Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Ohio voters decide to pass the kutchie on the left hand side

By a margin of 57% to 43%, voters legalized recreational marijuana. As a result, recreational cannabis will become legal in the Buckeye State on December 7, 2023.

Employers have lots of questions about how to handle this change. Here are answers to the top 5 questions I anticipate receiving over the coming days, weeks, and months.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

DEI programs continue to be a lawsuit target

Major League Baseball. NASCAR. Starbucks. McDonald’s. Morgan Stanley, American, United and Southwest Airlines. America First Legal, a conservative group led by Stephen Miller, has targeted each of these for their “illegal” practices of hiring non-Whites and females.

In its most recent letter to the EEOC, urging it to investigate American Airlines, AFL cited the following as evidence of “unlawful employment practices” —

Monday, November 6, 2023

Your business is not a charity

Your customers are not your bank. It’s not their job to bail you out from poor business decisions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea as I’ve been following the recent news from R. Shea Brewing.

Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of what’s happened.

From 2015 - 2019, R. Shea was a small local brewery. In 2019, it opened a much larger, 60,000 square-foot second location, which enabled it to significantly expand its production and operations. That expansion, however, also included a vast expansion of its debt, to the tune of a $2 million SBA loan. A combination of the lingering impacts of Covid, rising wages and production costs, and skyrocketing interest rates have created a situation in which R. Shea in now unable to service that debt.

As a result, it just launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise … wait for it … $2.3 million. Thus far, it’s raised approximately $17,000.

Friday, November 3, 2023

WIRTW #694: the “trick-or-treat” edition

I have a bone to pick with one of my neighbors. When my kids returned home on Tuesday night and opened their trick-or-treat bags, they found this DVD.

Your religion is your religion. I don't tell you how to practice yours, and in return I expect you not to tell me or my children how to practice ours. I don't need to tell you how awful the world is right now about religion. The last thing we need is neighbors proselytizing neighbors. Halloween isn't difficult. Kids ring doorbell. Door opens. Candy goes into bag, bucket, or other candy-carrying vessel. Let's keep it that way.

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

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Maybe don’t forge texts if you want to win a lawsuit?

Andrea Rossbach, a registered nurse working at Montefiore Medical Center, claimed that her supervisor, Norman Morales, sexually harassed her. In support of her claim, she relied on a series of sexually harassing text messages Morales allegedly sent her, including messages in which he called her "hot," asked her to send him a photo of a G-string he gifted her.

Rossbach's claim, however, had one huge problem — the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that those text messages did not exist. She created them after the fact to use as evidence in her claim.

At her deposition, Rossbach testified that she could not produce screen shots of the text messages because she had initially received them on an old iPhone with a badly cracked screen, and that instead she had to take a photo of the texts with a newer iPhone X, which she had also later disposed of. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Does your workplace have a written AI policy?

The White House has unveiled the first-ever executive order on artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the White House, "The Executive Order establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans' privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more."

Monday, October 30, 2023

NLRB publishes (yet another) new joint employment rule

If at first (or second, or third…) you don't succeed, try, try again. That certainly seems to be the NLRB's mantra as it relates to its joint employment rule.

Joint employment is when one employer is responsible for the legal sins of another because of a commonality of employees. Under the standard newly announced by the NLRB, an entity may be considered a joint employer of a group of employees if each entity has an employment relationship with the employees and they share or codetermine one or more of the employees' following terms and conditions of employment:

Friday, October 27, 2023

WIRTW #693: the “tough out” edition

If you've been following along these past few weeks with the trials of the Lake Ridge Academy soccer team, I have some sad news to share. Earlier this week they fell 2-0 in the district semifinals to a quality opponent, ending their season. It was a hard-fought match, scoreless for 65 minutes. There were lots of tears in my car after the game. The team set a goal, of which they fell a couple of games short. That said, it was the best soccer season this team has had in 15 years.

Donovan had an amazing experience. He fully embraced being one of the "soccer boys," and is already thinking about his sophomore season. "220 days until practice starts," he told me the next morning. He's says he's going to start training ASAP with a personal goal of improving and gaining more playing time next year.

As for me, I've never been a sports parent before. I've always been a music parent (which y'all know I love). I'm happy to report that being a sports parent is pretty damn great. I loved everything about this team and this season. The wins and losses were the least import part. More importantly, I loved watching Donovan embrace being part of a team and the team embracing him as one of their own. Like D-man, I'm already ready for the 2024-25 season. 

Go Royals!

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Workplace harassment and employee assistance programs

Is it legal under the ADA to mandate that an employee accused of sexual harassment use the company's employee assistance program? That's the question being asked in a lawsuit the EEOC just filed against Weis Markets.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Do politics and work mix? A poll.

Do politics and work mix? That is the question being asked at Copper Blue Restaurant.

A half-dozen employees recently quit in protest after the owner posted a "Vote NO on Issue 1" sign in front of the restaurant. The resulting staffing shortage forced its temporary closure.

Issue 1 is a Nov. 7 ballot initiative that seeks to amend the Ohio's Constitution to grant women the right to an abortion.

Not surprisingly, the issue is polarizing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Kickbacks are bad

It's one thing to settle an unpaid overtime claim; it's another entirely to shake down your employees to repay the settlement funds to you.

That's exactly what the Department of Labor claimed Sparklean Laundry and Piper did.

Following a DOL investigation, Sparklean agreed to pay unpaid overtime back wages to its employees. Shortly thereafter, it began demanding kickbacks from its employees to compensate for the overtime settlement, submitted false receipts to showing that it paid the recovered wages, and threatened workers for exercising their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

As a result, the DOL went to court and obtained a $281,870 judgment, which included $87,735 in back wages, $94,135 in liquidated damages, and an additional $100,000 in punitive damages.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Is this what the future of union organizing looks like?

