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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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23 Dec 2014 Avoid Going From Ho! Ho! Ho! To Oh No! No! No!

The employer throws a holiday party as a chance for its employees to interact with one another on a more social level, have an opportunity to get to know significant others and reward the team for a year of hard work. Unfortunately, this holiday celebration mixed with alcohol and far less formal interaction between colleagues can lead to both employers and employees doing a collective post-party shout of “Oh No!”   For whatever reason, there seems to be a loss of good sense and responsibility…

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22 Dec 2014 Prior Protected Activity Did Not Immunize Employee from Later Bad Acts

An employee who breaks company policies may be disciplined even though that employee previously engaged in protected activity. This proposition may sound uncontroversial, but some bad-acting employees do try and shield themselves from discipline by pointing to earlier instances of protected activity. They may argue that subsequent discipline, while ostensibly based on legitimate reasons, is in fact retaliatory. Some employees may strategically engage in so-called protected activity solely for the purpose of preempting discipline they see coming. In Musolf v. J.C. Penney Co., a case…

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19 Dec 2014 Legalized Loophole – Is Legalized Marijuana Truly “Lawful?”

On Sept. 30, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Coats v. Dish Network, a wrongful termination case centered on use of medical marijuana. In 2000, Colorado passed a law permitting medical marijuana and legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, but the drug is still prohibited under federal law.   Dish Network LLC fired Plaintiff Brandon Coats after he tested positive for the active ingredient in marijuana. Mr. Coats was aware Dish Network had a zero tolerance policy for prohibited substances, including…

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18 Dec 2014 Retailers, Janitorial Firms and Security Services Need to Learn About San Francisco’s New “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights”

California retail establishments with operations in San Francisco should prepare to comply with the new “Predictable Scheduling and Fair Treatment for Formula Retail Employees Ordinance” law, dubbed the “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights” by its proponents. This new law, which is the first of its kind in the United States, applies to “formula retail establishments” and their contractors, and requires them to provide employees with advance notice of work schedules, compensation for last-minute schedule changes and on-call shifts, and equal treatment of part-time and full-time…

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18 Dec 2014 Uber Argues That Its Drivers Are Not Employees

In a case pending in California federal court, Uber is arguing that its drivers are not employees. O’Connor et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc. et al., No. 3:13-cv-03826 (N.D. Cal. filed Aug. 16, 2013). Uber drivers have sued the company in a putative class action that alleges that they were short-changed because they received only a portion of the 20 percent gratuity paid by passengers.   In response, Uber recently filed a motion for summary judgment that argued that its drivers are not employees because…

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20 Nov 2014 Yikes!! AutoZone Hammered with Record $185 Million Dollar Punitive Damages Jury Verdict

A federal jury – not surprisingly from California – recently issued a whopping $185M ($185,000,000) punitive damages verdict in a single-employee gender discrimination case, believed to be a record award. The plaintiff also received over $872k in compensatory damages for front pay, back pay and emotional distress. The case is entitled Juarez v. AutoZone (Case No. 3:08-cv-00417), and currently sits in the Southern District of California.   Ms. Juarez, who originally filed the suit in 2008, claimed that AutoZone imposed a glass ceiling on women…

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18 Nov 2014 The EEOC Sues Yet Another Employer for Allegedly Violating the ADA With Its Inflexible Leave Policy

The EEOC’s position is clear. The ADA requires employers to incorporate flexibility into their leave of absence policies or face the consequences. In late September, we were reminded of this yet again when the EEOC sued a Chicago-area manufacturer for capping the amount of leave provided to employees, without considering whether a reasonable accommodation may exist for each employee. In this latest suit against Doumak, Inc., the EEOC alleged that an employer and its employees’ respective union had violated the ADA by placing a cap…

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17 Nov 2014 Even If The Employee Didn’t See or Know About Harassing Behavior, Court Allows Evidence

In a sexual harassment suit, a U.S. District Court Judge will permit evidence of harassing behavior even though the plaintiff employee neither directly saw nor knew about such conduct. The court found that if the employee learned about the conduct while she still worked for the company, then such evidence may be relevant to whether the plaintiff experienced a hostile work environment.  Additionally, the court held that if such conduct was readily known, then the employer had “constructive notice” of the bad behavior, thereby triggering…

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14 Nov 2014 New Jersey Employers: Remember Your Notice Requirements

As we near the end of the year, employers doing business in New Jersey should remember some key notice requirements. First, by no later than January 1, 2015, New Jersey employers will need to post the updated Wage and Hour Law Abstract poster (which is on the second page). The poster must be conspicuously displayed and include the new minimum wage increase, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015. The new minimum wage will be $8.38 per hour.   Second, on or before December…

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07 Nov 2014 Recent Case In Michigan Highlights Increased Focus On Transgender Discrimination

As we previously reported, the EEOC recently made history when it filed two lawsuits seeking to protect transgender workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The lawsuits – filed separately in federal courts in Michigan and Florida – allege that the employers engaged in unlawful gender-identity discrimination after they terminated two employees who were transitioning to the opposite sex. Rather than explicitly allege gender-identity discrimination – which is not actionable – the EEOC carefully crafted both judicial complaints to…

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