Friday, February 9, 2024

WIRTW #705: the “3.33 percent” edition

I believe that it's important to celebrate our victories, not just in our careers, but also in our personal lives.

Tomorrow night, my daughter will stand on stage at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in front of 1,000-plus people and play a 15-minute of set of original music and covers. It will be just Norah, her voice, and her guitar. This will be her sixth (and final) time playing the High School Rock Off. She participated for several years as a School of Rock exhibition. Then, in 2020, she entered in two separate bands and took one to the finals.

In total, Norah has played the Rock Hall's stage more than every other artist who is inducted in the Rock Hall combined. At the age of 17, she's a seasoned veteran of the local music scene.

Which is why I was surprised when, in the car on the way to school this morning, Norah told me that she's a little nervous about tomorrow night. "I've never played in front of that many people solo," she said.

No matter what happens tomorrow night, I'm so proud of her. It takes guts anytime you get on stage and perform. It takes a ton of guts to do it solo, without the support of loud rock band backing you, and even more so when you're sharing your inner-most thoughts through your own songs.

It doesn't matter what the judges say tomorrow night, Norah has already won.

(From The Chronicle-Telegram's Rock-Off preview)

If you're planning on attending the Rock Off and don't yet have your ticket, they are on sale here (code: norah). It's the best deal in town for a Saturday night — $20 ($15 for students) for performances by 10 bands plus a full admission to the Rock Hall.

If you can't make the event but want a taste of what you'll miss, last weekend Norah recorded a "tiny-desk style" session. Thanks to Jeff Koteles of Banzai Sound for offering his space and providing the audio mix, and to Digital FX Media for recording the video and supplying the finished product, which you can watch here.

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The 3rd nominee for the Worst Employer of 2024 is … the supersized sex offender

A McDonald's franchisee has agreed to pay $4.35 million to settle claims brought by a 14-year-old worker raped by a manager.

According to the now settled lawsuit, the franchisee, Rice Enterprises, knew that its manager, Walter Garner, was sexually harassing child employees before Garner raped the plaintiff. Garner, already a registered sex offender during his employment, later pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the rape and is now in prison.

The allegations are as bad as you might think. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

A DEI smackdown

It's a DEI heavyweight battle of epic proportions that played out of X over the past week.

In the blue corner, hailing from Big D, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban: 

I've never hired anyone based exclusively on race, gender, religion. I only ever hire the person that will put my business in the best position to succeed. And yes, race and gender can be part of the equation. I view diversity as a competitive advantage.

And in the red corner, hailing from our nation's capital, EEOC Commissioner Andrea Lucas: 

Unfortunately you’re dead wrong on black-letter Title VII law. As a general rule, race/sex can't even be a "motivating factor" — nor a plus factor, tie-breaker, or tipping point.… This isn't an opinion; reasonable minds can't disagree on this point. It's the plain text of Title VII.

Friday, February 2, 2024

WIRTW #704: the “backyard” edition

Live Nation and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced that this year's Rock Off will be the final Rock Off, at least sponsored by Live Nation and held at the Rock Hall. Barry Gabel, the senior vice president of marketing and sponsorship sales at Live Nation and the Rock Off's creator and biggest champion, is pulling the plug after this year's event because of staffing issues. He told Cleveland Magazine, however, that there's hope that the Rock Off will continue in some form in 2025 and beyond.

We're getting tons of calls from so many different venues and people that don't want to see this end, and while I'm not really available to discuss if there can be something that will follow after this year — it most probably will not be with Live Nation — but who knows. There are just too many great venues around town and too many great local clubs and passionate music people that don't want to see the Rock Off end. So we'll see what happens.

Well, Norah and I have an idea to save the Tri-C High School Rock Off in years to come. The Norah and Dad Show Rock Off!

Tickets for this year's Rock Off are available here (checkout code: NORAH). Norah performs next Saturday, Feb. 10.

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

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Whether you like it or not, it’s illegal to discriminate against transgender employees

“Do you have female parts?”
“You’re not a real man.”
“If I just say ‘she’, that’s what she is.”

Those are among the allegations that the EEOC made against T.C. Wheelers Bar & Pizzeria on behalf of Quinn Gambino, a transgender man the restaurant employed as a cook. Mr. Gambino complained to management about the harassment, but it continued unabated.

Monday, January 29, 2024

The 2nd nominee for the Worst Employer of 2024 is … the stone-cold stunner

I've never before had a repeat Worst Employer nominee. But never before has there been an employer like Vince McMahon.

Two years ago, I nominated the former Chairman of the WWE for allegations that he paid $3 million in hush money to a terminated, down on her luck paralegal, Janel Grant, with whom he then had an affair. Now, however, the full nature of the paralegal's allegations has come to light, and their sheer depravity require that we re-nominate Vince to this year's list.

