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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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02 Sep 2015 Man Bites Dog: Court Vacates Arbitration Award Against Sexual Harasser

It is the rare occasion when a court throws out an arbitration award. Typically the court’s ability to do so is quite limited by statute and/or the collective bargaining agreement under which the arbitration award. But a New York appellate court recently vacated an arbitrator’s award that put a bus driver (and union official) back to work even though he did not even show up to a hearing to contest sexual harassment charges against him. Recognizing its limited ability to vacate an arbitration award, the court…

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01 Sep 2015 Employer Changes Mind, Denies Accommodation to Deaf Applicant, Heads to Jury

A federal appellate court ruled that an employer that rescinded an offer of employment to a deaf applicant for a position monitoring plasma donors does not get summary judgment on the applicant’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) failure to accommodate claim, and the case should proceed to a jury.  The court found the applicant presented two potential accommodations that would overcome her inability to hear audible alarms from donors the reasonableness of which must be determined by a jury – (1) installing visual or vibrating…

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27 Aug 2015 The Witness Files: 10 People We Keep Seeing in Workplace Investigations (cont.)

I have written here and here on BT Currents about the fact that it seems there are a handful of types of characters – among the complainants, the accuseds and the innocent bystanders alike – who seem to present themselves over and over again in workplace investigations, and a series I have written on i-sight.com about these characters and key strategies for dealing with each of them. The 10 characters I have identified are the following:   Complainants – Poor performer – Questionable complainant –…

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27 Jul 2015 Employee Can’t Count to 15 Under ADA Using Volunteers or Other Companies’ Employees

  One of the most significant ongoing type of employment issues is the treatment as employees of individuals the employer thought were not — interns are found to be entitled to back wages, nominal independent contractor status is repeatedly challenged in court and temporary agency workers are at risk of being treated as the customer’s employees as well.  Workers found to be employees are entitled to the protections of the various employment laws.   A secondary but sometimes equally important implication of employee status is…

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15 Jul 2015 ADA Decision Shows Need to Work with Employee Who Doesn’t Fit the … Mold

A recent federal district court decision shows the importance for employers to work through asserted employee health issues and document that they have done so.  The case involves Resa O’Reilly, who was hired for a government job.  Almost immediately after she began work, she began experiencing a number of physical symptoms – headaches, sinus pressure, eye pain and numbness.  She experienced the symptoms only when she was at work.  She was away from work for training for a few weeks without problem.  As soon as…

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06 Jul 2015 Performance You Can Measure Is Best Defense, FMLA Case Demonstrates

I often find myself counseling clients that the more measurable a performance issue is, the easier it is for the employer to prove that issue is the true, nondiscriminatory reason for a termination or other job action in the face of a discrimination or other employment claim. Sales employees almost always have measurable data about their performance, which seemingly provides an objective basis for employment decisions taken against individuals whose sales number are lowest. Such decisions are not bullet proof; for example, the employee may…

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01 Jul 2015 An Annual Ritual: Massachusetts Noncompete Legislation

We wrote last year about significant legislative efforts to ban noncompetes in Massachusetts. Proponents of such a ban, including Governor Patrick, contend that Massachusetts suffers a brain drain in the high-technology field because talent flees to California, where as many readers will know, noncompetes are virtually banned. In other words, a tech whiz would rather work in California where she may move freely from company to company rather than being limited by a noncompete. Certain high-tech interests in Massachusetts support a ban, whereas most traditional…

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22 Jun 2015 Does Being “Perceived As” Muslim Support A Title VII Claim? One Court Says Yes

Readers will know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is distinctive among discrimination statutes in that it protects not only people who are disabled but also those regarded as disabled, as discussed here and here.  The foundation of a Title VII sex discrimination in the language “because of sex” also creates potential gray areas as to exactly who the law protects.  Generally, however, a person either is in a protected class or is not.   This recent case from a Michigan federal court flags…

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15 Jun 2015 If the payroll company says it’s an employee …

I wrote here and here earlier this year about the importance of employers carefully reviewing who they consider to be an independent contractor so the employer avoids the various legal problems that can arise as misclassifying workers who should be employees as independent contractors. A recent decision from a federal court in Florida is another lesson in this. In Rezendes v. Domenick’s Blinds, two workers – an installer and a seamstress – won summary judgment from the court in a wage/hour case that they should…

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01 Jun 2015 Colorado ACLU Posts Settlement Agreement Providing for Place to Breastfeed

We have written here before about the still relatively new Department of Labor rules providing that breastfeeding women must be provided with a private place – not a bathroom – to express milk for up to one year after childbirth.  Because of the relative newness of these rules, and the fact that in small workplaces it can take some rearranging to comply, these obligations are not yet intuitive for some employers.   Last week a settlement between a former employee and a beauty salon was…

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