I have a friend who is a high school biology teacher. A few years ago, her class dissected a sheep’s brain. After class, one of her students confessed to her that he had licked the brain!!! (I’ll pause here for a moment so you can wrap your own brain around that….) Unsurprisingly, this caused an immediate uproar. The school nurse was appropriately concerned about possible health issues (prions that can cause horrific diseases, poisonous chemicals, etc.). On the other hand, an administrator questioned whether my friend had failed to preemptively instruct her students NOT TO LICK THE BRAIN. Um, what? I think we can agree that is one of those things that is so glaringly obvious you should not have to spell it out as a general matter. Continue Reading Starbucks – Training Employees on the Obvious?

On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis that employment agreements containing waivers of the right to bring class or collective actions over employment-related disputes are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In so doing, the Court rejected the National Labor Relation Board’s position that such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) – a position subject to much controversy in the courts and federal agencies. Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Approves Use of Class Waivers in Employment Agreements

I know I’m dating myself, but as a lawyer of a certain age, I like a legal agreement to be in paper, with handwritten signatures. The growing use of electronic agreements and signatures is certainly easy and convenient, but it still gives me a little queasy feeling – like the agreement doesn’t really exist. (Don’t even get me started on bitcoin…) I don’t mean to suggest that electronic agreements and signatures aren’t valid. They certainly can be, as I discussed in detail in a prior blog post, Electronic Signatures v. Handwritten Signatures. But, as I also explained in that post, the use of electronic methods does open the door to questions about whether employees actually entered into the agreements in question, as happened in the recent case of Gupta v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC. Continue Reading Wait – That E-mail Is a Legal Agreement?

As an employment attorney, I deal with new issues nearly every day.  But, there’s one issue that seems to come up on a regular basis.  It involves employers asking for advice about terminating employees who have violated work rules but also have engaged in legally protected activities, such as taking leave under the FMLA.  Employers are often hesitant to terminate such employees for bad behavior out of fear of being accused of violating the law.  A case out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Arana v. Temple University Health System) from last week provides support to employers that discipline and even terminate employees for violating workrules put in place for safety purposes.    Continue Reading No, You Can’t Sleep on the Job, Especially when it’s a Matter of Life or Death!

Affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups, have been a popular tool for companies to meet diversity and inclusion goals by helping to attract, retain and develop women, minorities, and other underrepresented protected groups in the corporate hierarchy.  Recent estimates have shown that up to 90% of Fortune 500 corporations utilize affinity groups to promote a more inclusive and diverse work environment.  Other benefits of affinity groups for corporations include employee mentorship opportunities, the exchange of ideas, suggestions to improve company culture, and increased employee morale by displaying company support for employees’ voices and interests. Continue Reading To Affinity and Beyond: A Look at Legal Risks and Recent Trends in Corporate Affinity Groups

Many employers would like to ensure that employees focus on their work during their working time – after all, that’s what they’re being paid to do! One way employers attempt to prevent distractions is by implementing a policy that prohibits employees from soliciting their co-workers (Buy cookies! Participate in this raffle! Come to my church supper! Join a union!) or giving them written materials to read while at work. Continue Reading Guidelines for a Valid No-Solicitation/No-Distribution Policy

So after a hiatus of many years, the Department of Labor has once again begun issuing opinion letters, which are responses to a particular employer’s situation that offer guidance to all employers on specific issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This is quite exciting for employment law nerds like me – and one of these letters highlighted an interesting interaction between the FLSA and disability laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and analogous state laws. (OK, I know that you’re on the edge of your seat now…) Continue Reading When the FLSA and the ADA Meet…

New York City is often on the fringe.  From its fashion to its tall buildings to its restaurants, the Big Apple likes to be cutting edge.  Even when it comes to its laws.  Really, who can forget the controversial proposed ban on “big” sugary sodas?  Fortunately, that specific attempt to regulate personal choice was ultimately stopped in its tracks.  Continue Reading New York City Proposes Right to “Ignore Your Boss” Law

On April 9, 2018, the Department of Labor announced the issuance of a Field Assistance Bulletin clarifying the recent amendments to the tip pooling provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which were incorporated in the omnibus budget bill that was passed by Congress on March 21, 2018. Additionally (but without fanfare), the DOL revised its Fact Sheet #15: “Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).” The Bulletin clarifies that employers who pay the full minimum wage to tipped employees may require their participation in tip pools that include workers who are not “customarily and regularly” tipped – an issue that had been subject to significant controversy. Continue Reading DOL Provides Clarification on FLSA Tip Pooling Amendments

As a minority female, I have had my share of being harassed, and I have felt rage at the unfairness. I completely understand the desire to lash out at the harasser. But actually burning them with a cigarette? Well, that crosses the line (unless, of course, the harasser is threatening physical harm. Then, all bets – and gloves – are off!) But that’s what one employee did, and yet she was surprised when the employer fired her for it. Continue Reading Burning a Customer Is Not the Appropriate Response to Harassment