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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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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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11 Jul 2014 A “Bit” of a Challenge to Employers: Bitcoin and Other Alternative Payroll Methods LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

The rise of alternative payroll methods such as prepaid debit cards and Bitcoin is likely to present both opportunities and challenges for employers in the very near future.  In 2013, nearly 4.5 million employees received wages on a payroll card. Major retailers, such as Lord & Taylor and Overstock.com, began accepting Bitcoin as a method of payment. Some employees express a preference for alternative payroll methods.   This growing popularity in unconventional payment methods is no surprise, as the alternatives provide value to both employers…

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03 Jul 2014 Age Discrimination and Technology: Don’t Take a “Mechanized” Approach Letter of the Law: Current Employment Law Issues A-Z

  From robots performing minimally invasive surgical procedures to computerized payroll, almost all businesses look to the latest technology to optimize day-to-day operations.  Employers need to remain mindful, however, of potential employment implications of being “cutting edge.”   For example, in Marlow v. Chesterfield Cnty. Sch. Bd., 749 F. Supp. 2d 417 (E.D. Va. 2010), a terminated school administrator sued her former employer based on circumstantial evidence of age discrimination. Prior to termination, the Superintendent questioned the plaintiff employee’s “21st Century skills.” Additionally, the school corporation…

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23 Jun 2014 Opinions About Noncompetes: Actual Supporting Data Not Required

  I have expressed skepticism here before about theories about the impact of noncompetes on the economy and human behavior. Maybe the expressed theories are right and maybe they’re not, but it just seems that the actual support behind the theories is quite limited.   So of course I had to read “Noncompete Clauses Increasingly Pop Up in an Array of Jobs” in none other than the New York Times.  And as expected it is a series of anecdotes, though there are “plenty of other examples,” and…

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16 Jun 2014 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: COURT OKS “INFLEXIBLE” SIX MONTHS OF LEAVE

  Must an employer allow more than six months sick leave to an ill employee? In Hwang v. Kansas State University, a federal appeals court answered with a clear, “No.”   An assistant professor at Kansas State University was diagnosed with cancer and needed extended time off for treatment. The university granted the professor a six-month paid leave of absence, but it declined to extend her leave after a subsequent request for more time. The university cited its “inflexible” policy, which allowed no more than…

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02 Jun 2014 Employer Cannot Limit Solicitation of Unknown Future Customers, Court Says

  It is common for employers who have restrictive covenants with employees in those agreements to restrict the employees, after their departure, from soliciting company customers. A recent case gave one court’s answer to the question as to how broad that restriction can be. Specifically, West Memphis Steel & Pipe, Inc. restricted two employees from soliciting the companies “past, present or prospective future customers or clients.”  Two employees brought a lawsuit asking the court to determine prospectively that the restriction was overbroad and therefore unenforceable by…

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30 May 2014 FMLA: What if things go better without you?

  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent decision in Saulter v. Detroit Area Agency on Aging highlights a very common scenario – the employer decides that an employee is not necessary when the employee is on leave.  Leaving aside the obvious management question (Why it did it take the employee being on leave for you to figure that out?), of course it is unlawful under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a host of state laws to…

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28 May 2014 Nebraska Decision Reminds: Sometimes There Is No Substitute for a Noncompete

  Here is a very human version of a legal story. In short, an employee left her company (First Express), an Omaha company that sells crop insurance, and took a number of customers with her. At the end of the day, First Express did get some relief against its former employee because of the employee’s breach of a contract, but the Nebraska Supreme Court found that the former employer’s customer lists were not trade secrets. Why? The Court held that most of the information on…

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14 May 2014 Federal Trade Secrets Act: As Big As It Sounds? (And What About Noncompetes?)

  As many readers will be aware, Senators Coons and Hatch recently introduced the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which would create a federal trade secrets law allowing parties aggrieved by the misappropriation of trade secrets (such as former employers!) to bring private actions in federal court.  Right now, former employers seeking to address trade secret misappropriation are governed by state laws, which – in the case of 48 states, some version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.   So why the big news in various…

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