$3.8 million dollars. That’s what a Tucson, Arizona jury awarded to a former fire paramedic denied workplace accommodations required under the Fair Labor Standards Act for women who want to pump breast milk for their infants. Under the law, for the first year after the birth of a child, employers must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable breaks to pump. Employers also must provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from the view of others and that is free from intrusion by coworkers or others.
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March Madness has descended upon employers everywhere. Yesterday was Selection Sunday for the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament, and today, an estimated 40 million Americans will begin filling out their tournament brackets – many of them at work. And when the tournament begins, you can be sure that many employees will be checking scores at the office, if not actually watching the game. Others may call in sick after a late night game (particularly if their team lost). Team gear, talking smack – what to do?
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And with that elegantly pointed statement, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated an opinion on the Equal Pay Act that had been issued by the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (i.e. the entire group of judges on the Ninth Circuit bench). The opinion had been authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who unexpectedly passed away on March 29, 2018. The opinion was not issued until April 9, 2018 – 11 days after his death.
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In my occasional series on the crazy things that employees do, here’s one that, in reality, is probably not all that uncommon. Many people use their personal cell phones for work. And as a matter of habit, they may plug their cell phones into their work computer – maybe to sync it or charge it. But what they aren’t thinking about is that the work computer backs up the content on the phone. All. Of. It. (Unless the employee is technically savvy enough to back up only portions of it. Let’s be frank – most people aren’t that savvy.)
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Maryland lawmakers have introduced a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2023. Notably, the State’s minimum wage is currently $10.10 per hour, which is significantly greater than the federal minimum of $7.25. Many progressive leaders and newly elected legislators do not think Maryland’s current minimum wage is high enough, and as a result, there has been an increased push to pass the proposed legislation. If enacted, Maryland would join the notoriously employer-unfriendly jurisdictions like California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. If the experience in those States is a guide, the increased minimum wage would increase the cost of doing business in Maryland, create incentives to deploy technology to reduce labor costs, harm workers who are least skilled (by making them less attractive “at the price” vis-à-vis more skill peers), and create severe obstacles for businesses operating within the State. 
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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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