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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Do you know? What is the Paycheck Fairness Act are why should employers be concerned?

Today’s USA Today reports that the Obama Administration is going to make a renewed push for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act:
President Obama plans to press Congress today to pass pay-equity legislation that would make it easier for women to sue employers who pay them less than their male counterparts, the White House said Monday. “Women deserve equal pay,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in an interview, citing government statistics that show women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. “It’s a very fundamental right.”
It would be hard to make an argument against this bill if all it did was guarantee equal pay for equal work. The Paycheck Fairness Act, however, goes much further by limiting the ability of businesses to defend against such claims, which should make businesses very concerned that this issue has reached the top of the President’s agenda.

The Paycheck Fairness Act (the full text of which is available here) makes 5 key changes to federal wage and hour laws:
  1. Modified defense. Paycheck Fairness would impede the ability of employers to defend against sex discrimination wage payment claims. An employer can currently defend against an Equal Pay Act claim by showing that the pay difference between men and women was caused by “any factor other than sex.” Paycheck Fairness would alter this standard by requiring employers to show “a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience,” that is not sex-based, but is job-related to the position and consistent with business necessity. Moreover, even if an employer makes this showing, the employee could still prevail by showing that the employer refused to adopt an alternative employment practice that would serve the same business purpose without producing the same wage differential.
  2. Enhanced damages. The current Equal Pay Act’s remedies include back pay and liquidated damages that are capped at the amount of the back pay. Paycheck Fairness would steepen the remedies for sex discrimination in wage payments by allowing for uncapped punitive and compensatory damages.
  3. Non-retaliation. Paycheck Fairness would prohibit an employer from retaliating an employee who inquired about, discussed or disclosed the wages of the employee or another employee, unless discussing wages is part of an employee’s essential job function. While the National Labor Relations Act already covers this conduct, Paycheck Fairness’s enhanced remedies are much more extensive than those available under the NLRA.
  4. Class actions. Paycheck Fairness would change sex discrimination wage payment class actions from “opt in” classes to “opt out” classes, making classes in these cases larger and easier for employees to join.
  5. Reporting. Paycheck Fairness would require the EEOC to issue regulations on the collection of pay information from employers. It would also require the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to use its “full range of investigatory tools” for investigation, compliance, and enforcement.
Employers should be very worried about the prospects for Paycheck Fairness. If it passes, employers will face increased risk and higher damages for sex discrimination wage claims. Perhaps the heavier burden, though, will be the significant compliance obligations from newly-empowered federal agencies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do you know? Eligibility for FMLA leave

FMLA leave continues to be one of the most confounding HR issues for employers. The first issue you often face is whether an employee seeking leave is eligible for the leave sought.

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must meet two criteria:

  1. The employee must have been employed for at least 12 months. These months, however, do not have to be consecutive and do not even have to immediately precede the request for FMLA leave. As long the employee has worked for the employer for a total of 12 months over any duration of time, this criteria is met.

  2. The employee must have at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous 12-month period. “Hours of service” means hours worked. Thus, non-working time, paid or unpaid, such as vacations, holidays, furloughs, sick leave, other FMLA leave, and other time-off, do not count in the calculation of hours of service. This rule, however, has two key exceptions. First, an employee returning from fulfilling his or her National Guard or Reserve military obligation must be credited with the hours of service that would have been performed but for the period of military service in determining whether the employee worked the required 1,250 hours. Secondly, time that an employee would have worked but for an unlawful termination also counts towards the required 1,250 hours.

Because of these eligibility requirements, it is important to keep accurate records of work hours, even for exempt employees. If an employer does not keep an accurate record of hours worked, it will be presumed that the employee worked enough hours.

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, June 29, 2010

Do you know? Ohio military family leave law takes effect July 2

Beginning this Friday, July 2, 2010, Ohio employers with 50 or more employees will be required to provide leave for employees who are a spouse or parent of a member of the military who is called to active duty or is injured or hospitalized while serving on active duty.

The law—Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5906—has the following provisions and limitations:

  • The employee eligible for leave must be a spouse, parent, or legal custodian of a person who is a member of the uniformed services and who is called into active duty, or who is injured, wounded, or hospitalized while serving on active duty.

  • Employees are only eligible for leave if they have been employed for at least 12 consecutive months and for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months immediately preceding the leave.

  • Leave is limited to once per calendar year.

  • Employees are entitled to the lesser of 10 work days or 80 work hours.

  • It only covers full-time duty in the active military service for periods of longer than 30 days. It does cover training, or the period of time for which a person is absent from employment for an examination to determine fitness for military duty, unless it is contemporaneous with full-time military duty.

  • An employee must provide at least 14 days’ notice prior to taking leave, unless the leave is taken because an employee receives notice from a representative of the uniformed services that the injury, wound, or hospitalization is of a critical or life-threatening nature.

