So, as you may or may not know, I periodically review the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s quarterly Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law for fun. (I know, I need a better hobby). Among the summaries of recent EEOC decisions and federal court opinions related to the federal workplace, a digest might also contain an in-depth article on a particularly hot area of interest to the EEOC. Although the articles are targeted towards federal agencies, as I’ve previously noted, they offer private employers a roadmap as to the EEOC’s thinking. And the most recent article is just chock full of interesting tidbits about pay discrimination – a topic of particular focus for the Biden administration. In fact, the article is so jam-packed, I’m going to break it up into a few different blog posts, starting off with this one, which covers the EEOC’s discussion of the  Equal Pay Act v. Title VII. I’ve boiled down the EEOC’s discussion into a more direct comparison of the differences.

Continue Reading The EEOC Speaks: Pay Discrimination – the EPA v. Title VII

In all states but Montana, employment is presumed to be at-will, meaning that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause or notice. That is, EXCEPT if there’s an employment contract (including a collective bargaining agreement for unionized employees) or where the termination would violate a law (like anti-discrimination statutes or other statutes that specifically prohibit termination for exercising certain employee rights, like taking protected leave) – or (of relevance here) where it would violate public policy.

Continue Reading Is the Right to Self-Defense an Exception to Employment-at-Will?

While there are plenty of employees who legitimately need and appropriately use Family and Medical Leave Act leave, there are some bad apples out there who abuse FMLA leave, typically to cover a day off here and there – and employers are often frustrated with how to deal with them. While the FMLA itself provides some limited recourse (mostly in terms of certifications and recertifications) for employers to question overall patterns of use, it doesn’t really address specific incidents of intermittent leave use. So what can employers do? Well, one option might be to hire a private investigator.

Continue Reading Employers May Use a Private Investigator to Validate an Employee’s Use of FMLA Leave

In the latest entry in our series on extraordinary workplace misconduct, we must come to terms with the fact that not everyone loves birthdays or surprises. And, when an employee tells you that they don’t want a surprise birthday party, you’d best oblige them or you could face a discrimination suit and a nearly half a million-dollar jury verdict!

As the Washington Post, New York Times, and our Twitter scrolling reported, a Kentucky-based medical laboratory, Gravity Diagnostics, was found liable by a jury for disability discrimination when it fired an employee who suffered from an anxiety disorder that caused panic attacks. As a result, the jury awarded $450,000 in damages for lost wages and emotional distress. However, it’s the series of events that prompted the employer’s actions that are truly extraordinary.

Continue Reading Extraordinary Workplace Misconduct: Celebrating you is a piece of cake…

With the play-in games underway, March Madness has officially descended upon employers everywhere. An estimated 40 million Americans will fill out tournament brackets, and chances are all of them will be imperfect (1 in 120.2 billion to be exact, and that’s only if you know a little bit about basketball).  During this time of the year, employers should keep in mind legal implications of any office bracket pools, and should plan to keep a closer eye on productivity given how much is typically lost in March.  Whether employees are working from home or from the office, chances are they may use their work time to make picks. And when the tournament begins, you can be sure that many employees will be checking scores during their work time, if not actually watching the game. This post will serve as a helpful guide to employers on March Madness issues  in the workplace, including gambling and lost productivity, and will provide helpful recommendations on how employers should navigate them.

Continue Reading An (Updated) Employer’s Guide to March Madness

Is it considered identify theft? Interview fraud? Maybe something like the prank that Jim and Pam pulled on Dwight when they replaced Jim with an actor? Whatever it is, employers should beware that applicants are no longer just puffing the proficiency of their skills, but have come up with surprisingly bold and creative ways to fraudulently secure a job through the virtual interview process.

One recent example of what the New York Times terms “extensive image creation” was reported by askamanager.org. A company’s new hire turned out not to be the same person that was interviewed for the position. After three rounds of interviews, one of the hiring managers noticed that something was off with their new hire after a little over a week on the job. The first signs that something was afoot included the new hire wearing glasses when he had worn none during his interview, and he had completely different hair. The new hire had previously made references to being single during his interview from an indoor desk area, but he now spoke with coworkers about having to work in the garage because his three children and wife were at home. He also “re-introduced” himself to an HR Business Partner who was on two of three rounds of interviews and had extensive discussions with the new hire. Even more, the new hire couldn’t answer questions which were pivotal to the position even though they were previously confidently and articulately discussed in the interview.

Continue Reading Who are you and what did you do with my job candidate?

In our occasional series spotlighting outrageous workplace conduct, we have come across an incredible, albeit petty, means of payment: pennies. Rarely does the inconsequential piece of copper find itself in the headlines. But, one former employee likely saw enough pennies in one day to last him a lifetime.

Continue Reading Extraordinary Workplace Misconduct: Petty Pennies

On January 25, 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it was withdrawing its beleaguered Emergency Temporary Standard that required employers with 100+ employees to mandate employees to be vaccinated or subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. With this action, the vax-or-test mandate is no more – for now. However, healthcare employers should be aware that, in addition to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ vaccine mandate that was recently allowed to take effect by the Supreme Court, they will soon be subject to a permanent standard replacing the healthcare ETS that OSHA previously withdrew in December 2021. 
Continue Reading OSHA Withdraws Vax-or-Test ETS, Plans to Issue Permanent Healthcare Standard

[UPDATE – The DOL seems to have removed the fact sheet from its website – but we captured a printout. We also note that the fact sheet referenced the Vax-or-Test ETS as if it were still in existence; perhaps that’s why it was pulled. Be warned that the printout is NOT official and, according to the DOL, should NOT be relied upon! In other words, you won’t be able to cite to the guidance, but we believe the general FLSA principles will likely not change in any future guidance.]

For much of the past year or so, employers have struggled with the question of whether they must pay employees for the time spent getting vaccinated against or tested for COVID-19, particularly during off-duty hours. The U.S. Department of Labor has finally issued guidance on this issue under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Continue Reading The DOL (Finally!) Provides Guidance on Compensability of COVID Testing/Vaccination Time!

Determining pay based on gender is wrong. It’s also pernicious. The domino effect of an inappropriately depressed starting wage can impact pay for one’s lifetime. It’s also illegal under Federal and State anti-discrimination laws; pay decisions must be based on the job, not protected characteristics, including a person’s gender. Beyond these laws, which often address alleged violations after-the-fact, pay equity increasingly is being dealt with by State laws prohibiting inquiries about past salary and/or that require employers to provide applicants with salary ranges for the job they are seeking. The goal is to head off discrimination and stop the dominos from tumbling toward a lifetime of depressed wages. All of these laws are premised on the statistics that show women earn roughly 83 % of wages earned by men.

Continue Reading Pay Equity – What’s Good for the Gander is Good for the Goose?