Monday, March 18, 2024

It’s past time to self-regulate your use of noncompete agreements before the government does it for you

Boston Beer Co., the brewer of Sam Adams and other craft beverages, is taking heat for its overuse of noncompete agreements. In a recent article, the Boston Globe cites examples of several former lower-level Boston Beer employees forced out of the industry they love because of the noncompete agreements their former employer forced them to sign at their time of hire.

Legally speaking, to be enforceable a post-employment restrictive covenant must be narrowly tailored by time, geography, and a reasonable business interest worthy of protection. Yet, like the Boston Beer example, all too often employers require many too many employees to sign overly broad and overly restrictive agreements. It's bullying and a scare tactic. It's also legally unsupportable. And it's also why the federal government and many states are looking at regulatory and legislative solutions to limit their use.

Friday, March 15, 2024

WIRTW #710: the “if it ain’t broke…” edition

If you have a child applying for college this year, you know the pain that we are currently feeling. This year, Congress decided to change the process to apply for federal financial aid. The changes to the FAFSA ("Free Application for Federal Student Aid") were supposed to make applying for financial aid easier. Instead, it has caused delays, uncertainty, and stress. 

Under the former system, students would have already received their offer letters from the colleges and universities to which they had been admitted, including the full breakdown of all financial aid and the net cost of attendance. That "net cost" is what enables us to make apples-to-apples comparisons of schools and to help our high-school seniors make an informed decision about the best academic, social, and financial choice. 

Instead, the Department of Education has struggled to process the information it has received under this new process. As a result, the DOE has not yet even started providing FAFSA information to colleges and universities, which, in turn, are scrambling to assure students that they will know their financial aid packages and cost of attendance before freshman orientation.

Congress, we know how dysfunctional you have become. You can barely agree on what should be your most core function — legislation to keep our government open — let alone meeting our nation's more pressing needs such as funding for Ukraine, immigration reform, or protecting women's productive rights. Then again, given how you've botched what should be the lowest hanging of fruit when you actually do something, I'm not sure you're actually qualified to govern anything.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2024

It’s long past time to Ctrl-Alt-Del the FLSA

The Fair Labor Standard Act is not a good law because employers have zero hope in complying with it.

I know this fact is true because I just read Bradford v. Team Pizza. In that case, the 6th Circuit rejected both the employer's and the plaintiffs' interpretation of the FLSA and punted the case back to the district court to interpret the statute instead.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Spoliation is BAD

Pro tip: it's really, REALLY bad to destroy evidence in your case.

Case in point: Jones v. Riot Hospitality Group, which the 9th Circuit just decided.

President Biden’s proposed 2025 federal budget offers a lot for employers to chew on

If you want to learn about a government's priorities, trace the money. 

President Biden's proposed federal budget for FY 2025 contains significant funding that would impact the workplace.

Friday, March 8, 2024

WIRTW #709: the “opener” edition

My home, and this Friday space, have been consumed by music for the past few weeks. The 27th and final Tri-C High School Rock Off has come to a close. Norah played a killer set of 2 originals — Potential Spam (which reporter Malcolm X Abram called "a cool near-shoegaze original") and Boys Like You — and 2 covers — a PG-rated You Oughta Know that included an Alanis singalong that filled the Rock Hall's glass pyramid and Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. I loved every second of watching her completely own that massive stage and crowd. You can tell that she's living her best life. Norah did not win or place in the top 3, but that's not what truly matters, is it?

You can watch her full set here.

The Rock Off might be over, but Norah's 2024 of music is just getting started. There are gigs at venues all over town, a music festival appearance in August, and, on May 19, she'll be the opening act for Rhett Miller of the Old 97's when he plays at the Music Box Supper Club. Given that Norah first sang with Rhett 10 years ago, it will be a fitting full-circle moment to cap her K–12 years less than 2 weeks before graduation. Tickets are on sale now

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

Thursday, March 7, 2024

I ❤️ being a lawyer

I ❤️ being a lawyer. It presents something new and different each day, with each day offering an opportunity to learn.

For example, yesterday I read the 6th Circuit’s decision in Jones v. Producers Service Corp., which asked this question: "Under § 207(f) of the FLSA, when do an employee's job duties 'necessitate' irregular hours?"

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

“DEI” is not a 4-letter word

"DEI" is not a 4-letter word … no matter what some people want you to believe.

Companies such as Sherwin-Williams are scrapping their internal use of the words "Diversity," "Equity," and "Inclusion," and are replacing them with words such as "Belonging" and "Culture."

Friday, March 1, 2024

WIRTW #708: the “boys like you” edition

Tomorrow night, I'll be at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame trying not to be a nervous wreck during the finals of the Tri-C High School Rock Off. The reality, however, is that no matter the result's, Norah has already won. 

She advanced to the finals, joining 11 of the best high school rock bands in the country in one the premium events for high school musicians nationwide.

She got great, constructive feedback from the panel of music industry people that judged her semifinal round, and will do so again in the finals.

She's received some great recognition and press (including recording an episode for the Rockin' the Suburbs podcast that aired earlier this week). 

And she went into the studio at Tri-C to record a song for the Rock Off's compilation album. "Boys Like You" — a jangly piece of acoustic power pop that will get stuck in your head — released today. You can listen to it here.

Rock Off tickets are still available for purchase (code: norah), but don't wait too long. This event is always a sell-out. 

If you're attending, Norah plays at 7:10 pm. If you're not attending but want to know where else you can see her play, click here for a full list of her gigs. (Pay close attention to the one on May 19 … it's a biggie.)