  • The dates on which an employee takes leave cannot occur more than two weeks prior to, or one week after, the deployment date of the employee’s spouse, child, or ward or former ward.

  • The employee cannot have any other leave available, except sick leave or disability leave.

  • Employers must continue to provide benefits to employees during the leave period. Employees remain responsible for their pro rata share of costs, if any.

  • Upon the completion of the leave, employers must restore the employee to the position the employee held prior to taking that leave or a position with equivalent seniority, benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

  • An employer may require an employee requesting to use leave to provide certification from the appropriate military authority.

  • Retaliation is prohibited.

  • Employers cannot require employees to waive their leave rights.

  • Employees can sue for injunctive relief and money damages to enforce their rights.

[Hat tip: @CCHWorkDay]

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, June 22, 2010

Do you know? Does mandatory arbitration of employment disputes work?

Yesterday, in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson [pdf] the U.S. Supreme Court held that the issue of the enforceability of an arbitration agreement should be decided by the arbitrator and not by a court. As fellow employment Dan Schwartz, of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, tweeted moments after the decision’s announcement, “SCOTUS continues to heart arbitration provisions in employment cases.”

The bigger question, though, is whether employers should continue to heart arbitration of employment cases. The Winter 2010 edition of the ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law has an article entitled Is Mandatory Employment Arbitration Living up to Its Expectations? A View from the Employer’s Perspective, by Charles Coleman, in-house counsel at Raytheon. Mr. Coleman argues that many companies are not all that satisfied with choosing mandatory arbitration of their employment disputes.

One of Mr. Coleman’s central arguments is that arbitration may not be faster or less expensive than traditional litigation. And, he has the numbers to bear this out. In a study of 19 recent employment cases filed against one company, Mr. Coleman discovered that arbitration is 30% more expensive and takes nearly 25% longer:
  • The average costs and fees in an employment arbitration were $102,338, as compared to $70,491 in litigation.
  • The average life cycle of an employment arbitration, from filing to decision, was 21 months, as compared to 17 months in litigation.
While this is a small sample-size, it at least illustrates that the premise that arbitration is a quicker and cheaper way to resolve employment disputes may be faulty. Aside from expense-control and speed-of-resolution, the other reason that employers favor employment arbitrations is to guard against runaway jury verdicts. But, if the premise is faulty as to cost and speed, then businesses should be questioning whether there are other ways to insure against juries.

To this end, let me suggest that instead of arbitration agreements businesses consider implementing jury trial waivers as a condition of employment. A jury trial waiver agreement both eliminates the risk of a runaway jury’s high damage award, and also preserves all appeal rights that arbitrations virtually eliminate.

There is no hard and fast answer to whether your business would be better served by arbitrations, bench trials, or some other solution. But, there are options other than the conventional wisdom that businesses should be arbitrating their employment claims.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do you know? Mandatory union posting for federal contractors

File this story under just because the Employee Free Choice Act is temporarily dead does not mean that the Obama administration cannot impact the rights of labor unions.

If you are a federal contractor with $100,000 or more in federal contracts, or a federal subcontractor with $10,000 or more, a new federal regulation is going to require you to make a pretty scary posting in your workplace.

On January 30, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13496 [pdf], which requires federal contractors to notify their employees of their rights under federal labor laws. The DOL recently issues its regulations implementing this Executive Order [pdf], along with the notice that must be posted. The mandatory notice lists employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act to form, join, and support a union and to bargain collectively with their employer; provides examples of unlawful employer and union conduct that interferes with those rights; and indicates how employees can contact the National Labor Relations Board with questions or to file complaints. In other words, it’s a roadmap for how non-union employees can form a union.

The notice must be posted in paper form along with other federal and state employment law postings. It also must be posted electronically if other notices are similarly posted. Electronic posting, however, cannot be used as a substitute for the physical posting. The language of the posting also must be inserted into all federal contracts and subcontracts.

Employees may file complaints with the Department of Labor about contractors and subcontractors who do not comply. Contractors found to be in violation may have existing contracts suspended or cancelled, may be debarred from future federal contracts and subcontracts, and may be included on a list published to all executive agencies listing the names of contractors and subcontractors declared ineligible for future contracts.

A copy of the required posting is available as a PDF from the Department of Labor. This posting is mandatory for all but the smallest federal contractors beginning on June 21, 2010.

If you are required to make this posting, consider taking the following counterbalancing measures, all of which legally help combat unionizing efforts:

  • Examine your wages, benefits, and overall treatment of employees for fairness and competitiveness.

  • Review (or implement) a no-solicitation/no-distribution policy.

  • Educate employees on the company’s formal position on labor unions, including their right not to form a union.

  • Train managers and supervisors on the company’s stance on unions, how to spot potential organizing efforts, and how to respond to employees’ questions and concerns.

