Wednesday, September 6, 2023

OSHA wants to let union reps into your non-union facility

If OSHA gets its way, you might have to start opening the doors of your business to union reps during the agency's safety inspections.

Pursuant to a new rule proposed by OSHA, in the event of an OSHA inspection an employee can designate another employee or a non-employee third-party to accompany the OSHA agent during the physical workplace inspection.

Friday, September 1, 2023

WIRTW #685: the “good bosses” edition

I write about a lot of horrible, terrible bosses … the worst employers

Today, however, I want to use this space to shine a light on five really, really great bosses … specifically late-night hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver. This week, they launched a new podcast — Strike Force Five — to raise money for their employees that have been out of work since the WGA went on strike 122 days ago. 

The hosts are donating all proceeds they receive from the podcast to the out-of-work staff from their respective shows.

Do them a favor and show your support and appreciation by finding Strike Force Five in your podcast app of choice and subscribing. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

DOL announced proposed rule to increase salary threshold for white-collar exempt employees

$1,059 per week. If the Department of Labor gets its wish, that amount will become the new salary threshold for its various white-collar overtime exemptions. Yesterday, the DOL published a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking to increase the FLSA's salary test from the current threshold of $684 per week ($35,568 annually) to $1,059 per week ($55,068 annually).

You will read a lot over the next couple of months that the DOL increasing its white-collar salary threshold by nearly 55% is a huge deal. I'm here to tell you that it really isn't.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

NLRB opens the tap for a union election at Creature Comforts Brewing Company … but will it matter?

It took more than seven months, but the NLRB has finally directed a union representation election at Creature Comforts Brewing Company. The NLRB will soon hold a secret ballot election over whether employees wish to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the Brewing Union of Georgia. 

The bigger issue for Creature Comforts, however, is that even if it wins the election, the union will almost certainly use its four pending unfair labor practice charges against the employer to seek a bargaining order under the Board's recent Cemex decision (which the Board will apply retroactively).

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

EEOC busts a quartet of hospitality employers for pervasive sexual harassment

In a press release, the EEOC announced the filing of a series of sexual harassment lawsuits against Las Vegas hospitality employers. 

[The l]awsuits … allege sexual harassment towards employees by owners, supervisors and management, co-workers, and/or customers. The four lawsuits included allegations raised by workers throughout the hospitality industry, from housekeepers in hotels to waitstaff in both high-end and casual restaurants and bars. Allegations included the attempted rape of a young housekeeper, sexual assault, sexual solicitations, sexual comments, inappropriate touching, stalking, and other inappropriate behaviors. 

These lawsuits are consistent with agency's enforcement priorities as outlined in its just-released Strategic Plan, which includes targeting education and enforcement effots to protect vulnerable communities.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

BREAKING NEWS: NLRB issues in the era of card-check union recognition and bargaining order remedies

In Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, the NLRB significantly altered the process for how a labor union becomes certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of a group of employees.
Cemex eliminates (1) secret-ballot representation elections upon the presentation of signed authorization cards; and (2) re-run elections in the face of election-campaign unfair labor practices.

In their place, Cemex: (1) requires an employer to recognize and bargain with a union upon its presentation of a majority of signed authorization cards unless the employer promptly (within two weeks absent unforeseen circumstances) files an RM petition seeking an election; and (2) authorizes the Board to issue a bargaining order instead of directing a second, re-run election if an employer seeking an RM election commits any unfair labor practice prior to election that would require the Board to set the election aside.

Friday, August 25, 2023

WIRTW #684: the “chocolate city” edition

This is Dante, our four-year-old vizsla. Last week, he thought it was a good idea to eat some cocoa powder. As a result, he spent an overnight in the emergency vet hospital; he seems no worse for wear.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains both theobromine and caffeine, which dogs cannot metabolize and which causes significant and dangerous digestive, neurologic, and cardiac effects. In fact, cocoa powder contains the highest concentration of these chemicals and is the most toxic to dogs. According to vet, the Dante likely ate 2.5 times the lethal limit.

In other words, it's a really good thing we took him in.

He did suffer a cardiac episode while admitted. The vet told us Dante had tachycardia (an abnormally increased heart rate), which they controlled via medicine. He's had no other issues since we brought him home.

