee during the paid notice period, concepts like the duty of loyalty (which prohibits solicitations of customers and other employees, as well as the misuse of confidential information) remain in place and protect the employer.

Consider garden leave contracts. They are cost effective, at least as compared to the price of enforcing a noncompetition agreement, and a potentially less risky avenue to obtain the same goals.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do you know? Promissory estoppel versus at-will employment

In Ohio, the default rule governing employment relationships is employment at-will. Under at-will employment, unless otherwise agreed, either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. Promissory estoppel is one exception to the general rule of at-will employment. It is defined as “a promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance on the part of the promisee or a third person and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.” In layman’s terms, if it is unfair or unjust to permit a party to back out of definite promise because of some reasonable action taken by the other party on that promise, then the court will enforce the promise like a contract. To prevail on a promissory estoppel claim, a plaintiff must show:

  1. the existence of a clear and unambiguous promise
  2. upon which one would reasonably and foreseeably rely, and
  3. the plaintiff actually relied on the promise
  4. to plaintiff’s detriment.

According to Ohio law, to overcome the presumption of at-will employment, the promise not only must be sufficiently clear and unambiguous, but also must promise continued employment for a specific period. An employee cannot rely upon promises of an indefinite duration, promises of any otherwise nebulous nature, or generalized representations about the employee’s job performance.

Even if you avoid promising employees jobs for a definite period of time, a terminated employee can still try to claim reliance on some other statement or promise. The best defense against an employee claiming promissory estoppel based on some oral statement made by a manager is a clearly worded disclaimer in an employee handbook. Disclaimers should cover the following issues:

  • Setting forth that all employees are at-will;
  • Describing what at-will employment means;
  • Stating that no one has the authority to enter into any agreement altering that at will-relationship; and
  • That is not reasonable for any employee to rely on any statement by anyone to the contrary.

With such a disclaimer signed by an employee, any reliance by that employee on any promise or statement will likely be found to be unreasonable.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do you know? Handling employees with suspected swine flu

The President has officially declared H1N1 a national emergency. Hyperbole aside, it is estimated that as many as 60% of the U.S. population will contract the H1N1 virus this flu season. If these numbers are even close to being correct, then it is almost guaranteed that the swine flu will impact your workplace. The CDC offers the following 10 tips for handling H1N1 in your workplace:

  1. Develop policies that encourage ill workers to stay at home without fear of any reprisals.

  2. Develop other flexible policies to allow workers to telework (if feasible) and create other leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools close.

  3. Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.

  4. Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees.

  5. Instruct employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with the flu that they can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill. Employees who have a certain underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should promptly call their health care provider for advice if they become ill.

  6. Encourage workers to obtain a seasonal influenza vaccine, if it is appropriate for them according to CDC recommendations. This helps to prevent illness from seasonal influenza strains that may circulate at the same time as the 2009 H1N1 flu.

  7. Encourage employees to get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available if they are in a priority group according to CDC recommendations. Consider granting employees time off from work to get vaccinated when the vaccine is available in your community.

  8. Provide workers with up-to-date information on influenza risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (for example, cough etiquette; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; and hand hygiene).

  9. Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between workers if advised by the local health department. Consider the use of such strategies as extended use of email, websites and teleconferences, encouraging flexible work arrangements (for example, telecommuting or flexible work hours) to reduce the number of workers who must be at the work site at the same time or in one specific location.

  10. If an employee does become sick while at work, place the employee in a separate room or area until they can go home, away from other workers. If the employee needs to go into a common area prior to leaving, he or she should cover coughs/sneezes with a tissue or wear a facemask if available and tolerable. Ask the employee to go home as soon as possible.

For other information on dealing with H1N1 in your workplace, has a wealth of resources, including a small business guide, a communication toolkit, guidance from the EEOC, and a business pandemic planning checklist.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do you know? Employment litigation expected to increase in 2010

The international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski has released its Fifth Annual Litigation Trends Survey and Highlights (available in full [PDF], or as an executive summary). The survey of 251 U.S. corporate law departments reveals some interesting trends that suggest that businesses of all sizes should increase their litigation coffers in the coming year.

  • Labor and employment lawsuits are the most common type of litigation facing U.S. companies.

  • More than half of in-house counsel surveyed felt that the pace of new lawsuits will at least remain stable, and 34% expect an increase in the coming year.

  • With employment cases take up the largest portion of corporate dockets.

  • Wage and hour lawsuits have the greatest spike in new filings. 19% of U.S. companies cited an increase in wage and hour cases in the past year.

  • Moreover, nearly one-third of U.S. companies report an increase in multi-plaintiff or class action age and hour cases.

  • Retailers appear to have the most exposure in the wage and hour arena: one-third of retail firms saw an increase in wage-and-hour litigation.