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, June 8, 2010

Do you know? It is legal to retaliate against an employee for opposing a sex-toy party

At least according to Ohio’s 2nd appellate district in Davenport v. Big Brothers & Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley, Inc. (6/4/10) [pdf]:
Davenport asserts on appeal that retaliation against her for opposing the sex-toy party is discrimination on the basis of her sex and religion, bringing her complaint within the scope of R.C. 4112.02. As an initial matter, we note that the private party was hosted by a woman, planned by two women and open to everyone, which militates against an inference of sex discrimination. But more importantly, retaliation against an employee for opposing a sex-toy party simply does not constitute retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination on the basis of religion or sex. We fail to see how a woman holding a tawdry after-hours party constitutes religious or sexual discrimination against other female employees. In any event, Davenport’s complaint does not allege that she did anything to “oppose” the party. She simply did not attend. … We cannot reasonably construe Davenport’s failure to attend a sex-toy party as opposition to religious or sexual discrimination prohibited by R.C. 4112.02.

Words to live by. Whether your employees should be advertising this type of party at work is an entirely different issue.

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, May 25, 2010

Do you know? Discovery of social networks in employment disputes

I’ve long preached that employees should not enjoy an expectation of privacy in information they voluntarily place on the Internet, including social networks like Facebook. What they make available for the others to see should be fair game for employers to use in making employment decisions. According to one federal court in Indiana, it is also fair game for employers to use this information in defending against discrimination lawsuits. Because there are so few cases discussing this developing issues of the discoverability of social networking information, this case is helpful in defining the scope of these issues.

EEOC v. Simply Storage Management (S.D. Ind. 5/11/10) concerns two employees’ sexual harassment claims, and in particular their claims of depression, stress, and other psychiatric disorders stemming from the harassment. In discovery, Simply Storage sought the following information from the claimants’ social networking pages on Facebook and MySpace:

  • All photographs or videos posted by the claimants or anyone on their behalf on Facebook or MySpace.

  • Electronic copies of the claimants’ complete profiles on Facebook and MySpace (including all updates, changes, or modifications to their profiles) and all status updates, messages, wall comments, causes joined, groups joined, activity streams, blog entries, details, blurbs, comments, and applications (including, but not limited to, “How well do you know me” and the “Naughty Application”).

The EEOC objected to the discovery on the grounds that the requests were not relevant, improperly infringed on the claimants’ privacy, and would harass and embarrass the claimants. Simply Storage claimed that discovery of these matters was proper because the claimants put their emotional health at issue beyond that typically encountered with “garden variety emotional distress claims.”

The court agreed with the employer and ordered the discovery. In doing so, it made four key observations about the discovery of social networking in discrimination cases.

  1. Social networking content is not shielded from discovery merely because it is “locked” or protected as “private”.

  2. However, all social networking content is not necessarily relevant or discoverable in all cases; the information must still be relevant to a claim or defense in the case. The court used the following example to illustrate this difference: “If a claimant sent a message to a friend saying she always looks forward to going to work, the person to whom she sent the message and the substance of the message are what should be considered to determine whether the message is relevant…. But the mere fact that the claimant has made a communication is not relevant because it is not probative of a claim or defense in this litigation.”

  3. Allegations of depression, stress disorders, and similar injuries will manifest themselves in some social networking content. An examination of that content might reveal whether and when onset occurred, the degree of distress, and other stressors that could have produced the alleged emotional distress.

  4. Because discovery is meant to be liberal, the producing party should err in favor of production if there is any doubt over the arguable relevance of social networking information.

The court also specifically addressed the employees’ privacy concerns:

The court agrees with the EEOC that broad discovery of the claimants’ SNS could reveal private information that may embarrass them. Other courts have observed, however, that this is the inevitable result of alleging these sorts of injuries. Further, the court finds that this concern is outweighed by the fact that the production here would be of information that the claimants have already shared with at least one other person through private messages or a larger number of people through postings. As one judge observed, “Facebook is not used as a means by which account holders carry on monologues with themselves.”

In other words, if it is fit to share with your Facebook friends, it is fit to be disclosed in discovery (as long as it’s relevant). As these issues become more prevalent in litigation, these guideposts will become more fleshed out. In the meantime, consider including requests for social networking information in all employment disputes.

[Hat tip: Fitzpatrick on Employment Law]

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, May 18, 2010

Do you know? Admissibility of settlement offers

Sometimes, employers are blindsided by a lawsuit. The first you might learn that an ex-employee is suing you is when you are served the complaint and summons. Other times, however, the filing of a lawsuit is preceded by a back-and-forth between attorneys hoping to resolve the dispute outside of court. To what extent can you freely communicate with an ex-employee’s attorney without fear that your words and statements will come back to haunt you in a trial if the negotiations break down? Eid v. Saint-Gobain Abrasives (6th Cir. 5/12/10) [pdf] provides some guidance.