We all learned a lesson. Dante (hopefully) learned not to eat cocoa powder. We learned that when you're cleaning out your cabinets as water pours out of your kitchen ceiling from a burst pipe, take the time to make sure the dangerous stuff remains out of reach.

This is me, exhaling a huge sigh of relief. 😮‍💨 😌

Here's what I read and heard this past week that you should read and hear, too.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Determining the exempt status of a dual-purpose employee

Tony works at a local brewery as its assistant general manager. In that capacity, he interviews, hires, trains, coaches, disciplines, and fires lower-level employees; recommends employees for promotions; meets with lower-level managers to ensure they are meeting expectations; and reviews sales, hours, labor, and overtime reports. To meet the operational needs, however, Tony also picks up regular shifts in the taproom performing hourly, nonexempt work such as waiting tables and bartending. Despite his $75,000 annual salary, Tony estimates that he only spends approximately 20% of his working time performing his managerial duties, while he spends the balance of his time on non-exempt tasks.

Is Tony FLSA exempt or FLSA non-exempt?

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

This is why I hate timeclock rounding policies

The rounding of an employee's clock-ins and clock-out to the nearest of a specific increment of time is perfectly legal. It's also a perfectly terrible idea.

Let me explain.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

5th Circuit rejects the “ultimate employment decision” test for workplace discrimination claims

"Female employees are not given full weekends off and can only receive weekdays or partial weekends off."

Is this policy legal or illegal? 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Getting your termination ducks in a row

Just because someone engages in protected conduct doesn't mean you can't fire them. It just means you better have your ducks in a row when you do so.

Case in point: the saga of Nicole Oeuvray and the Art Directors Guild. Oeuvray, who served as the guild's accountant for 16 years, had been one of leaders of a campaign to organize the guild's employees into a labor union.

Friday, August 18, 2023

WIRTW #683: the “here comes the flood” edition

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive

– Peter Gabriel, "Here Comes the Flood"

That songs has been playing on a loop in my head for the past few days. That's how long it's been since my house flooded. A supply line to our master shower burst, causing my kitchen ceiling to resemble the Bellagio Fountains (but upside-down). 

T he here of our story is my 15-year-old son, Donovan, who was home with no adults. The rest of us were driving home from our daughter's doctor appointment. D-man FaceTimed me to show me the rushing waters. I pulled over into the nearest parking lot and, also via FaceTime, walked him through how to shut off the water from the main.

Without D-man's quick thinking the flood would have been a lot worse. As it stands, we will need a whole new kitchen, along with new carpet both upstairs and in our basement, some new bathroom cabinets, and I'm sure lots of other stuff.

Needless to say, it's been a week.

Here's what I read this week that you should read, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

There is no such thing as free speech at work

"Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely."


"ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years."

Those are two vastly different statements published by (now former) ESPN anchor Sage Steele and her former employer.

ESPN's statement is standard vanilla for a company announcing someone's departure.

Sage Steele's statement, however, is borderline dangerous because it continues to foster a myth that private sector employees enjoy First Amendment rights at work.

Steele's lawsuit against ESPN followed her removal from the air two years ago after a series of controversial public comments about vaccine mandates ("to mandate … is … sick … and … scary"); female sports reporters and sexual harassment (women need to "be responsible" and it "isn't just on players and athletes and coaches to act a certain way"); and former President Barack Obama's racial identity ("I think that's fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found, but his White mom and grandma raised him").

Let me say this one more time, loudly, for the people in the back:


The First Amendment to which Sage Steele refers prohibits the government from restricting speech, not private employers — "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…."

Yes, there are some limited exceptions to the lack of workplace free speech rights — government workers; complaints about discrimination; protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act; and the few states that grant speech rights to all employees.

But otherwise, no one should operate under the mistaken impression that they can flap their gums about whatever they want without workplace consequences. People like Sage Steele who continue to perpetrate the fallacy of workplace free speech are doing everyone (including themselves) a grave disservice.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Despite what SCOTUS said about collegiate affirmative action, corporate DEI efforts are still legal

Last week, a federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a conservative shareholder against Starbucks challenging the company's diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. He called the lawsuit "frivolous."

