Thursday, June 6, 2024

Please don't forget the "human" in human resources

"How about just being a human being in a situation like this!"
"Find a way to help her, be a human being!"
"Can we please prioritize the human aspect of the workplace?"
"Gee, imagine if they'd been just a tiny bit empathetic."
"C'mon, be a mensch."

Those were just a few of the LinkedIn comments to this week's post about the employee denied a reasonable accommodation upon her return to work from cancer surgery.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Context, not "magic words," is what matters in judging reasonable accommodation requests, 6th Circuit says

"I'm struggling and need some time to get back to normal. Working 53 hours my first week back is hard for me physically."

That's what Mary Ellen Yannick, a bakery department manager at Kroger's, told Marli Schnepp, her store manager, within a week of Yannick's return from a four-month leave of absence following breast-cancer surgery.

In response, and instead of discussing with Yannick a reasonable accommodation, Schnepp told her that "business was business." If she couldn't hack it, Schnepp told her, she'd have to step down. That's exactly what Yannick did, transferring to a lesser position at another store. She also sued.

Friday, May 31, 2024

WIRTW #719: the 'pomp and circumstance' edition

Tomorrow, Norah, will graduate from high school. Earlier this week, we attended the Senior Brunch, an annual tradition at her school celebrating the graduating seniors. At the end of the ceremony, Norah took possession of her time capsule, a thoughtful project that the mom of one of her fellow classmates organized from kindergarten through 7th grade. That mom held on to them for 12 years. Now, Norah has it. 

That night, we sat around the kitchen table after dinner and opened each of the envelopes. Contained within the kindergarten envelope was a letter I wrote to future Norah for her high school graduation.

Here's what I wrote.

May 29, 2012

Dear Norah,

We've watched you grow so much as a person and as a student during your kindergarten year that I am not sure exactly who will be reading this letter 12 years from now. What I do know is that you will be the same loving, compassionate, empathetic, confident, smart person you are today, just with 12 added years of maturity.

I know that your mom and I will be proud of the young lady you will have become, and all that you will have accomplished as we prepare to send you off to college. I know that we will trust you to continue to make the good, wise decisions that have served you well to this point in your life. I know that whatever you do, and whatever choices you make, we will be proud of you and support you. And never forget that no matter what, you will always be our little girl.

Most of all, I want you to know that we love you very much and we are always here for you. Now go do great things, like you always do.


The thing is, if I was writing that letter today it would say much of the same. 

Now excuse me while I go find a tissue. These "allergies" are murder on my eyes.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2024

"Why would you want a man's job?" = big job interview no-no, says EEOC in lawsuit

"Why would you want a man's job?" Why do you want to take a job away from a man?"

Those interview questions are at the center of a lawsuit the EEOC filed against Waste Industries, a solid waste removal, recycling pickup, and landfill operation business.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The 6th nominee for the Worst Employer of 2024 is … the racist recruiter

"Only U.S. Born Citizens [white] … [Don’t share with candidates]."

That's the text of a job listing that an Arthur Grand Industries recruiter posted on Indeed.

Friday, May 24, 2024

WIRTW #718: the ‘fireflies' edition

"Do you want to bring a backup guitar with you?"

That was the question I ask my daughter as we load up the car to leave for her Sunday-night gig opening for Rhett Miller.

"No," she responds. "I'll be fine with just my main guitar."

Flash forward to 7 pm that night. "Please give it up for norah marie!" And guess what? No sound from her guitar. Not one single amplified note. As it turns out, the guitar had a dead battery. After a few minutes of down time to swap dead for live — which included a very kind and gracious Rhett offering Norah his own guitar to play during her set — she was up and running. 

Despite the glitchy start, Norah was great as always. 

You can watch the (edited) video of her whole set here, or just the clip of her singing Rhett's song, "Fireflies," with him, which includes a sweet story of Rhett's own technical glitch when he was a 17-year-old opener for Rosanne Cash.

I know I'm fighting a losing battle when I offer dad advice to a stubborn 17-year-old, but I can continue to try, right?

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

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Should jury verdict forms in discrimination cases include the McDonnell Douglas factors?