After his termination from Saint-Gobain, Kenneth Eid retained counsel for the purpose of asserting an employment discrimination claim. Prior to filing a claim, Eid’s attorney sent a letter to Saint-Gobain announcing Eid’s intention to pursue a claim but inviting a negotiated resolution. Saint-Gobain’s associate general counsel responded in writing with a discussion of Saint-Gobain’s internal investigation into Eid’s allegations and witnesses interviews. The responses concluded that the “termination was handled in our judgment in an appropriate fashion,” and “[t]here is no basis for the organization to consider a settlement with your client.”

Prior to trial, the court excluded the general counsel’s letter under Evidence Rule 408. Following a defense verdict, Eid appealed that decision.

Evidence Rule 408 prohibits a party from introducing into evidence:

  • offers to settle; and
  • conduct or statements made in settlement negotiations regarding the claim.

The 6th Circuit found that the trial court properly excluded the letter, despite the refusal to engage in any further settlement negotiations:

A party will often adopt a hardline position at the beginning of negotiations in order to extract greater concessions from an opponent. It would ignore the realities of negotiation to hold that such a position necessarily means that the parties are not engaged in compromise negotiations. Such a rule would also run contrary to the purposes of Rule 408, as it would invite undue caution in settlement negotiations, and would facilitate the admission of communications that contain puffing, posturing, and various irrelevancies.

The 6th Circuit also found that the discussion of the internal investigation was within the protections of Rule 408.

In other words, you can respond to an employee’s pre-suit settlement overtures with a reasonable degree of confidence that a jury will not some day be reading your lawyers comments about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

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, May 4, 2010

Do you know? DOL to require “compliance plans”

Now we know what the Department of Labor plans to do with the 250 new investigators it recently hired. They are going to sifting through mandatory employer compliance plans looking for violations. Here’s the details, from Steven Greenhouse in last Thursday’s New York Times (with a tip of the hat to Mark Toth’s Manpower Employment Blawg and Philip Miles’s Lawffice Space):

In a move that will affect most American corporations, the Labor Department plans to require companies to prepare and adopt compliance plans aimed at ensuring they do not violate wage, job safety and equal employment laws.

The effort, aimed in part at reducing the incidence of employers not paying overtime and improperly classifying workers as independent contractors, will require them to document many of their decisions and share that information with their workers and the government….

Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris said … many specifics of what companies would be required to do had yet to be worked out. The department’s proposed rules are still being drafted, and businesses will have a chance to respond before any final rules are issued. The process is likely to take more than a year.

I have to say, this one caught me completely off-guard. If businesses are not taking wage and hour compliance seriously, they better starting thinking about it now.

One more thought—this plan will be a boon to all management-side labor and employment lawyers. This story is developing, and bears further monitoring as the DOL works out the specifics. If you want to get a head-start on compliance, let me suggest KJK’s proprietary 200-point HR and employment practices audit.

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, April 27, 2010

Do you know? Paying overtime to salaried, non-exempt employees

In my never-ending quest to show you how many different ways you can screw up paying your employees under the federal wage and hour laws, today I am going to talk about how to properly calculate overtime payments for salaried, non-exempt employees.

An employer has two choices in how to pay overtime to a salaried non-exempt employee: by a fixed work week or based on a fluctuating work week. For reasons that will be illustrated below, the latter is a much more cost-effective option for most employers.

By a Fixed Work Week
  1. If the employee is paid solely a weekly salary, his regular hourly rate of pay—on which time and a half must be paid—is computed by dividing the salary by the number of hours that the salary compensates. For example, If an employee is hired at a weekly salary of $525, which is intended to be compensation for a regular 35 hour work week, the employee’s regular rate of pay will be $15 per hour ($525 / 35). If that employee works overtime (more than 40 hours in a given work week), he or she will have to paid $22.50 for each overtime hour worked. Thus, in a 45-hour week, the employee would be paid $637.50.
  2. Where the salary covers a period longer than a work week, such as a month, it must be reduced to its work week equivalent. Thus, for example, a monthly salary can be converted to a weekly salary by multiplying it by 12 and dividing by 52. Once the regular weekly salary is calculated, the analysis is the same as #1 above.
On a Fluctuating Work Week
  1. Often times, the number of hours a salaried employee works will vary from week to week, depending on the given needs of the job. One might work 40 hours one week, 45 the next, and 38 the week after that. An employer and employee can agree that a salary will cover all straight time pay for all hours worked in a given week, no matter how few or how many. Payment for overtime hours at one-half such rate satisfies the overtime pay requirement because such hours have already been compensated at the straight time regular rate as part of the salary. And, that overtime premium will vary from week to week depending on the number of hours worked.
  2. To use this method of overtime calculation, there has to be a clear mutual understanding of between the employer and employee that the fixed salary is compensation (apart from overtime premiums) for the hours worked each work week, whatever the number.
  3. This “fluctuating workweek” method of overtime payment may not be used unless the salary is sufficiently large to ensure that there will be no work weeks in which the employee’s average hourly earnings from the salary fall below the minimum wage.
  4. For example, taking our $525 salary from above, in a 45-hour work week, the hourly rate would be $11.66 ($525 / 45). But, for the extra 5 hours the employee would only be owed an additional $29.15 ($5.83 * 5), for a total weekly compensation of $554.15. The fluctuating work week saves this employer $83.35 in wages for the week. Thus, it is easy to see why the fluctuation work week is the preferred method for calculating overtime premiums for salaried non-exempt employees.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do you know? Overtime for non-exempt commissioned employees

