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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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22 Jun 2017 Fourth Circuit Upholds ‘Mark of the Beast’ Jury Verdict

  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously upheld a West Virginia’s jury verdict of nearly $600,000 in favor of the EEOC on behalf of an employee who alleged the company failed to accommodate his religious belief. The employee believed that using the company’s biometric hand-scanning time clock would affix the “Mark of the Beast” as described in the book of Revelation in the Bible. By using the hand scanner, the employee believed he would be marked as a follower of the…

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21 Jun 2017 California Supreme Court Clarifies Day-of-Rest Statutes

  The California Supreme Court recently clarified a question plaguing many California employers. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court of California to address several unresolved questions concerning the construction of California’s day-of-rest statutes.   California Labor Code Sections 550–558.1 prohibit an employer from “caus[ing] his employees to work more than six days in seven” (§ 552), but do not apply “when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six…

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15 Jun 2017 ‘You’re Doing a Great Job Brownie, er Comey . . . and You’re Fired!’ Avoiding Unforced Errors in Employment Terminations

  Last week, former FBI director James Comey testified before a Senate Committee in front of a packed house and with millions more watching on television (the event even was live-streamed in some D.C.-area bars). During the hearing, Comey expressed confusion over being fired for poor performance because before his termination, the president allegedly told him that he was doing a “good job.”   Comey’s testimony is reminiscent of the firing of another government official – Michael Brown. You may remember that Brown was the…

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09 Jun 2017 Lessons Learned – Engaging in Protected Activity Does Not Shield An Employee From Termination

  Navigating the FMLA, the ADA, and a myriad of state laws poses challenges for even the most knowledgeable HR professional. But as one court recently reminded us in Ibewuike v. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, employers can hold employees accountable for misconduct (such as violating leave policies) unless of course, it would be reasonable, under the facts and circumstances of the particular situation, to excuse the misconduct.   In Ibewuike, the employee applied for leave under the FMLA in connection with the anticipated birth of…

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08 Jun 2017 The Age Discrimination in Employment Act Turns 50

  Put 50 candles on the cake. In 1967, the U.S. Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) with the stated purpose “to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; (and) to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.”   Now 50 years later, as baby boomers are moving through the workforce and reaching retirement, the ADEA retains its relevance even…

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08 Jun 2017 Ohio Court Finds New Local Minimum Wage Law Unconstitutional on Technicality

  A Franklin County, Ohio, judge has invalidated a new Ohio law that prohibited municipalities from enacting pro-employee laws raising the local minimum wage and guaranteeing additional employee rights. The law was found to be unconstitutional, but only on procedural grounds.   Ohio Senate Bill 331 started as an animal welfare bill – it regulated the sale of dogs from pet stores, prohibited cockfighting and bearbaiting, and outlawed bestiality. However, during the lame duck legislative session in December 2016, the House Finance Committee added diverse…

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06 Jun 2017 Ohio State University Considers Cutting Benefits for Unmarried Same-Sex Partners

  On June 9, the Ohio State University Board of Trustees will consider whether to stop allowing employees’ unmarried same-sex partners to obtain health insurance and other benefits. If the board approves the change, then unmarried same-sex partners already enrolled in benefit plans would keep those benefits through 2018, but no new unmarried same-sex partners would be allowed to obtain benefits.   This decision is not entirely novel. Miami University made a similar change at the end of 2016, same-sex partners must be married to…

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05 Jun 2017 Are You Recording This Conversation?

  Most of us expect to engage our colleagues without concern that our workplace conversations are secretly recorded. However, today everyone has a smartphone that readily allows for spontaneous photographic, video, and audio recording.   Until recent times, attorneys generally advised clients that it was appropriate to insist that workplace conversation not be recorded. Employers took the position that a team culture did not support recording conversations; colleagues need to be able to speak freely with each other at work.   That argument just lost-out…

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05 Jun 2017 ‘Hey Boss, F*@& You!’ Profanity-Laced Facebook Tirade Not Enough to Get the Axe

  A recent case out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates yet again the perils of firing an employee based on a seemingly inexcusable Facebook tirade. The matter involved an employee for a catering company who was upset that his supervisor admonished him and others in a “raised, harsh tone” about “chitchatting” with co-workers as guests arrived at a catered event. In response, the employee used his cell phone to make a public post on Facebook that said: “Bob is such a NASTY…

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05 Jun 2017 Court Invites EEOC’s Opinion on Whether Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

  We recently updated you on the Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit granted en banc review of the plaintiff’s claim to consider whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Now the court has taken an additional step of inviting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to give its two cents.   The EEOC is already on record in other courts arguing that Title VII covers sexual orientation…

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