I’ve previously written about an employer’s obligation to accommodate service or emotional support animals in the workplace, as well as guidelines the employer should consider if it finds itself on the receiving end of such a request.  At the time of that blog post, the EEOC had filed suit in the Northern District of Iowa alleging that a national trucking conglomerate failed to accommodate, refused to hire, and then retaliated against a veteran truck driver because he used a service dog, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). (The ADA both prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to such employees to enable them to perform their essential job functions or enjoy the privileges and benefits of employment.) That case ultimately resulted in a negotiated settlement and consent decree in March 2019.  More recently, in July 2022, the EEOC filed suit against arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby alleging that it violated the ADA by refusing to provide reasonable accommodations and by terminating a cashier who relied upon a service dog to assist her with symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. 

Continue Reading Support/Service Animals in the Workplace – What Should Employers Do?

So I know that many companies are (appropriately!) focused on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) efforts. Some may be frustrated at the slow pace of change, and may wish to pursue those goals more aggressively – but that (ironically) can result in violations of anti-discrimination laws, as I discussed in a prior blog post, Hey CEOs – Be Careful About Diversity Hiring Quotas. A recent case provides another example of when trying too hard to fix one problem can create new ones.

Continue Reading Firing Employees to Increase Diversity Is Perhaps Not the Best Plan…

A Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board found merit to an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the University of Southern California (USC) misclassified football and basketball players as student-athletes rather than employees and maintained unlawful work rules. In addition, the Complaint will allege the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA are joint employers of the USC athletes. The charge was filed on behalf of the athletes by the National College Players Association, a college athlete advocacy group.
Continue Reading Are College Athletes “Employees” Under Federal Labor Law? We Are About to Find Out…

As you may be aware, there is some contentious litigation ongoing between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, a new and controversial golf league financed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (i.e. the Saudi Arabian government) that aims to become a competitive alternative to the PGA Tour.  If you’ve successfully avoided the barrage of news stories on the issues, I’ll summarize the main points for you here:

Continue Reading Wait, Is that Pro Golfer an Employee or Independent Contractor?

On November 2, 2022, a federal judge in Boston barred Harvard University from using its $15 million litigation claims policy to cover legal expenses in connection with its admissions program lawsuit – because Harvard (yes, that hallowed Ivy League institution, full of very smart people) neglected to give timely notice of the claim. Yikes!

Continue Reading Harvard Fumbled the Bag* – A Lesson for Employers!

Is the playing of obscene and misogynistic rap music in the workplace discriminatory on the basis of sex if it offends women?  A former Tesla employee has asked the U.S. District Court for Nevada to answer “yes” to that question after filing suit against her former employer alleging that, among other things, the obscene and misogynistic rap music, as well as the actions and statements made by her co-workers related to that music, amounted to sexual harassment.

Continue Reading Can Rap Music in the Workplace Create a Hostile Work Environment?

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…