Only a small subset of commissioned employees are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provisions. For the majority of employees who are paid wholly or in part by commissions, the FLSA presents a complicated calculus of rules and regulations that employers must follow to properly account and pay overtime premiums for hours worked in excess of 40 in any workweek.

The key question for for commissioned employees is how one computes the “regular rate of pay” for purposes of calculating the proper overtime premium to apply to commissions paid.

If a commission is paid on a weekly basis, the calculation is fairly basic. The commission is added to any other earnings for that workweek. The total is then divided by the number of hours worked during that week to obtain the employee’s regular rate for that particular workweek. The employee must then be paid overtime compensation of one-half of that rate for each hour worked in excess of 40 for that week.

It gets more complicated, however, If the calculation and payment of the commission cannot be completed until sometime after the regular pay day for the workweek. In the case, the employer may disregard until later the commission in computing the regular hourly rate and pay overtime exclusive of the commission. However, when the commission is ultimately paid, the employer has to go back and recalculate the overtime premium for each workweek covered by the deferred or delayed commission payment. The employer must apportion the commission back over the workweeks of the period during which it was earned. The employee must then receive additional overtime compensation for each week during the period in which he worked in excess of 40 hours.

It gets even more complicated if it is not possible or practicable to allocate the
commission among the workweeks per the amount of commission actually earned or reasonably presumed. In this case, the Department of Labor permits employers to choose from one of two different methods fairly and equitably account for overtime premiums.

1. Allocation of equal amounts each week. Under this method, the employer will assume that the employee earned an equal amount of commission for each week of the period covered, and compute any additional overtime compensation based on that pro rata amount. For example:

  • For a commission paid monthly, multiple the commission by 12 and divide by 52 to obtain the amount attributable for each week of that month.
  • For a commission paid semi-monthly, multiply by 24 and divide by 52.
  • For a commission that covers a specific number of workweeks, divide the total commission paid by the number of weeks it covers.

Once the pro rata weekly commissions is determined, simply divide that amount by the total number of hours worked to obtain the increase in the hourly rate. The employee is then owed one-half of that increase for each hour worked in excess of 40 for a given week.

2. Allocation of equal amounts to each hour worked. Sometimes,
there are facts which make it inappropriate to assume equal commission
earnings for each workweek (such as when the number of hours worked each
week varies widely). In such cases, the employer can assume that the employee earned the same amount of commission for each hour worked during the computation period. The total commission payment should be divided by the total number of hours to determine the amount of the increase in the regular rate. To determine the amount of additional overtime compensation owed for the period, multiply one-half of the figure by the total number of overtime hours worked by the employee for all workweeks during the covered period.

Clear enough for you? Is it any wonder that companies get themselves in trouble with wage and hour issues?

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, April 13, 2010

Do you know? Using criminal histories and conviction records in hiring

A rejected applicant has filed a class action lawsuit against management consulting firm Accenture, claiming that it discriminates against minorities through a policy of rejecting qualified individuals with criminal histories. Judy Greenwald at Business Insurance provides the details:

According to Roberto J. Arroyo vs. Accenture L.L.P., filed … in federal district court in New York, Mr. Arroyo spent two and one-half years in prison in a 10-year-old conviction for vehicular homicide in a car accident in which he had been driving while intoxicated.

Mr. Arroyo worked for Chicago-based Accenture as a contract employee in its Murray Hill, N.J., office from November 2005 to April 2007. In April 2007, the firm offered Mr. Arroyo permanent employment subject only to the results of a background check, but withdrew the job offer and terminated his employment as a contract worker based on his conviction, according to the lawsuit.

This lawsuit illustrates an important issue—that the EEOC targets blanket policies that bar the employment of any applicant because of an arrest or conviction. According to a December 14, 2004, informal EEOC opinion letter:

Although Title VII does not, on its face, prohibit discrimination on the basis of conviction records, the EEOC and courts have concluded that a policy or practice of excluding individuals from employment on the basis of their conviction records may have an adverse impact on certain minority groups in light of statistics showing that they are convicted at a rate disproportionate to their representation in the population.

