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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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.
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On May 2, 2018, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.  That Act, which requires all employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees (with some exceptions), is scheduled to go into effect on October 29, 2018.  A summary of the Act’s requirements and obligations is provided below:
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A recent case highlighted a important point under the Americans with Disabilities Act that is often overlooked – reasonable accommodations are not limited only to enabling employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs! They must also be provided to allow those employees to enjoy privileges and benefits of employment equal to non-disabled employees!
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Several months ago, OSHA proposed to rescind part of its revised workplace injury and illness reporting rule, which was originally issued in May 2016. The rule contained controversial electronic reporting requirements, which OSHA proposes to rescind for the most part (as we discussed in our July 2018 E-Update). As I mentioned in a recent blog post, OSHA Pre-empts CBA Drug-Testing Provisions?, this action caused me to revisit some older guidance on compliance with the surviving aspects of the rule – including the prohibition on discouraging employees from reporting workplace injuries or illnesses.
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