So, you say you want to avoid employment jury trials?  Let’s talk.

The Federal Arbitration Act (and the law of virtually all States that have enacted a version of the Uniform Arbitration Act) favor arbitration.  Contractual agreements that clearly and unmistakably set forth an intent to arbitrate disputes normally will be enforced (barring a judicial “lapse of judgment”).  Key benefit: in arbitration, there is no jury!  Employers know that juries are fickle, and may decide an issue based on empathy and anger rather than the rules of law enunciated in the jury instructions. 
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My brilliant law partner, Fiona Ong, explained last week about why it is unwise to treat a reduction in force (“RIF”) as a “golden opportunity” to rid yourself of those pesky under-performers whose deficiencies were not documented properly.  (We do know why there is no documentation, BTW.  Those underperformers often are gifted at deflecting responsibility, and honest performance evaluations require, well, honest feedback, which unpleasant people abhor.  For managers, who just want to do their jobs, it is much easier to select “meets expectations, meets, meets, meets” than lose hours debating the ratings.) 
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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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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 21st Century is in full swing.  Yet, we still don’t quite know what it means to be a 21C workplace.  We are told Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) will displace tasks performed by many (including lawyers) after we train the machines to perform our tasks.

However, a recent #Wall Street Journal article reminds us that the art of a handshake, eye contact, the ability to sense when a customer has had a bad day, remain business-essential skills which at this point are uniquely human.  And, apparently, increasingly must be taught.  Literally. 
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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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Allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated by top officials are not new, nor are lawsuits or threats of lawsuits based on those allegations.  Wise companies take such matters seriously and, if they conclude that the allegations have merit, take action not just to resolve the matter with the complaining party but to root out the problem so it does not reoccur.  Fire the offender, change the culture and move forward.
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We’ve talked about this before.  There is an ongoing tension between state laws decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes and federal law, under which marijuana is still classified as an illegal Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance.  Back in July, we wrote in our blog that the FDA had recently approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol), which contains a marijuana-derived drug substance, for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy.  As we stated in that blog post, this approval by the FDA did not necessarily signify that the federal government would soon reclassify marijuana, removing it from the list of Schedule 1 drugs because it has a medical purpose.
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Before I became a lawyer or even considered the profession, I was a waitress. I also was a feminist.  I was 18 and working at a restaurant In Providence RI.  Ronnie’s Rascal House!  One of the line cooks constantly called me “honey, baby and sweetie.”  Every time I put an order check on the wheel and spun it to him into the kitchen, he said it. One day I had had enough and I said, “I am not your honey or baby or sweetie.”  I snapped those words. He looked at me stunned and said, “I am sorry. I had no idea.”  After that we became very good friends.
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I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to be one of those people who hate dogs.  How could anyone dislike an adorable bundle of fur that excitedly greets you each time you walk in the door, you ask?  I know, it’s crazy.  Fortunately, I’ve come to my senses and now gush over any dog I see – anytime, anywhere.  So this begs the question: will I ever be able to see a dog every day while I’m at work?
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