Just because a company cannot per se disqualify individuals because of criminal histories does not mean that they can never be used a factor. What are the rules for the proper use of arrest and conviction records as employment criteria?

1. If an employer collects arrest or conviction information, it must do so consistently. It is unlawful under Title VII to obtain criminal records in an inconsistent manner—based on the race, color, religion, national origin, or sex of the applicant. For example, it would be facially unlawful for an employer only to require background investigations of applicants who were born in the Middle East or are Muslims.

2. An Employers should assure applicants and employees that honestly providing criminal histories will not result in an automatic disqualification from consideration.

3. If a policy concerning arrest or conviction records disproportionately affects minorities, an employer may nevertheless maintain the policy if it can prove a business need. According to the EEOC, an employer must consider whether a particular applicant should be excluded from a particular job based on:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense;
  • The time since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
  • The nature of the job held or sought.

In other words, employers must undertake a job-by-job, employee-by-employee, check-by-check analysis of the relationship between the conviction and the ability to perform the job.

If you have a question about the use of criminal backgrounds in hiring and other employment decisions, you should contact employment counsel to guide you through this thorny issue.

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, April 6, 2010

Do you know? What employers need to know about EEOC investigations

You’ve just received notice from the EEOC (or its state equivalent, the OCRC, for example) that an employee has filed a charge of discrimination against you. What happens next is often confusing to businesses, and mistakes can have serious consequences in later lawsuits.

Let’s start with the basics – what happens when a charge has been filed against you?

  1. The EEOC will notify you that a charge of discrimination has been filed against you. The charge packet will include the name and contact information of the investigator assigned to your case.

  2. The charge will likely include a offer to submit the case to voluntary mediation. Mediation can be useful for two purposes – to see if you can resolve the charge early and cost-effectively, or to obtain early informal discovery from the charging party.

  3. Absent mediation, the case will proceed to an investigation. During the investigation, you will be required to submit a written statement of position. This document is your chance to tell your side of the story. It is the most critical piece of the agency investigation. More on this in a bit.

  4. The investigation will may also include a request for information (documents), a request for an on-site visit, or contact information for witness interviews of management and non-management personnel. Do not assume, however, that you have to turn documents over, open up your business, or make people available simply because the agency is asking. The requests still must comply with basic notions of relevancy and discoverability.

  5. Once the investigator has completed the investigation, the EEOC will make a determination on the merits. If EEOC determines that there is no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, the charging party will be issued a letter called a Dismissal and Notice of Rights that tells the charging party of the right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days from the date of receipt of the letter, with a copy to the employer.

  6. If EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, both parties will be issued a Letter of Determination stating that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred and inviting the parties to resolve the charge through an informal conciliation process. If conciliation fails, the EEOC has the authority to file a lawsuit in federal court or issue the same Notice of Right to Sue, releasing the employee to file his or her own lawsuit within 90 days. The process is differently with the OCRC, which ends with a formal administrative hearing and a right to appeal to common pleas court. Also, under Ohio’s civil rights laws the employee always has the right to bypass the agency and proceed directly into court.

There is an inclination within companies to go it alone in EEOC and other agency proceedings, believing that the expense of hiring an attorney is not justified at this early junction. I cannot more strongly caution against this urge.

As I said above, the statement of position is the critical piece of the agency investigation. It not only tells your story, but it locks in your story because it is discoverable by the employee in a later lawsuit. One of the easiest ways to create a jury question on the issue of pretext and lose a summary judgment motion is to give a reason for termination different than that set out in your EEOC position statement.

You should assume that every charge – no matter the merit – will turn into a lawsuit. Employment litigators can interview witnesses, review policies and personnel files, and make decisions as to your best defense. Not involving an attorney as early as your first receipt of the charge of discrimination can cost valuable insight into your best effort to win the case.

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, March 30, 2010

Do you know? Healthcare bill requires lactation breaks

This morning I’m updating and synergizing two of last week’s posts: Do we really need to pump up workplace lactation rights? and House passes Health Care Bill – What does this mean for employers?

Section 4207 [pdf] (on page 1217) adds a new provision to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which will require employers to provide reasonable unpaid breaks for nursing mothers. Specifically:

  • Unpaid breaks must be provided each time a lactating employee needs to express breast milk for up to 1 year after the child’s birth.

  • The employer must provide the employee with a place that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public other than a bathroom.

  • These requirements are mandatory for employers with 50 or more employees.

  • Employers with less than 50 employees are exempt upon a showing that the requirements impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.

Because federal law now requires most employers to provide lactation breaks, it’s clear that we do not need a state law raising lactation to a protected class.

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, March 16, 2010

Do you know? 12% of employees knowingly violate IT policies

According to a recent survey conducted by IT security company Fiberlink (H/T Workplace Diva), 12% of employees admit to knowingly violating IT policies. What types of violations might be occurring?