  • After wage and hour, companies saw significant increases in five other areas of workplace litigation: discrimination suits, privacy claims, ERISA, disability claims, and age discrimination.

  • Companies reported that race discrimination cases have the highest financial exposure, followed by sex discrimination; wage and hour, age discrimination, harassment, retaliation, disability discrimination, non-compete disputes, and FMLA violations.

What does all this data mean for your business? Your legal budgets will likely increase next year. The question you need to answer is whether you want those funds to pay to defend lawsuits, or to proactively audit your internal personnel and employment practices to limit your litigation costs?

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do you know? Crisis Management

The front page of today’s USA Today’s sports section has a story covering the scandal that has plagued my alma mater (Binghamton University) and its basketball program. During my career I have been involved in my share of cases that have, for one reason or another, garnered some attention from the media. My advice to companies that find themselves in the media spotlight – hire a public relations firm to professionally handle the media.

Here’s what we know about the problems at Binghamton from the story:

  • In a quest to make the basketball program successful in a short amount of time, the coach recruited kids with suspect backgrounds, but whom he wanted to give a second chance.
  • The school has kicked six players off the basketball team, five for undisclosed violations and the other following his indictment on drug charges.
  • The school is embarrassed, the basketball program is in shambles, and its league and others are questioning the price being paid for Division I athletic success.

The articles quotes criticisms from alumni, other schools, and other conferences. And the school’s non-response: “Binghamton president Lois DeFleur declined to comment through an aide, as did [Coach] Broadus, interim athletics director Jim Norris and former AD Joel Thirer, a tenured professor who will move in the short term to the university provost’s office.” While I understand the need for discretion during an internal investigation, the school should have had some response prepared, even if it’s merely something like, “The University is committed to running its athletic program in accordance with all NCAA rules and guidelines, and following its internal investigation will take appropriate corrective action, if necessary, consistent with those rules and guidelines.” Simple, to the point, and most importantly, non-incriminating. 

The next time your business finds itself in the unwanted glare of the media spotlight, consider bringing in a media expert to help manage the crisis, deflect the attention, and prepare an appropriate response.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do you know? Wage and hour recordkeeping

The Fair Labor Standards Act sets certain requirements for what records an employer covered by the Act must keep. For non-exempt employees, an employer must maintain the following records:

  1. Employee’s full name and social security number.
  2. Address, including zip code.
  3. Birth date, if younger than 19.
  4. Sex and occupation.
  5. Time and day of week when employee’s workweek begins.
  6. Hours worked each day.
  7. Total hours worked each workweek.
  8. Basis on which employee’s wages are paid (e.g., “$9 per hour”, “$440 a week”, “piecework”)
  9. Regular hourly pay rate.
  10. Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings.
  11. Total overtime earnings for the workweek.
  12. All additions to or deductions from the employee’s wages.
  13. Total wages paid each pay period.
  14. Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment.

For exempt employees, employers must keep the records for 1 – 5 and 13 – 14. Additionally, for exempt employees employers must also keep a record of the basis on which wages are paid in sufficient detail to permit calculation for each pay period of the employee’s total compensation.

Payroll records must be kept for three years. Records on which wage computations are based – time cards, wage rate tables, work and time schedules, and records of additions to or deductions from wages – must be kept for two years.

There is no particular form in which the records must be kept, as long as they are maintained and are available for inspection at the request of the Department of Labor.

Ohio has its own recordkeeping requirements, but as long as an employer is compliance with the federal standards should keep an employer compliant with Ohio’s standards.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do you know? What is a “disability” under the recent ADA Amendments Act

The ADA Amendments Act, which became effective January 1, 2009, is intended “to reinstate a broad scope of protection” by expanding the definition of the term “disability.” Recently, the EEOC published its proposed regulation interpreting these amended provisions. The regulations will be published this week, and the EEOC has already published a helpful Q&A discussing the proposed ADAAA regulations.

The core three-part definition of “disability” largely remains unaltered. An ADA-protected disability is still defined as:

  1. a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; or
  2. a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity; or
  3. when an employer takes an action prohibited by the ADA based on an actual or perceived impairment.

What has changed under the ADAAA is how these definitions are interpreted and applied. Indeed, according to the EEOC, “As a result of the ADAAA, it will be much easier for individuals seeking the law’s protection to demonstrate that they meet the definition of ‘disability….’”

Major Life Activities

“Major life activities” fall under one of two categories. An employee only needs one major life activity from either of the following:

  • Category One includes examples such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working at a type of work.
  • Category Two covers the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, special sense organs and skin, genitourinary, cardiovascular and reproductive functions.

