In my occasional series on the crazy things that employees do, here’s one that, in reality, is probably not all that uncommon. Many people use their personal cell phones for work. And as a matter of habit, they may plug their cell phones into their work computer – maybe to sync it or charge it. But what they aren’t thinking about is that the work computer backs up the content on the phone. All. Of. It. (Unless the employee is technically savvy enough to back up only portions of it. Let’s be frank – most people aren’t that savvy.) Continue Reading Extraordinary Employee Misconduct: Saving Nude Pictures to Work Computer!

Employer obligations to consider the use of medical marijuana as a reasonable accommodation just got murkier with a new case out of Delaware, Chance v. Kraft Heinz Foods Co., decided in December 2018. Continue Reading Another State Finds No Federal Preemption of Its Medical Marijuana Law

Maryland lawmakers have introduced a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2023. Notably, the State’s minimum wage is currently $10.10 per hour, which is significantly greater than the federal minimum of $7.25. Many progressive leaders and newly elected legislators do not think Maryland’s current minimum wage is high enough, and as a result, there has been an increased push to pass the proposed legislation. If enacted, Maryland would join the notoriously employer-unfriendly jurisdictions like California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. If the experience in those States is a guide, the increased minimum wage would increase the cost of doing business in Maryland, create incentives to deploy technology to reduce labor costs, harm workers who are least skilled (by making them less attractive “at the price” vis-à-vis more skill peers), and create severe obstacles for businesses operating within the State.  Continue Reading Fight Against $15! An Opportunity to Testify Before the Maryland General Assembly

So, you say you want to avoid employment jury trials?  Let’s talk.

The Federal Arbitration Act (and the law of virtually all States that have enacted a version of the Uniform Arbitration Act) favor arbitration.  Contractual agreements that clearly and unmistakably set forth an intent to arbitrate disputes normally will be enforced (barring a judicial “lapse of judgment”).  Key benefit: in arbitration, there is no jury!  Employers know that juries are fickle, and may decide an issue based on empathy and anger rather than the rules of law enunciated in the jury instructions.  Continue Reading One! Two! Three! Four! What Do You Say We’re Fighting For? Arbitration!

My brilliant law partner, Fiona Ong, explained last week about why it is unwise to treat a reduction in force (“RIF”) as a “golden opportunity” to rid yourself of those pesky under-performers whose deficiencies were not documented properly.  (We do know why there is no documentation, BTW.  Those underperformers often are gifted at deflecting responsibility, and honest performance evaluations require, well, honest feedback, which unpleasant people abhor.  For managers, who just want to do their jobs, it is much easier to select “meets expectations, meets, meets, meets” than lose hours debating the ratings.)  Continue Reading Now that You Know that a RIF Is Not a “Magic Bullet” (Performance Management Advice for Managers in Five Easy Pieces)

Some employers view a reduction in force as an apparently easy and clean way to get rid of employees they do not want – like poor performers, who have not been properly performance-managed.  There may even be less appropriate considerations in mind – an older employee viewed as slowing down, an employee with health problems who has missed a lot of work, a pregnant employee who will need leave after her child’s birth. These employers assume that if the employee accepts a severance package and signs a release, the matter is closed.  The case of Hawks v. Ballantine Communications, Inc., however, highlights the peril of such thinking. Continue Reading RIFs Are Not the Easy Solution for Problem Employees

In my occasional series on extraordinary employee misconduct, I was both shocked and amused by a case involving a trooper who was fired after he hit on a female motorist after arresting her! While he was on a last chance agreement for (wait for it…) hitting on another female motorist after arresting her! I mean, I know the dating scene can be rough, but this really does not seem like a good dating approach. Continue Reading Extraordinary Employee Misconduct: Hitting on Arrestees!

Whether you are looking out your window at the wonder of snow or trying to prognosticate when it will hit, one thing is for sure.  If you are in a state with mandatory sick leave, employees may be invoking their right to no-questions-asked leave when you otherwise prohibit any excuses.  Such “no excuse” policies are common during snow events at businesses that must provide service – hospitals, property management companies, no-stop assembly lines. Think patients to be cared for, sidewalks to be cleared, machines that will seize without humans. Continue Reading Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful (I think I Need a Sick Day)!!

An employee requested that she be permitted to leave work early every day due to her anxiety triggered by driving home in heavy traffic (those of us in major metropolitan areas would never survive!). When her demand was rejected and she ended up being terminated, Heather Trautman brought suit against her employer, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and related state laws, Trautman v. Time Warner Cable Texas, LLC. Continue Reading Leaving Work Early Due to Fear of Rush-Hour Traffic Is Not a Reasonable Accommodation

When a company relaxes its workplace policies to allow employees to openly display tattoos and use social media at work, does that mean it’s discriminating against older people? That question presumes that only younger people have tattoos and use social media (which is itself discriminatory!). But, in Wyss v. PetSmart, Inc., a 60-year old employee attempted to use her employer’s social media policy and permission to display tattoos and piercings as evidence of age discrimination! Continue Reading Tattoos and Social Media = Age Discrimination?