Jury trials are often won or lost based on the instructions and verdict forms the court provides the jury.

Jury instructions outline the legal standards that the jury must use to decide the case. Verdict forms allow the jury to record its decisions on the issues in the case and typically include specific questions that the jury must answer reflecting their findings on claim.

In Craddock v. FedEx Corp. Servs.Craddock v. FedEx Corp. Servs., the plaintiff — a Black woman fired after an altercation at work — complained on appeal about an alleged inconsistency in the jury's verdict.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Prompt engineering tips for generative AI

Innovate or die. I held out long enough, but it's time for me to learn how to use ChatGPT and incorporate it into my legal practice. That was one of my biggest takeaways from the Mackrell International Annual General Meeting earlier this month.

What does one do when one wants to learn how to effectively use ChatGPT? Ask ChatGPT! Here's the prompt I used: "I'm a lawyer conducting research on employment law. Can you give me the top 6 prompt engineering tips to optimize my results on ChatGPT?"

Here's what ChatGPT recommends:

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

It's illegal to deny coverage for gender-affirming care to a transgender employee simply because the employee is transgender

Can an employer-sponsored health plan legally deny coverage for gender-affirming care to a transgender employee simply because the employee is transgender?

According to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Lange v. Houston Cty., the answer is an unequivocal "No, it cannot!"

It's 100% legal to close your business to avoid a labor union

"We have some sad news to share. A process that began last year has reached its conclusion. Today was the last day of service for both cafes of the Wydown, which are now permanently closed." 

That sign hung on the door of both Wydown Coffee Bar locations late last week.

What's so newsworthy about two cafes closing? What if I tell you that the closure happened just five days before their 35 employees were set to vote on unionization?

The employees steadfastly believe that the cafes closed to avoid a labor union. The owners deny their claim and say that they were merely "ready for a change."

Friday, May 17, 2024

WIRTW #717: the ‘donut' edition

I love donuts. At 51 years old, however, I try not to eat them too often anymore. The weight just doesn't come off quite the way it used to. But it doesn't mean I won't indulge every now and again, including on a recent episode of The Triple D Podcast: Donuts, Disability and Discourse.

I sat down with local disability rights attorney Michael Liner to discuss my work as a labor & employment lawyer and craft beer lawyer, the types of clients I work with, my roll managing marketing and business development at my law firm, and the challenges and opportunities of working in a post-Covid world. I also shared my review of the outstanding craft-beer-based donut I sampled at Brewnuts, our host for the episode. 

You can watch the entire discussion here.

Finally, there are still some tickets left for the Rhett Miller/norah marie show at the Music Box Supper Club this Sunday, May 19, 🎟️ here. Doors are at 5, and Norah's opening set starts at 7.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2024

This is why you should never give a pass to any employee misconduct

A law firm fires its HR Manager a mere days before she is set to return to work from maternity leave. It says it fired her for "cause," citing numerous performance related examples, including her alleged mismanagement of the firm's health-benefits enrollment.

The problem for the law firm, however, is that it allegedly discovered those performance issues months before the termination and sat on them until the employee was ready to return from her maternity leave.

That timing was enough for the court to deny the law firm's motion for summary judgment on her pregnancy discrimination claim.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

This should constitute a racially hostile work environment; the court says it didn't

15 different Black employees complain that their health-care employer maintains a racially hostile work environment. The allegations include several being exposed to the N-word at work, patients refusing treatment by Black employees and calling them "colored" and other slurs, and other race-based incidents.

Nevertheless, in EEOC v. Village at Hamilton Pointe, the 7th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the agency's racial harassment lawsuit. "In sum," the court wrote, "the evidence of record does not support, under established principles of law, a case for racial harassment that was so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of employment for any of these claimants."

I disagree.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

For Ohio employers, it doesn't matter what the DEA says about marijuana

News recently broke that the DEA intends to reclassify cannabis from a Scheule I drug to a Schedule III drug. That reclassification would permit health care providers to legally prescribe cannabis for medicinal uses.