Substantially Limiting

To have a disability (or to have a record of a disability) an individual must be substantially limited in performing a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. An impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual in performing a major life activity to be considered “substantially limiting.” Determination of whether an individual is experiencing a substantial limitation in performing a major life activity is a common-sense assessment based on comparing an individual’s ability to perform a specific major life activity with that of most people in the general population.

Mitigating Measures

The positive effects from an individual’s use of one or more mitigating measures be ignored in determining if an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. In other words, an employer must ignore the fact that a mitigating measure removes or reduces an impairment in determining whether an employee is disabled. Mitigating measures include medication, medical equipment and devices, prosthetic limbs, low vision devices (devices that magnify a visual image), reasonable accommodations, and even behavioral modifications. Ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses do not count as mitigating measures.

Exemplar Impairments

  • The following are examples of impairments that consistently meet the definition of “disability”: deafness, blindness, intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring use of a wheelchair (a mitigating measure), autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.

  • The following are examples of impairments that may be substantially limiting for some individuals but not for others: asthma, back and leg impairments, and learning disabilities.

  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission meets the definition of disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. Examples of such impairments include: epilepsy, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, asthma, diabetes, major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

  • The following are examples of impairments that usually are not considered “disabilities”: the common cold, seasonal or common influenza, a sprained joint, minor and non-chronic gastrointestinal disorders, a broken bone that is expected to heal completely, appendicitis and seasonal allergies.

“Regarded as” Disabled

Under the ADAAA, an employer “regards” an individual as having a disability if it takes a prohibited action based on an individual’s impairment or on an impairment the employer believes the individual has, unless the impairment is transitory (lasting or expected to last for six months or less) and minor. No longer does one have to show that the employer believed the impairment (or perceived impairment) substantially limited performance of a major life activity. Employers have no obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an individual who only meets the “regarded as” definition of disability.

The regulations are not final, and are subject to change after the public has had a 60-day opportunity to comment and make suggestions. I will report further on these regulations after they become final.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do you know? Affirmative action and reverse discrimination

Many employers have affirmative action plans. However, just because you have a plan does not mean that the plan should be the only decision-making factor in hiring employees. In fact, sole reliance on an affirmative action plan in hiring could lead to a claim of reverse discrimination. In Humphries v. Pulaski County (8th Cir. 9/3/09) [PDF] examined the case of a white employee turned down for every promotion for which she applied in favor of African Americans. The court held:

[E]vidence that an employer followed an affirmative action plan in taking a challenged adverse employment action may constitute direct evidence of unlawful discrimination. If the employer defends by asserting that it acted pursuant to a valid affirmative action plan, the question then becomes whether the affirmative action plan is valid under Title VII….

To be valid, an affirmative action policy must be narrowly tailored to meet the goal of remedying past discrimination. It cannot, however, be used to maintain racial quotas. In the court’s words, it cannot be used to “unnecessarily trammel the rights of non-minorities.”

If your business has an affirmative action plan, use it as a factor in hiring decisions, but not the only factor.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Do you know? Forced retirement is a no-no

It’s still a fairly popular misnomer that businesses can force employees to retire at a certain age. For example, last week reported on a verdict against a Connecticut pharmaceutical company that forced its Chief Patent Counsel to retire at age 65.

With the exception of a few limited circumstances, mandatory retirement ages are about as close to a slam dunk case of illegal age discrimination you can find. The exceptions permit – but do not require – mandatory retirement:

  • at age 65 of executives or other employees in high, policy-making positions.
  • at age 55 for publicly employed firefighters and law enforcement officers.

Forcing an employee out is the same as requiring an employee to require. While lessening duties and responsibilities, demotions, and reductions in pay could cause an older employee to retire, it could also cause that same employee to claim a constructive discharge. However, there is no law that says that an older employee does not have to meet the same legitimate expectations of the job as any other employee. If an older worker is not performing as needed or required, document and treat as you would any other employee.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Do you know? Fake job references?

More people are out of work at any time in the past 25 years. And, it appears that some are taking desperate measures to find new jobs. reports that companies have sprung up that will sell a job hunter a fake reference: and Alibi HQ.

It’s not newsworthy that people lie to get jobs. What is newsworthy, though, is the ease at which the desperate unemployed can find a bogus, yet legitimate sounding, employment reference. The internet has made it almost too easy for a job candidate to create an entirely fictitious, yet 100% verifiable, work history.

Employers screening job candidates need to be extra vigilant. Just as the internet has enabled companies like CareerExcuse to flourish, it also provides the tools for you to call a bluff. Don’t just take an applicant’s word that he worked for ABC Widgets for 10 years. Google the company and see if it exists. Look for an independent phone number to verify employment. A little diligence up front can go a long way to saving headaches down the road.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or