Grant claims that she was subjected to "acts of extreme cruelty and degradation" that caused her to "become numb to reality in order to survive the horrific encounters." 

Friday, January 26, 2024

WIRTW #703: the “guitar” edition

Did you know that in addition to being an employment lawyer and a craft-beer lawyer, I’m also a podcaster?

A couple of years ago my daughter and I started a podcast together. While episodes have become more sporadic lately, The Norah and Dad Show is still very much a thing.

We just dropped a brand-new episode — "Rock 'n' Roll High School" — in which we discuss Norah's upcoming gig on Feb. 10 at the 27th annual (and final) Tri-C High School Rock Off at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Tickets here; use code NORAH.)

We reminisce about Norah's past appearances at the event and lament the end of the Rock Off as an annual event. Norah also shares a story about buying a new guitar, which she'll be showcasing from the Rock Off stage.

You'll find the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, Overcast, on the web, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Join me at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference

If you google “brewery harassment” you’ll polish off an entire six-pack before you finish reading all of the horror stories.
🤮 “Breweries named in wave of sexual harassment claims; CEO steps down.”
🤮 “Brewery ownership group ‘steps back’ after sexual harassment claims.”
🤮 “’This behavior should not be endorsed or tolerated’: harassment allegations explored as brewery reportedly closes.”
🤮 “Couple who helped start major brewery accuse owner of sexual harassment.”
🤮 “Brewery founder steps away from operations amid allegations of sexism and racism.”
🤮 “Findings of investigation into toxic brewery workplace are ‘troubling and heartbreaking.’”

And on … and on … and on. It’s an epidemic in our craft beer industry.

Which is precisely why I am so excited to be returning to this year’s Craft Brewers Conference to present, “Crafting a Harassment-Free Craft Brewery.”

Just because something isn’t “illegal” doesn’t mean it’s acceptable

“This is very basic, elementary communication. This has nothing to do with training or understanding, this is daily required functioning.”

That’s just part of an email that a law firm partner sent to a Black associate. In her recently-filed lawsuit, she alleges that the firm terminated her in retaliation for complaining to HR that she believed that email was racially motivated.

In response to her internal complaint, HR told her that its investigation revealed that while the email was “inappropriate,” it was not racist because the partner treated everyone the same way. Thus, he was not singling her out because of her race.

These 6 steps will help keep you out of sexual harassment hot water

A teenage, female restaurant employee bends over to pick something up and a male co-worker snaps a photo of her buttocks and then shares it with his coworkers. She reports the misconduct conduct to her manager and noted “that it made her feel uncomfortable.” The company investigates, and even though it does not find the photo on the co-workers, it still fires him six days later for myriad issues with his employment.

The complaining employee then sues for sexual harassment, alleging that the taking and sharing of the photo constituted a hostile work environment. The court disagreed: “Johnson alleges two isolated incidents—Shawn took a picture of her buttocks and showed it to her coworkers. Although Shawn’s conduct was rude and boorish, his actions fall well short of conduct so severe as to alter or change the terms of her working conditions.”

Friday, January 19, 2024

WIRTW #702: the “conference” edition

I don't just go to beer conferences to drink beer. I promise. I also go to speak and share my knowledge about the legal issues that impact craft breweries.

This week, I've been at the Ohio Craft Brewers Conference in Toledo. Yes, I drank some beer. But I also spoke, not once, but twice.

Yesterday, I spoke on avoiding the top 10 legal mistakes made by craft breweries, and on current industry and legal trends impacting DEI.

It was a great conference with wonderful people and networking, a lot of learning and knowledge … and, yes, some beer. 🍻

A huge thank you to Mary MacDonald and the entire Ohio Craft Brewers Association team for a fantastic event. Let's do it again in Columbus next year!

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Hiring undocumented workers

"Illegal immigrant co-worker got fired for asking about her check." 

That's the headline on Reddit.

Here's the rest of the post: 

"I have a co-worker who doesn't speak English at all so I've always communicated with her through google translate. A week ago, she asked me if I had gotten paid yet and told me that she hasn't seen a penny of her check despite working 50 hours a week since late November. I talked to my manager about it and my manager told me that she would send the check to her later. My co-worker texted me a few days ago and told me that she was fired for being an illegal immigrant and that she won't be paid because of it."

Friday, January 12, 2024

WIRTW #701: the “last dance” edition

My daughter, Norah, has been chosen as one of 30 acts to compete in the 2024 Tri-C High School Rock Off at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Norah (who performs as norah marie) takes the Rock Hall stage on Feb. 10 as part of the second of three semifinal rounds. Four acts from each round will advance to the Final Exam on Mar. 2, where a panel of industry judges will crown the "Best Band in the Land."

