I often tell my crazy teenagers that it doesn’t matter what you mean to say – it matters what the other person actually hears. (I’m not sure they actually hear me when I say that…) And a recent Family and Medical Leave Act case proves my point and provides a lesson for employers. Curlee v. Lewis Bros. Bakeries Inc. of Tennessee highlights the need for employers to be very careful and very clear in their verbal communications with employees about Family and Medical Leave Act obligations.
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March Madness has descended upon employers everywhere. Yesterday was Selection Sunday for the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament, and today, an estimated 40 million Americans will begin filling out their tournament brackets – many of them at work. And when the tournament begins, you can be sure that many employees will be checking scores at the office, if not actually watching the game. Others may call in sick after a late night game (particularly if their team lost). Team gear, talking smack – what to do?
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According to Pharmajet Blog, a surprising number of pharmacists suffer from trypanophobia – the fear of giving injections, which most in their profession have to do these days during flu season. As Pharmajet notes, the Americans with Disabilities Act generally does not help the needle-phobic pharmacist because companies have a right to define the essential functions of a job.


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And with that elegantly pointed statement, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated an opinion on the Equal Pay Act that had been issued by the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (i.e. the entire group of judges on the Ninth Circuit bench). The opinion had been authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who unexpectedly passed away on March 29, 2018. The opinion was not issued until April 9, 2018 – 11 days after his death.
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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.)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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