As a result of this reclassification, employers would likely inherit a legal obligation under the ADA to reasonably accommodate an employee's use of legally prescribed marijuana. It would no different that the use of any other Schedule III drug (e.g., ketamine or codeine) — you have to accommodate its use off duty but not employees' impairments on duty.

BUT … check your state law. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

WIRTW #716: the ‘new kid' edition

On June 5, 2014, Rhett Miller, founder, front person, and lead singer of Old 97's, promised my daughter (then a mere 9 days past her 8th birthday) that once she was playing her own paid gigs, he'd have her open for him. That conversation took place in the green room of the Beachland Ballroom, and the adjacent photo was taken just after that conversation.

A decade later, Norah is an established, working musician, and Rhett is making good on his promise. He's coming back to town to play a solo gig at the Music Box Supper Club. To make a long story short, when the club announced the gig, Norah reached out to Rhett to ask about opening for him; on May 19 she'll be doing just that.

To hear the longer version of this story, tune in to the most recent episode of The Norah and Dad Show, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Overcast, the web, and everywhere else you get your podcasts. 

As for me, I'll be front and center at Music Box on May 19, singing along to Norah's and Rhett's songs. It's gonna be a great night! If you're interested in joining us the Music Box still has some tickets available here. (You'll find a running list of all of Norah's gigs here; click "Follow" for notifications of new gigs as they're announced.)

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

Thursday, May 2, 2024

DOL cautions employers on the use of AI

"When used responsibly, AI has the potential to help improve compliance with the law. Without proper human supervision, however, these technologies can pose potential risks to workers … and may result in violations of the law…." 

Those are the words of the Department of Labor in its just published Field Assistance Bulletin, Artificial Intelligence and Automated Systems in the Workplace under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Other Federal Labor Standards.

The DOL highlights many potential legal pitfalls for employers that rely on AI to manage how their employees are paid and to track their attendance and leaves of absence.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Does a prank involving adult diapers and a wheelchair = age discrimination? It depends.

An attorney celebrates a paralegal's 50th birthday by decorating her office party with a wheelchair, fake pill bottles, and adult diapers. (Get it? She's "old.")

The paralegal does not appreciate the joke, and lets the lawyer know as much. In response, the lawyer simply moves the decorations adjacent to the paralegal's workstation. Around the same time, the lawyer also starts asking when the paralegal intends to retire.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Sexual harassment, bathroom, and pronouns

"Sex-based harassment includes harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including … repeated and intentional use of a name or pronoun inconsistent with the individual’s known gender identity … or the denial of access to a bathroom or other sex-segregated facility consistent with the individual’s gender identity."

That the official position of the EEOC in its just released, Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace.

EEOC Commissioner Andrea Lucas disagrees. She voted against the final guidance. She believes that the bathroom guidance is an "assault on women's sex-based privacy and safety," and the pronoun guidance is an assault on "speech and belief rights."

Friday, April 26, 2024

WIRTW #715: the ‘over the top' edition

Another successful Craft Brewers Conference is in the books. 

I spent a few great days speaking (on how to craft a harassment-free craft brewery); seeing old friends and making new ones (I love my craft beer tribe); networking with brewers and other industry professionals (at the Start A Brewery lounge my firm co-sponsored and at nighttime events at breweries around town); eating (the fried chicken at Yardbird in the Venetian is better than advertised, and they advertise it as the best in the country); and, yes, drinking (mostly within moderation; CBC is a marathon, not a sprint).

I also spent an evening supporting an incredibly worthy cause. Wild West Access Fund held its Brewsters Arm Wrestling event. Women, non-binary, and trans people in beer took the stage in a single-elimination arm wrestling competition to raise money to provide financial assistance to those seeking abortion care in Nevada.

It felt good to do good. While my friends who competed did not win — sorry, Julie Rhodes and Dr. J — it was an amazing night for an amazing cause.

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

Thursday, April 25, 2024

"This is a business." Google CEO fired back and fired protesting employees.

"This is a business, not a place to act in a way that disrupts coworkers or makes them feel unsafe…."

Those were the words of Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a post on his company's corporate blog.

He's referring to Google's recent firing of 50 workers involved in protests against the company's cloud-computing contract with the Israeli government.