This year's winner will be the last "Best Band in the Land," as Live Nation has announced that this year's High School Rock Off will be the final High School Rock Off. This news saddens me, as it's such a unique event for Cleveland and a great opportunity for the youngest members of our music community. Having attended the Rock Off for years, it's always a great time showcasing a ton of talent and great music.

The Tri-C High School Rock Off is one of biggest competitions in the country for high school rock musicians. We're so lucky to have held it for so many years. This year's prizes for the winning act include the opportunity to perform at the 2024 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It's a big deal.

Norah performs on Feb. 10. Tickets are digital-only and available for purchase via the Rock Hall website, here. At checkout, use the code NORAH. Each ticket includes a full Rock Hall admission during the event.

We'd love to see you there.

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The 1st nominee for the Worst Employer of 2024 is … the S&M CEO

I've seen a lot of strange stuff in my 26-plus-year career as an attorney for employers. But this story takes the cake … and it might just run away with the title of the Worst Employer of 2024 when the votes are counted at year's end.

I present to you … the "Slave Contract."

An employee fired by software company Tradeshift recently filed a lawsuit alleging that the company's former CEO required her to sign a "Slave Contract" as a condition of her employment and then subjected her to years of sexual abuse, subjugation, and violence.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

8 ways to spot a crook inside your business

Between Sept. 2021 and Oct. 2022, Lyle Bigelow, the now-former COO of 1487 Brewery, embezzled approximately $200,000 from his employer. How? He created fake employees in the brewery's payroll system and directed their illegitimate paychecks to his personal bank accounts.

Bigelow was recently sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution to the brewery (the amount not covered by its insurance).

Do you know how to spot an employee who is potentially stealing from your business? Here are 8 possible warning signs that suggest possible internal theft and/or an attempt to cover it up.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Pro-employee vs. Pro-union

"You can't be pro-employee and anti-union."
"If you're pro-employee you should also be pro-union."

Each of these two themes ran through the more than 1,000 comments posted to last week's viral LinkedIn post on Costco's union organizing.

Let me be as clear as I can be. There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about an employer being both pro-employee AND anti-union.

Friday, January 5, 2024

WIRTW #700: the “Rock Off” edition

For the past 26 years, Live Nation Entertained has crowned "The Best Band in the Land" at the Tri-C High School Rock Off. This year is no exception. My daughter, Norah, will be competing on Feb. 10 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in one of three semi-final rounds to determine who advances to the Final Exam on Mar. 2.

We've attended the event for years, first when Norah performed in an exhibition as part of the School of Rock Jr. Headliners, and then four years ago when her former band advanced to the Final Exam. This year, Norah will be performing as a solo artist.  

It's always an amazing night of live music. Additionally, your ticket (which I think will only cost $10) comes with a full Rock Hall admission for the night at a significant discount from its normal $35 price tag. That's what I call a win-win.

Tickets are not yet available, but I'll be sharing the link when they go on sale.

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

Thursday, January 4, 2024

THIS is how you respond to a group of employees organizing and forming a labor union

Competitive salary. Excellent benefits. Great support from management. Collaborative environment. Those are a few of the glowing terms reviewers use to describe Costco on Glassdoor. They are also what help the warehouse club earn a regular spot on Glassdoor's "Top 100 Places to Work" annual report.

Why, then, did a group of Costco workers at one of its stores "overwhelmingly" vote to unionize, making it the Teamsters' first organizing victory at the big-box wholesale retailer in more than 20 years?

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Discussing a couple of pay deductions for service-industry employees

Consider the following two policies, which restaurants and bars have implemented to save a few nickels against their tight margins:  

“Effective Jan. 1, we will begin implementing a tip refund for credit card processing fees for all gratuities left on a customer’s credit card; 2.5% will be deducted from your final check-out for each such gratuity paid.” 


“The full value of the check from which a patron flees the facility (‘dines and dashes’) will be deducted from the server’s paycheck.”  

Each of these policies is 100% legal under federal wage and hour laws. (Check your state laws, however, which may differ.) 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

’Twas the Employment Law Night Before Christmas (2023 edition)

In what has become an annual tradition for my final post of the year, I bring you the holiday classic, 'Twas the Employment Law Night Before Christmas … tweaked for 2023.

To all of my readers, connections, and followers, new and legacy, thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing throughout the year. Please have a happy and, most importantly, healthy and safe holiday season. I'll see everyone on January 2, 2024, with new content, including a fresh batch of Worst Employer nominees, to kick off the new year.