  • Inappropriate or excessive use (YouTube, shopping, gaming, pornography).
  • Misappropriation of confidential information.
  • Harassment of co-workers or others.
  • Moonlighting (e.g., checking Mary Kay sales).

I think the 12% number is light. I would bet that it’s closer to one-quarter to one-third of employees that misuse their employers’ technology. What can you do to best protect yourself. Let me suggest a seven-point plan.

  1. Audit your internet and email systems. Take stock of how much time employees spend on-line, what types of sites are being visited, and the breakdown of personal use versus work use. Once you get a handle on how your systems are being used, you can figure out what type of policy you want for your workplace, and how restrictive it needs to be.

  2. Draft and implement a Technology Policy. It should cover computers, email, social networking, and mobile devices. For more on how to draft this type of policy, see Do you know? 10 tips for drafting a workplace electronic communications policy.

  3. Cross-reference the Technology Policy in your Harassment Policy and training, and in any confidentiality policies, business ethics policies, and non-competition agreements.

  4. Require all employees to sign an acknowledgement that they received the policy, read it, had the opportunity to ask any questions about it, and understand it.

  5. Train all employees on the ins and outs of the policy, including what you consider inappropriate use of the internet and email, and that violations will lead to discipline or termination.

  6. Apply and enforce the policy fairly, consistently, and non-discriminatorily.

  7. At least annually, review and if necessary revise policies to keep them legally up-to-date.

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who is Craig Becker and why should you care?

Craig Becker is President Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board. He is also the Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest growing labor union. SEIU President Andy Stern is one of the most outspoken proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Prior to being the SIEU’s in-house lawyer, Mr. Becker was a law professor at UCLA. During his academic life, he authored a 1993 article in the Minnesota Law Review, in which he argued:

  • Traditional notions of democracy should not apply in union elections.

  • Employers should be allowed to challenge union elections, even with evidence of union misconduct.

  • Employers should be prohibited from placing observers at the polls to challenge ballots.

  • Employer captive audience meetings should be grounds for overturning elections, and must grant unions equal access to company property.

It is unclear which of these ideas – including the EFCA for which the SEIU so strongly advocates – Mr. Becker things he could accomplish by administrative fiat as a member of the NLRB.

On February 9, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered Mr. Becker’s nomination, effectively blocking his appointment. In the words of Senate Republican Ben Nelson:

Mr. Becker’s previous statements strongly indicate that he would take an aggressive personal agenda to the NLRB and that he would pursue a personal agenda there, rather than that of the administration. This is of great concern, considering that the board’s main responsibility is to resolve labor disputes with an even and impartial hand.

Now word has come that President Obama may make Mr. Becker a recess appointment to fill the three-year-old vacancy on the NLRB. This news comes on the heals of Vice President Biden’s comments to the AFL-CIO that the administration will “get [the EFCA] done.”

All of these developments should be sobering to businesses. And, the fact remains that statistics show that labor unions don’t need the help. According to recent NLRB data [pdf], labor unions win-rates in secret ballot elections is at its highest level in decades, at 66%. If Mr. Becker is appointed to the NLRB, expect his number to increase dramatically.

What can you legally do to prepare for the wave of union organizing that is on the horizon? Consider that according to the AFL-CIO Union Handbook for Organizers, the following 6 factors are likely to lower the chance of a successful organizing campaign:

  1. A belief by employees that the boss is not taking advantage of them.

  2. Employees who have pride in their work.

  3. Good performance records kept by the employer, which reinforces the recognition and appreciation of employees’ efforts and their feelings of job security.

  4. No claims of high-handed treatment, but instead firm, fair, and warranted discipline.

  5. No claims of favoritism, other than that is earned through work performance.

  6. Supervisors who have good relationships with subordinates.

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, February 23, 2010

Do you know? Administrative employees vs. the administrative exemption

Nothing in employment law has a more misleading name than the administrative exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers routinely mis-believe that if an employee performs administrative tasks, that employee is exempt from being paid overtime under the FLSA. In fact, the administrative exemption only applies to a narrow group of employees – those whose primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers, and which includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

The following story from the National Law Journal illustrates the risks of confusing employees who perform administrative functions and employees who are exempt under the FLSA:

When legal secretary Karla Osolin used to work at Jones Day, she was paid a salary and overtime.

That's what caused red flags to go up when she took a job in September 2008 with Ohio intellectual property boutique Turocy & Watson. Now the firm faces a suit alleging wage-and-hour violations and stands accused of misclassifying Osolin and many others to avoid paying overtime.

Examples of some professions that the Department of Labor has found could qualify for the administrative exemption include mortgage loan officers, insurance agents, sales managers, marketing analysts, purchasing agents, financial services registered representatives, and loss prevention managers.

These categories are merely guidelines to observe, and not dogma to follow. Whether an administrative employee is administratively exempt is determined on an employee-by-employee basis, even within the same job category within the same organization. The analysis is fact-specific, and should be done by a professional well-versed in these issues.