In 2020, Starbucks decided that it needed a greater representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) employees. As a result, it announced a policy that aimed to increase company-wide BIPOC representation to at least 30% in five years. Its efforts included implementing a leadership accelerator program for BIPOC employees, linking executive compensation to meeting DEI goals, and granting funds to community nonprofits.

National Center for Public Policy Research, which owns around $6,000 in Starbucks stock, sued, claiming those policies require the company to make race-based decisions in violation of state and federal civil rights laws. Explaining the lawsuit, the NCPPR said that setting "goals for the number of 'diverse'—meaning not-white—employees it hires … is outright racial discrimination."

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Not all reasonable accommodation standards are created equally

Consider this example, and then let's talk.

Lydia works as a cellar person in a brewery. The essential functions of her job include the ability to lift up to 40 lbs. and to move kegs that weigh as much as 160 lbs. She delivers a note from her doctor that says, "No lifting or moving more than 10 pounds."

What are this employer's obligations to offer her a reasonable accommodation for her lifting and moving restrictions? It depends on the medical reason.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and pregnancy loss

Missy, a newly hired server in the taproom of a brewery, suffers a miscarriage and asks her manager for ten days of leave to recover. As a new employee, Missy has not yet accrued any paid leave. The employer is too small to be covered by the FMLA and does not have a policy providing any unpaid leave.

Must the brewery grant Missy her requested ten days of post-miscarriage leave?

Historically, the answer could have been no.

Friday, August 11, 2023

WIRTW #682: the “horse hockey” edition

Lou Grant. Leslie Knope. Dr. Mark Greene. Captain Merrill Stubing. Even Michael Scott. The history of television is littered with great bosses. Earlier this week my friend Suzanne Lucas asked her vast LinkedIn network to name their choice for the “best” tv boss. Her choices were District Attorney Adam Schiff and Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, from Law & Order.

My choice: Colonel Sherman T. Potter, who adroitly and compassionately led M*A*S*H's 4077 for the series' final 8 seasons.

What made Col. Potter the best boss?

First and foremost, he always had his team's back, no matter what. He took ownership of his group and shouldered the blame whenever something went wrong. As the 4077's leader, the buck stopped with him, period. Which is not to say that his unit didn't have accountability. To the contrary, he always held his people accountable inside his unit, even as he defended them to everyone outside. When his people screwed up (as they often did), he made sure they understood and that it never happened again.

Col. Potter also embodied much of the best qualities of a good boss. His integrity was unmatched and unquestioned. He always encouraged everyone in his command to be the best versions of themselves and led by example. He knew when to use humor to lighten a situation and when to put the screws to him team. And, most importantly, he never forgot that his doctors, nurses, and other charges weren't soldiers by trade but were stuck in the middle of war zone. It's his empathy and compassion that stands out the most from all of his other admirable qualities.

And that's why Sherman Potter is the correct answer as the best tv boss of all time.

Who is your choice? Share in the comments below.

Here's what I read this week that you should read, too.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

$2.6 million reasons why it’s illegal to fire a gay employee

Yesterday, a federal jury in Columbus returned a $2.6 million verdict in favor of Stacey Yerkes, a former Ohio State Highway Patrol employee who claimed that she was constructively discharged (forced to quit based on intolerable and unreasonable working conditions) because of her sexual orientation.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Despite what he says, Elon Musk will not pay your legal bills if you’re fired for Xing

"If you were unfairly treated by your employer due to posting or liking something on this platform, we will fund your legal bill. No limit. Please let us know."

Elon Musk tweeted (xed?) that note Saturday night to his 152 million followers on his platform. Thus far it’s been liked close to 850,000 times, quoted or retweeted more than 165,000 times, and viewed nearly 130 million times.

And it's complete and total rubbish.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Work and religion aren’t a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Everyone's relationship with God — whether you call that deity God, Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, something else, or nothing at all — is personal. I have no opinion on your spiritual relationship, as should you have none on mine. Thus, I get mad whenever someone tries to shove their religious beliefs down my throat. Not only do I not care, but I can guarantee that you will not change my mind. Proselytism is one small step removed from fanaticism, and rarely, if ever, has anything good come from religious fanaticism.

I share the above as prologue to today's discussion, which focuses on a Title VII lawsuit the EEOC recently settled with Aurora Pro Services, a North Carolina residential home service and repair company, alleged to have required employees to participate in religious prayer sessions as a condition of employment.