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

When dealing with the FLSA, “administrative” may not mean what you think it means

It's really unfortunate that when Congress, in 1938, enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act it chose the label "administrative" for the law's broadest white-collar overtime exemption. That one word has caused more misunderstanding, confusion, litigation, and legal fees than any other word in the FLSA.

"Administrative" does not mean any employee who performs office or other non-manual work. Instead, it means any employee who earns a minimum salary of $684 per week AND who performs office or other non-manual work for which the employee's primary duty: (i) is directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers; and (ii) includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

These issues were just front and center in Blackstone v. Dearborn Life Ins. Co.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

IVF discrimination = sex discrimniation

With in vitro fertilization all over the news for the past week, it's time for this important public service announcement — IVF discrimination = sex discrimination.

Courts have long held that Title VII's definition of "sex" (as expanded by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) unequivocally includes infertility treatments.

Friday, February 23, 2024

WIRTW #707: the “mojo” edition

One, two, three, four
There's a plague on the planet
And they went to law school
A bunch of hornswogglers
Treat us like fools
Know who I'm talkin' about
Let me hear you shout

Destroy all lawyers
Destroy all lawyers
Bunch of evil weasel poseurs
Destroy all lawyers

Watch them push them papers
And bend them laws
Will the chump with the most money
Buy them all?
Grab them by their tails
Spit in their eyes
Well they charge you by the minute
While we get paid by the hour
What I want to know
Is how they steal all this power?


They got, they got their own bar
Where they drink pints of greed
Let's spay and neuter 'em
So that they can't breed
So let us
Is at the bottom of the sea
Well they're not even evil
Yeah, they're worse than the devil
Gonna blow up the planet
Charge God double


R.I.P. Mojo Nixon. 

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

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Pumping up employee lactation rights

Employers, hear to me now and believe me later — it is unacceptable to force a lactating employee to pump her breast milk in an open stockroom corner or in an open office.

That's precisely, however, what two McDonald's employees allege happened to them in two different stores.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Bankrupcy, labor unions, and remaining union free

Fair State Brewing, one the nation's first unionized craft breweries, just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Meanwhile and elsewhere, Aslin Beer Co. just said that it will voluntarily recognize the union petition filed by a group of its taproom employees to join the SEIU.

Evan Sallee, Fair State's founder and CEO, tells Eater than its union has nothing whatsoever to do with the bankruptcy filing.

Friday, February 16, 2024

WIRTW #706: the “final exam” edition

I left y'all with quite the cliffhanger last Friday. How would Norah do in her semifinal round at the Tri-C High School Rock Off? "No matter what happens tomorrow night, I'm so proud of her." That's what I wrote last week. Of course, however, I really wanted her to advance to the Final Exam. What parent wouldn't?

In the semifinals, the acts draft their performance slot for the night, with the draft order set by ticket sales. Norah ended up drafting 5th. After saying for weeks that she did not want to close the show, she then chose to close the show. The 10th band out of 10. A singer-songwriter choosing to take the stage in a rock 'n' roll competition after 3-plus hours of loud music played by driving rock bands. "A baller move," we told her when she texted us from the Rock Hall. Her response: "Go big or go home!"

Well, she went big. She played the best 15-minutes of music of her life and breezed into the Final Exam. Choosing to close was absolutely the right choice for her to make, especially when your last song is her chill-inducing version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." You can watch her full set here

Tickets for the Final Exam are on sale now. The event is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 2 at 6 pm. Your $20 ticket ($15 for students) not only gets you a few hours of music from some of the best high school rock bands (and high school singer-songwriters) in the country, but also full admission to the Rock Hall during the event. You can buy your tickets here (code: norah). I'd love to see you there, and Norah would love your support.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Baning salary discussion bans

🛑 Employers, for the love of all that is holy, STOP BANNING EMPLOYEES FROM DISCUSSING THEIR WAGES!!! 🛑

A supervisor of subsidiary of Duke University is accused of doing just that, and now the employer is in hot water with the National Labor Relations Board.

According to the just-filed NLRB complaint, the supervisor allegedly instructed workers during a meeting "not to discuss their salaries." When one of those employees later raised "concerns about employees' salaries and equity in pay," they were fired.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Remote work as a reasonable accommodation

A former UCLA employee has sued the university, claiming that if fired him in retaliation for requesting to continue to work from home after its "work from home" order ended.

According to his complaint, the 23-year employee, who last worked as a mechanic in the physical sciences machine shop, suffers from disabilities that affect his arms and hands. The lawsuit alleges that his supervisor denied his request to continue working from home after Covid work from home orders ended, despite most other employees continuing to work remotely. After the university later laid him off, he sued.

Courts are generally in agreement on two things related to remote work as a reasonable accommodation: 1) regular, in-person work is an essential function of most jobs; and 2) remote work as a reasonable accommodation is a highly fact-specific inquiry.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Ending gender bias in dress codes

During the recent Super Bowl halftime show, Usher took off his shirt and everyone oohed and aahed over his performance. Twenty years ago, Janet Jackson's breast was accidentally exposed during her halftime performance and the world stopped to nearly ruin her career over a wardrobe malfunction.

We need to have a serious conversation about sex-based stereotypes, double standards, and workplace dress code.

Here are 7 tips to draft a non-discriminatory, gender-neutral dress code for your workplace:

Ending the “ism” of ageism

"Ageism is really one of the last acceptable 'isms' that society tolerates," says AARP senior advisor Heather Tinsley-Fix.

The numbers back her up. According to a recent AARP report, two-thirds of adults over 50 believe older workers face age discrimination in the workplace, and 90% of that group believe ageism is commonplace.

How do we best combat ageism and age discrimination in our workplaces? Here are 6 suggestions.

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.