Being “on the spectrum” is a pretty common way of referring to individuals with autism (although my husband, a doctor, had never heard of that. Where has he been? Granted, he’s a pathologist, so doesn’t deal directly with live patients, but nonetheless…). Of course, there are varying degrees of severity of symptoms, and some people with social communication or interaction challenges do not actually have autism spectrum disorder. But these symptoms can pose challenges for those individuals in the workplace – and for their employers as well.

Continue Reading Employers, Are You Regarding Those Socially Awkward Employees as Disabled?

As many employers sadly know, those retaliation claims can be more problematic than a discrimination or harassment claim. Federal and state discrimination laws protect employees not only from discrimination or harassment, but also from retaliation for opposing discrimination/harassment, or making a charge/complaint, testifying, assisting, or participating in any way in a discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or lawsuit. Often an employer successfully defends against an underlying claim of discrimination, only to lose on the retaliation claim.

Continue Reading Retaliation Claims Can Drive You Nuts!

Have you read the warnings on prescription painkillers? They can be pretty scary – “May cause drowsiness.” “May cause dizziness.” “Do not operate a car or dangerous machinery.” (Or words to that effect). I think by now, everyone is aware of the risks associated with controlled substances. Certainly, the opioid epidemic did not earn its name lightly. So it’s not surprising that some employers are concerned when employees take prescription medications that come with those warnings – particularly when those employees are working with heavy machinery or sharp objects, or getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. But it is important for employers to understand when they can – and cannot – prohibit employees on such medications from working.

Continue Reading Employers – Don’t Automatically Assume Prescription Meds Pose a Danger in the Workplace

When considering a request for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, many employers focus on what will enable an employee to perform the essential functions of their job. But the reasonable accommodation obligation is actually broader than that. As set forth in the EEOC’s regulations, employers must also provide reasonable accommodations that enable an employee with a disability “to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.” And this encompasses certain activity outside the workplace – such as parking.

Continue Reading Reasonable Accommodations Don’t Just Start at the Office Door…

As reported in the New York Times, more than two dozen employees were injured last week during a team-building activity in which they walked over hot coals in their bare feet (?!!!). The Times described that “Ten ambulances, two emergency medical teams and police officers from multiple agencies were deployed to help, according to the Zurich police. Thirteen people were briefly hospitalized.” The Times further noted that this activity – originally a religious ritual found in a number of cultures – has become popular as a corporate team-building exercise in recent years. (Ummmmm….)

Continue Reading Extraordinary Workplace Misconduct: Perhaps Firewalking Is Not the Best Team-building Activity…

In this third (and final) post of our mini-series based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s pay discrimination article, we’ll take a look at the barriers to pay equity identified by the EEOC and their suggestions for preventing pay discrimination. As previously noted, the EEOC issues a quarterly digest of EEO law that sometimes includes an article, like this one, providing insight into the EEOC’s approach to (and expansion of!) discrimination protections for employees. Again, while the EEOC’s article is focused on the federal workplace, many of their observations and action items are equally applicable to the private workplace. Our first post discussed pay discrimination claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, and the second addressed the intersectionality and sex-plus discrimination theories. So now we move from the legal theories to the practical considerations.

Continue Reading The EEOC Speaks: Pay Discrimination – Barriers and Suggested Actions

In my first blog post in this little series based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s article “In Pursuit of Pay Examining Barriers to Equal Pay, Intersectional Discrimination Theory, and Recent Pay Equity Initiatives,” I covered the EEOC’s explanation of the difference between pay discrimination claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. (As I explained last time, the EEOC issues a quarterly Digest of EEO Law that occasionally contains articles of interest to the private employer community. Prior articles that I’ve shared include those on fragmentation of harassment claims,  religious discrimination, comparing harassment prevention to crime prevention, and new types of race discrimination, among other things). In this post, we’ll review the EEOC’s take on intersectionality (one of the EEOC’s new favorite topics) and sex-plus discrimination in the context of pay discrimination claims.
Continue Reading The EEOC Speaks: Pay Discrimination – Intersectionality and Sex-Plus

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