On June 6, 2018, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued guidance on lawful and unlawful handbook rules under the National Labor Relations Act. This guidance follows the GC’s December 1, 2017 withdrawal of prior guidance on handbook rules that had been issued in 2015. Shortly thereafter, on December 14, 2017, the Board issued its decision in The Boeing Co., in which it articulated a new and more balanced test for assessing the legality of workplace rules, applicable to both unionized and non-unionized employers. Continue Reading NLRB Issues New (And More Balanced) Guidance on Handbook Rules
I LOVE when people bring treats into the office. From bagels, to muffins, to cakes, to cookies – I will eat them all. That’s why when I saw a story about brownies being brought into an office with a little something extra baked into them (hint, the secret ingredient was NOT love), I was taken aback. Continue Reading Lessons Learned from those “Special” Treats in the Breakroom or at the Office Party
I have a friend who is a high school biology teacher. A few years ago, her class dissected a sheep’s brain. After class, one of her students confessed to her that he had licked the brain!!! (I’ll pause here for a moment so you can wrap your own brain around that….) Unsurprisingly, this caused an immediate uproar. The school nurse was appropriately concerned about possible health issues (prions that can cause horrific diseases, poisonous chemicals, etc.). On the other hand, an administrator questioned whether my friend had failed to preemptively instruct her students NOT TO LICK THE BRAIN. Um, what? I think we can agree that is one of those things that is so glaringly obvious you should not have to spell it out as a general matter. Continue Reading Starbucks – Training Employees on the Obvious?
On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis that employment agreements containing waivers of the right to bring class or collective actions over employment-related disputes are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In so doing, the Court rejected the National Labor Relation Board’s position that such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) – a position subject to much controversy in the courts and federal agencies. Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Approves Use of Class Waivers in Employment Agreements
I know I’m dating myself, but as a lawyer of a certain age, I like a legal agreement to be in paper, with handwritten signatures. The growing use of electronic agreements and signatures is certainly easy and convenient, but it still gives me a little queasy feeling – like the agreement doesn’t really exist. (Don’t even get me started on bitcoin…) I don’t mean to suggest that electronic agreements and signatures aren’t valid. They certainly can be, as I discussed in detail in a prior blog post, Electronic Signatures v. Handwritten Signatures. But, as I also explained in that post, the use of electronic methods does open the door to questions about whether employees actually entered into the agreements in question, as happened in the recent case of Gupta v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC. Continue Reading Wait – That E-mail Is a Legal Agreement?
As an employment attorney, I deal with new issues nearly every day. But, there’s one issue that seems to come up on a regular basis. It involves employers asking for advice about terminating employees who have violated work rules but also have engaged in legally protected activities, such as taking leave under the FMLA. Employers are often hesitant to terminate such employees for bad behavior out of fear of being accused of violating the law. A case out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Arana v. Temple University Health System) from last week provides support to employers that discipline and even terminate employees for violating workrules put in place for safety purposes. Continue Reading No, You Can’t Sleep on the Job, Especially when it’s a Matter of Life or Death!
Affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups, have been a popular tool for companies to meet diversity and inclusion goals by helping to attract, retain and develop women, minorities, and other underrepresented protected groups in the corporate hierarchy. Recent estimates have shown that up to 90% of Fortune 500 corporations utilize affinity groups to promote a more inclusive and diverse work environment. Other benefits of affinity groups for corporations include employee mentorship opportunities, the exchange of ideas, suggestions to improve company culture, and increased employee morale by displaying company support for employees’ voices and interests. Continue Reading To Affinity and Beyond: A Look at Legal Risks and Recent Trends in Corporate Affinity Groups
New York City is often on the fringe. From its fashion to its tall buildings to its restaurants, the Big Apple likes to be cutting edge. Even when it comes to its laws. Really, who can forget the controversial proposed ban on “big” sugary sodas? Fortunately, that specific attempt to regulate personal choice was ultimately stopped in its tracks. Continue Reading New York City Proposes Right to “Ignore Your Boss” Law
In a previous post about pet bereavement leave, I noted that the Family and Medical Leave Act does not provide leave to care for an ill or dying pet. (Because a pet is not technically a family member. Really. Despite how we pet-owners feel about our fur babies. That’s mine in the picture.) But I also said that, “if an employee becomes depressed because of the death of a pet, it is possible that this could rise to the level of a disability that would require a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or a serious health condition for which leave must be granted under the [Family and Medical Leave Act].” I further noted, however, that most people may experience grief but not become clinically depressed as the result of a pet’s death. So my interest was piqued by a recent case in which the employee claimed that his insomnia following his dog’s death was a serious health condition under the FMLA. Continue Reading No FMLA for Pet’s Death
Apple has a new $5 billion headquarters building on its campus in Cupertino, California. It was constructed from the imagination of iconic founder, Steve Jobs, who envisioned the structure with its glass-encased interior and exterior rings as a true “temple of design” (according to the San Francisco Chronicle). In fact, architecture and interior design often are aspirational. We construct spaces to reflect not who we are, but who we would like to be, to elevate us from the clutter of our messy lives to a higher plateau. We seek feng shui – uplifting energy. Sometimes, however, concept clashes with real life (like when I realized my amazing new master bathroom with the walk in shower and granite counters had no place to hang hand towels; my interior designer thought that towel rings would interrupt the feng shui).
Continue Reading Does Apple’s New HQ Violate OSHA?