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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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26 Aug 2013 You May Have More Employees Than You Think (Part II)

Following on last week’s post about a Sixth Circuit case counting certain volunteers as employees for purposes of determining whether an employer has the requisite number of employees to be covered by the FMLA, recent guidance from the EEOC cautions employers that individuals designated as “partners” or other owner-type positions may in fact be employees for purposes of determining eligibility under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). These two involve different laws and different groups of potential employees, but share the important takeaway for employers –…

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20 Aug 2013 Back to School: Time to Focus on Takeaways from Supreme Court Flurry

The end of the U.S. Supreme Court term in June included an extraordinary number of important decisions, in employment law and otherwise. Sometimes it is hard to take it all in as the new stories and alerts fly, so we thought it was a good idea now that the dust has settled to review the three key employment cases and their implications. If you missed our webinar on the topic last week a quick summary follows.   Tina Syring-Petrocchi began by reviewing Vance v. Ball…

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12 Aug 2013 Sixth Circuit: No Way to Agree to Shorten FLSA Statute of Limitations

In 2004, a Sixth Circuit decision, Thurman v. DaimlerChrysler, drew much attention by upholding in the context of a Title VII and state law discrimination claim a provision on the employer’s employment application that read: I agree that any claim or lawsuit relating to my service with [DaimlerChrysler] or any of its subsidiaries must be filed no more than six (6) months after the date of the employment action that is the subject of the claim or lawsuit. I waive any statute of limitations to…

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25 Jul 2013 Associational Discrimination: Perfectly Healthy Employee Can Have Disability Claim

A recent Massachusetts Supreme Court decision highlights a form of discrimination that employers may not always remember – associational discrimination. Associational discrimination is workplace discrimination against one for his relationship with another, and is expressly recognized in the Americans with Disabilities Act. In this case, the court recognized such a claim under a counterpart state law. In Flagg v. Alimed, Inc., a long-time employee’s wife had surgery for a brain tumor and the employee needed extra time to care for his children. The employee’s manager told him “to…

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19 Jul 2013 Straying from Past Practice in Investigation Raises Retaliation Risk

A recent 7th Circuit case demonstrates the importance of carefully designing workplace investigations to account for a variety of potential claims. In Hobgood v. Illinois Gaming Board, a gaming board employee filed suit against his employer alleging unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII and the First Amendment. The employee was terminated for helping his coworker organize and research a suit against the gaming board, citing widespread corruption in its hiring policies. Additionally, the employee supplied two confidential documents supporting the coworker’s claims. The coworker’s lawsuit…

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15 Jul 2013 Update: Still Legal to Fire the ‘Irresistible’ Employee in Iowa

A few months ago we wrote about the Iowa Supreme Court decision holding that it was not gender discrimination for a dentist to fire his attractive assistant at his wife’s behest because she was deemed a threat to the dentist’s marriage. Last week we got to relive this case in the media (social and otherwise) when the court declined the employee’s motion asking the court to reconsider its position. While it is certainly the exception for courts to reverse their own decisions (the employee probably…

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21 Jun 2013 The Witness Files: Deja Vu All Over Again in Workplace Investigations

Over time, as lawyers and HR professionals and others conduct numerous workplace investigations, we find that, while each investigation is unique, we “meet” the same characters over and over. With that in mind, I am writing monthly posts on the i-Sight.com blog about those composite witnesses and strategies for dealing with them. The first post that I’ve authored, entitled “The Clueless, Yet Compliant, Accused,” features the supervisor who really does want to improve his clueless behavior (a relatively easy case in many respects); while the…

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19 Jun 2013 Employers May Come Up, Um, Short Under ADA

A decision last week from the U.S. District Court for Arizona highlights a point made previously in this space – for better or worse, the number of people protected by discrimination laws almost never goes down, rather we just keep adding protected classes and who is covered under them. In this decision, the Court opened the Pandora’s Box of possibly protecting short employees under the ADA. The case involves an allegedly bullying supervisor – accusing the plaintiff of mistakes that turned out to the supervisor’s…

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13 May 2013 Gov. Christie The First to Stand Up to Social Media Legislation Wave?

New Jersey’s legislature recently tried to make it the 8th state to restrict employers from requiring employees to provide social media passwords in the hiring and other employment processes. This trend, somewhat odd in that it addresses a problem that nobody seems to think actually exists (i.e. employers are not really requiring passwords of applicants), started approximately a year ago. New Jersey’s legislation arguably would have been the most restrictive such legislation to date. Governor Christie, however, vetoed the legislation, stating that he would like to see…

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06 May 2013 Shy Bladder Syndrome Lawsuit Reminds: Applicants Get Reasonable Accommodation

A recently filed Americans with Disabilities Act case alleges that an Iowa hospital refused to accommodate an applicant’s shy bladder syndrome. The condition is an anxiety condition that makes it difficult or impossible for an individual to urinate in non-private or other conditions. Jennifer Connor alleges that she suffers from this condition and was a qualified applicant for a position at the defendant hospital. Ms. Conner would normally run water or flush the toilet in order to be able to use a public restroom. For a mandatory drug test, she was…

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