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, February 16, 2010

Do you know? Unsupervised waivers of federal wage and hour claims

Generally, courts recognize only two ways for an individual to release or settle a claim for unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act: 1) a DOL-supervised settlement under 29 U.S.C. § 216(c), or 2) a court-approved stipulation of settlement. Failing to use of these two options for the approval of a waiver will likely result in the invalidity of the waiver an the employee being able to sue for any unpaid balance.

If you are engaged in active litigation with an employee, the latter option is easy to achieve. You simply submit the settlement agreement to the assigned judge for his or her approval. Similarly, a DOL investigation will culminate in some combination of both options.

What are your options, though, if you are not in on-going litigation or already part of a DOL investigation? As I see it, you have 2 choices:
  1. If you intend to pay less than the full amount owed, you can ask the employee to file a lawsuit for the sole purpose of judicial approval of the settlement; or
  2. If you intend to pay the full amount owed, you can pay the employee in full for any wages owed and forego the release and waiver. This leaves a slight risk that the employee(s) could still bring a suit for unpaid liquidated damages (the FLSA provides for double back pay as liquidated damages for willful violations). Your voluntary mitigation, however, will go a long way to deterring any future lawsuits.
What shouldn’t you do? Contact the DOL for its supervision of the settlement. That is a radar that you do not want to be on. The supervised settlement will beget a full-blown wage and hour audit, which will beget an OSHA on-site, which will beget an OFCCP inquiry, which will beget an ERISA audit…. You get the picture. With the Obama administration pumping more funds into the DOL and promising increased enforcement, there is no need to throw yourself under its bus.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do you know? Why statistics are so important in reduction in force cases

For the past week, I’ve been examining the use of statistics in workforce reduction discrimination cases (6th Circuit downgrades importance of statistics in reduction-in-force cases and How small is too small? Litigating sample sizes in reduction in force cases). What’s been missing from this analysis, however, is an explanation of why raw numbers are so important in these cases, especially in age discrimination claims.

Many workforce reductions are accompanied by an offer of severance to the group of terminated employees. In fact, I don’t think any employer should pay severance without getting something in return from the employee, namely a release and waiver of liability.

The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act requires all releases and waivers of federal age discrimination claims provided as part of a severance program offered to a group of employees (such as in a reduction in force) to include a written disclosure of the job titles and ages of all eligible individuals selected for the program and all not selected for the the program. The EEOC, in its guidance on Understanding Waivers of Discrimination Claims in Employee Severance Agreements, provides the following example of what this disclosure should look like:

Job Title


# Selected

# Not Selected





















When the lone 63-year-old employee in Job Title 1 is going to decide whether to sign the waiver or pursue an age claim, the only fact he and his lawyer will have to go on is that within his job grouping, 7 out of the 9 oldest employees were RIFed, including the oldest employee. In other words, the raw statistics that the court discussed (and dismissed) in Schoonmaker will likely be the critical piece of information on which your employees will base their decision whether to sue or walk away. And, you have no choice but to turn this information over. Failing to do so will result in the invalidity of the age discrimination waiver.

Schoonmaker may question the relevance of raw statistics, but because the numbers must be disclosed to the terminated employees, they are nevertheless critical to any workforce reduction decision.

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, February 2, 2010

Do you know? What to do when you get sued

When you are sued in an employment case, the absolutely first thing you should do is call your lawyer. There are steps that must be taken as soon as you receive notice of the complaint, the failure of which could put your entire defense at risk.

  1. An answer or other response must be timely filed. You could waive the right to file certain counterclaims and raise certain jurisdictional and other defenses by missing this critical deadline.

  2. If you want to remove a case from state court to federal court, you only have 30 days to act. This is a hard and fast deadline, with no extensions possible. Counsel needs to be involved early to analyze whether the case is removable and to prepare the necessary paperwork.

  3. A litigation hold should be put in place to preserve emails, other electronic records, and paper documents that could bear on the litigation. Key documents should be gathered and secured. Your attorney can help make sure that documents aren’t deleted or destroyed, a flub that could submarine your entire case.

  4. Witnesses should be identified, and told that they should not communicate with anyone other that counsel about the case. If any employee is at risk for leaving your organization, potential testimony should be memorialized in an affidavit while the employee is still on favorable terms and under your control.

  5. If you have EPLI coverage, you should put your carrier on notice so that coverage is not jeopardized and any defense costs are properly credited against your deductible.

  6. Depending on the size and notoriety of the case, you may want to get out of the blocks early with some public relations. That message has to be crafted and managed by counsel so that it does not hurt a successful defense.

Tripping on any one of these important early steps can have serious consequences on your overall defense. Resist the D.I.Y. urge and lawyer-up as soon as you find out you’ve been sued.

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