Last week, the employees of Creature Comforts Brewing Co. voted by a margin of 32-21 to reject the Brewing Union of Georgia as their bargaining representative and for their workplace to remain union-free. The National Labor Relations Board conducted and supervised the secret-ballot election, and the result presumes to reflect the choice of Creature Comforts' employees.

Except maybe that secret-ballot election is not the choice of Creature Comforts' employees?

I fully expect BUG to file a petition with the NLRB seeking a Cemex bargaining order. What is a Cemex bargaining order, you ask? 

Friday, October 20, 2023

WIRTW #692: the “hot diggity dog” edition

As parents, we live and die with the successes and failures of our children. We need to fully embrace the highs so that we have the stored capital to survive the lows. This past week brough me a couple of highs to share. 

First, last Saturday night, Norah took her musical talents eastward, to 8th Day Brewing Company. She played a killer 3-hour set, punctuated by the bar filling with a hot-dog themed bar crawl singalong for her final hour. 

Then, yesterday evening, Donovan's Lake Ridge Academy soccer team won their opening playoff game, defeating Waynedale 2-0. That's 1 down, 6 to go, on their march to a state title.

You can next watch Lake Ridge Academy try to continue their soccer season on Tuesday against Kidron Christian Academy, at a place and time tbd. Meanwhile, Norah will next gig at The Olde Wine Cellar on Friday, October 27, 2023. 

Everyone have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Failure to advise employer of a disability dooms employee’s ADA claim

True or false — An employer must always reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability if necessary to permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job unless it causes an undue hardship on the employer?

Answer — False. An employer does not have an obligation to grant a reasonable accommodation that an employee never requests.

Case in point: Mueck v. La Grange Acquisitions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Employers need to be more vigilant than ever with anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim bias

Not all Jews are Zionists colonizers, and not all Muslims are Hamas terrorists. In fact, most aren't. Moreover, you can oppose the policies or actions of the Israeli government without being antisemitic and oppose Hamas without being anti-Muslim.

Yet, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict front and center into our lives, and as a result also into our workplaces. You can't stop employees from talking about current events, especially when those events are so horrific and so impactful on so many of us. Your employees will be talking about what's happening in Israel and Gaza. The key for employers is to make sure those discussions remain calm and respectful.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Join me tomorrow: Tips on Tips webinar (free)

I spent my Saturday night at 8th Day Brewing Company watching my 17-year-old daughter, Norah, play a killer 3-hour set of music. When we sat down at our table, I was giddy to find the latest issue of The New Brewer, the bi-monthly trade magazine of the Brewers Assocation. That issue features my article on how to legally pay tipped employees.

Since access to the magazine and my article are for BA members only, you won't be able to read it if you're not a BA member (unless you happen to wander into a brewery that has it on display).

I can, however, offer you a great alternative. Tomorrow at 4 pm ET, I'm presenting Tips on Tips: How to Legally Pay Your Tipped Workers, a free webinar for the Craft Beer Professionals Fall Virtual Conference. You can watch live on the Craft Beer Professionals Facebook page or on its YouTube channel

Friday, October 13, 2023

WIRTW #691: the “football” edition

Today, I'd like to use this space to celebrate the Lake Ridge Academy soccer team. They just completed their best season in 15 years! As a result, they secured the second seed and a first round buy in their state tournament district. And yesterday, they demolished the top seed (and potential third round opponent) 5-0. 

I'd like to say that their success is all because Donovan joined the team this year. But I'm also a realist. They are just a really good group of teens who gelled very well as a team. 

The state tournament starts on Thursday against a team tbd, and I'll be sure to keep everyone updated on the Royals' march to the final four in Columbus.

Finally, for the locals, if you're looking for something to do on a rainy Saturday night, Norah is playing tomorrow from 6-9 at 8th Day Brewing Company in Chagrin Falls. 

Everyone have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Would you fire this employee?

International law firm Winston & Strawn has withdrawn its job offer to an NYU law student who published and distributed inflammatory comments regarding Hamas' recent terrorist attack on Israel.

Here's what this individual wrote:

I want to express, first and foremost, my unwavering and absolute solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against oppression towards liberation and self-determination. Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life. This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary. I will not condemn Palestinian resistance.

The firm was swift in its decision:

These comments profoundly conflict with Winston & Strawn's values as a firm. Accordingly, the Firm has rescinded the law student's offer of employment.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

“Misgendering” is NOT a thought-crime

The EEOC is NOT trying to make "misgendering" a thought-crime.

The agency recently proposed new Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace. Contained with that guidance is the EEOC's legally correct statement that the "intentional and repeated use of a name or pronoun inconsistent with the individual's gender identity" could create a hostile work environment constituting unlawful sexual harassment. That interpretation of Title VII by the EEOC is consistent with judicial opinions dating back nearly a decade.

In response, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Director of the Conscience Project, wrote an op-ed on taking the EEOC to task for its alleged "thought-policing."

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Office lottery pools

More money, more problems. After 36 consecutive drawings without a winner, the next Powerball drawing has a prize of approximately $1.75 billion. Many workplaces will be organizing pools to buy as many chances as possible. With that much money on the line, however, if you’re office pool is lucky enough to win you’ll also probably be unlucky enough to be sued.

Everyone is your friend until you’re looking at nearly two billion dollars; then greed causes those friendships to go out the window and lawyers to be hired.