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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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03 Oct 2014 Watch Your Language in the Workplace: Timeless Challenge for Employers LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  Some employment law issues, employers can address or at least manage with the appropriate proactive steps. Just scan through recent BT Currents posts for some examples – lawfully managing an employee’s request for accommodation, whether it be for religious or health reasons, or documenting the reasons for a RIF.  Potentially hard issues to be sure, but ones over which employers and their lawyers have some degree of control.   Much harder to manage, however, are the problems that occasionally arise from (excuse the technical…

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26 Sep 2014 Kentucky Decision Requiring Arbitration Shows A Little Language Makes a Big Difference LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  K is for this week’s Kentucky decision on the subject of the enforceability of class action waivers, a continuing hot topic we have reported on here and here. The Western District of Kentucky’s decision in Coram v. Shepherd Communications, Inc. highlights that seemingly small bits of contractual language can be decisive. This decision seemingly turned on contractual language providing that an arbitrator would have the authority to allocate the costs and fees of a matter on a case by case basis.   The lawsuit involved…

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19 Sep 2014 Jehovah’s Witness’s Claims Highlight Employer Need to Manage Workplace Religion Issues LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  A “split decision” on a Jehovah’s Witness’s claims against his university employer serves as a good refresher for employers on the issues they must be aware of in dealing with employee religious issues.  For this week’s letter of the law, J is for Bernard Westbrook, the Jehovah’s Witness who brought these claims.  The decision from a federal district court in North Carolina can be found here.   Bernard Westbrook was first employed by North Carolina A&T University in 1994, and first began working for…

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05 Sep 2014 Indiana Follows Illinois in Key Noncompete Decisions from the Heartland LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  With apologies to Iowa, home to the somewhat famous (infamous?) case of the dental assistant fired for being irresistible and Idaho (not yet featured in BT Currents), Letter of the Law this week features two of the “I states” for some of the more noteworthy noncompete decisions of the last year. As readers know, the key driver in noncompete drafting and enforcement often is the dynamic of varying state laws. Employers and practitioners need to keep tabs on developments outside their own state because, try as…

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22 Aug 2014 Home Sweet Home? Employers and Employees Are Just Scratching the Surface of How Work and Home Fit Together LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  Employers and their lawyers spend a lot of time focused on current developments and medium term trends, as they must. But after you have worked in employment law for a while, it is interesting to stop and reflect every now and then on the inexorable long term trends that shape our workplaces. (And that is actually pretty useful in effectively addressing shorter term issues.)  Two stand out for me:   1. Regardless of how one spins year to year blips, private sector unions have…

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15 Aug 2014 It Depends: The Top 3 Inherently Gray Areas of Employment Law LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

Fact-specific.   Case by case.   These are just two of the terms that stand for one of the frustrating (for employers) truths of many areas of employment law:  there are few black and white answers. There are endless shades of gray, and in honor of this week’s letter of the law (G), we recognize three common gray areas and some specific questions that must be asked when addressing situations under each. The fact that there are so many questions that need to be answered…

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08 Aug 2014 FMLA AND FITNESS FOR DUTY LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  An employer may require an employee to provide a “fitness for duty” certification when he or she returns from taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), assuring that employees are able to safely perform all job duties when they return to work. Employers should be careful to comply with Department of Labor guidance on such certifications and, where this guidance feels unduly restrictive (which happens), consult with counsel on how best to proceed.  The requirement for certifications should be uniformly applied…

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01 Aug 2014 Employee Evaluation Practices Under Scrutiny LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

Recent weeks have seen employee evaluation practices in the news several times. For example, following an investigation into its employee review system, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced in May of this year that it would completely eliminate performance ratings previously assigned to some employees. In addition, the Bureau decided to assign high performance ratings to employees who received certain lower ratings in the past two years and to provide pay raises to those employees.   The Bureau had come under fire due to…

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25 Jul 2014 Donning & Doffing: Old Is New Again LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  Our Letter of the Law series is focused on current employment law developments, and donning and doffing wage disputes are anything but “new” to the courts.  The U.S. Supreme Court and Congress were dealing with donning and doffing work clothing and equipment in the 1940s.  (Perhaps that is obvious given that nobody really says “donning” or “doffing” in recent years other than in this context.)   But donning and doffing, and when employees must be paid for getting dressed for work, continues as an…

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18 Jul 2014 Collective and Class Actions: Interns, Assistant Managers – and their Lawyers! LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  While working through an alphabet of employment issues is not an exact science, the letter C must belong to collective and class actions. Collective and class actions in the employment arena are a longer term trend where a group of people with allegedly common legal issues can come together in a single action.   Often these actions involve very small alleged wrongs – ever receive a check for a few bucks in the mail because you, without lifting a finger, were part of a…

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