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?

The 21st Century is in full swing.  Yet, we still don’t quite know what it means to be a 21C workplace.  We are told Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) will displace tasks performed by many (including lawyers) after we train the machines to perform our tasks.

However, a recent #Wall Street Journal article reminds us that the art of a handshake, eye contact, the ability to sense when a customer has had a bad day, remain business-essential skills which at this point are uniquely human.  And, apparently, increasingly must be taught.  Literally.  Continue Reading 21C Workplace Success Begins with a Handshake (and Eye Contact)!

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has a reputation as an employee-friendly forum.  Yet that Court recently rendered a decision that employers should applaud.  In Carlson v. Charter Communications, LLC, the Ninth Circuit refused to revive a former employee’s lawsuit against his employer in which he alleged that he was wrongfully terminated due to his legal use of medical marijuana.  Interestingly, the panel of the Court that issued the decision consisted of two judges appointed by Presidents Clinton and Obama and one judge appointed by President George W. Bush.  The case involved a Montana statute known as the Montana Marijuana Act, which allows patients with state-issued medical marijuana program cards to have a certain amount of marijuana in their possession. Continue Reading Employers Tread Carefully!  The Interplay between Federal and State Laws Regarding Medical Marijuana Usage

Allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated by top officials are not new, nor are lawsuits or threats of lawsuits based on those allegations.  Wise companies take such matters seriously and, if they conclude that the allegations have merit, take action not just to resolve the matter with the complaining party but to root out the problem so it does not reoccur.  Fire the offender, change the culture and move forward. Continue Reading Boards of Directors in the Bullseye: #MeToo and the Fiduciary Duty

As a management-side labor and employment firm, we frequently find ourselves on the other side of unions.  Unions are never shy to point out what they view as unfair, or poor terms and conditions of employment, even if their position is not objectively reasonable.  So what happens when the unions themselves are accused of treating their own employees poorly? Continue Reading Unions, Proponents of Worker’s Rights? Guess Again

Any HR professional who has dealt with the Family and Medical Leave Act knows that determining when and how the statute applies can be very tricky.  One thing that is clear, however, is that employees who have worked for less than one year and have not worked a total of 1250 hours are not eligible for FMLA leave and thus are not protected by the statute.  Or so we thought!  A case from last week, Reif v. Assisted Living by Hillcrest, LLC, dispels the notion that employees who have worked for less than a year are never subject to the protections of the FMLA. Continue Reading Employers Beware: What You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You!