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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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07 Oct 2016 Employer Strategies for Surviving Election Season

  Once again, the “silly season” is upon us. Every four years, battle lines are drawn and many employees take sides, touting their preferred candidate’s merits over what they regard as the utterly despicable nature of the other candidate. Fortunately for employers (and everyone else who values their sanity) this should be over in about a month. I hesitate only because I lived in Florida during the 2000 election, and if you think things are contentious now – pray the current election cycle doesn’t go…

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21 Sep 2016 Loose Lips Sink Ships

  Late last week, a political firestorm brewed over the hacking of various email accounts belonging to politicians and national security officials. It was reported that the hack revealed that Colin Powell, the almost universally well-liked and well-regarded retired general, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State, had some less than kind things to say about the current crop of presidential candidates. Powell’s emails, for example, reportedly used provocative words like “national disgrace” in one instance and “greedy” and “unbridled ambition” in…

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29 Aug 2016 Seventh Circuit Discards Well-Worn Standard for Discrimination Cases Does this Herald the End of the Golden Age of Summary Judgment for Employers?

  Late last week, the often employer-friendly Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the basis upon which discrimination claims have been analyzed for almost a generation. The decision, Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises (Case No. 15-2574), foreshadows dramatic and huge repercussions for employers in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.   Background on Direct and Indirect Tests   For more than 20 years, courts in the Seventh Circuit have recognized two avenues of proving discrimination: the direct and indirect methods. Before last week, a plaintiff-employee in the…

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15 Jul 2016 10th Circuit ADA Ruling Drives Home the Importance of Written Job Descriptions

  A cancer survivor’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit against a prospective employer was rejected this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Kilcrease v. Domenico Transportation Co. The case involved a truck driver who, after successfully overcoming cancer, applied for work with a trucking company, Domenico Transportation. The job required applicants to (1) hold a Class A commercial driver’s license, (2) have three years of recent and verifiable mountain driving (the company is located in Colorado), (3) have…

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06 Jun 2016 Employers Need Not Tolerate Workers Screaming On the Electronic Street Corner Terminating Employees For Offensive Remarks On Social Media

Over the last few days, the news media have widely covered Bank of America’s decision to fire one of its employees for posting this on the employee’s personal Facebook page:   I hate Facebook for this reason you f***ing n****rs.  And yes, if [you] can call each that well I can too.  ‘F***ing n****r go back to Africa. Get over your pity party. You created this hatred and your own kind that brought your great-great-parents [sic] over here and sold them.  ‘Do something with your…

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03 Jun 2016 The Seventh Circuit Rejects Class & Collective Action Waivers In Arbitration Agreements

During the last few years, employers have taken comfort in a slew of court decisions that have held – in some form or another – that an arbitration agreement can waive the right to bring a class or collective action. For example, in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted state law – and specifically California law – which had expressly prohibited class action waivers. The Supreme Court recently cemented that ruling…

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23 Apr 2016 A RIFing Yarn: How Being Able to Support a RIF Pays Off Down the Road

If getting sued by a former employee is bad, it stands to reason that getting sued by a former human resource employee is worse.  Aside from having to deal with the typical headaches associated with litigation, the employer also has to contend with someone who may know all of its dirty laundry. Mack Trucks / Volvo North America successfully faced down the appeal of such a suit just this last week in the federal Third Circuit.   The case, Andersen v. Mack Trucks, Inc.; Volvo…

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22 Apr 2016 The Benefits of Adopting an Effective Complaint-Reporting Procedure

A recent federal case from Washington reminds employers of the benefits associated with procedures making it easy for employees to complain of harassment or discrimination. The case is Matthiesen v. Autozoners, LLC, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (Case No. 2:15-cv-0080).   Matthiesen involved a female employee who worked at an Autozone store for about five months.  The company’s handbook provided several options for reporting concerns about discrimination or harassment: discussing the situation with management, discussing the situation with human resources (HR)…

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21 Mar 2016 2015: EEOC Charges Rebound

  The EEOC charge filing statistics for 2015 are out. Last year at this time, we were looking at the trend of charges continuing to drop from their peak in 2010 and were hoping the trend would continue. Unfortunately, the drop in the overall number of charges stopped and troublingly is going back up:     As you can see, the chart tracks the number of filed EEOC charges going back to the late 1990s. For the most part, the number of charges ebbs and…

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29 Jan 2016 Hold Your Horses: A Plaintiff’s Long Rap Sheet Might Not Get You to the Finish Line

With each case, employers defending discrimination claims know at least these three things: litigation can be expensive, litigation is time-consuming, and the outcome is never a sure thing.   Still, every once in a while, information is revealed that makes the case more thrilling, and little is more exciting than discovering a plaintiff’s criminal past, such as an ADA plaintiff who illegally sold prescription pain medications and also may have engaged in shoplifting.  Sounds like great evidence that should torpedo the plaintiff’s claims, right?  Not…

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