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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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28 Sep 2015 Enforcing The Phantom Noncompete: Michigan Court Allows Employer To Pursue Noncompete Claim In The Absence Of A Written Document Signed By Employee

It is commonly accepted that to enforce a noncompete agreement against an unfaithful employee, the employer first needs to have a signed, written agreement with that employee. However, a new decision from a federal court in the Western District of Michigan, Stryker Corporation v. Ridgeway, has splashed some cold water on that notion.   The employer in Stryker sued a former employee for breach of his noncompete agreement. Unfortunately for the company, it had no signed version of the noncompete. Jumping on this opportunity, the…

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19 Aug 2015 Not All Good Deeds Are Punished: A Paid Suspension Is Not An Adverse Employment Action For Title VII

Chalk up a victory for logic.   Addressing an issue of first impression, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania), recently held that an employee’s suspension with pay is not an adverse employment action for purposes of Title VII. In doing so, the Third Circuit has joined several of its sister Circuits across the country, including the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Circuits.   The case, Jones v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority involved an employee who was…

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18 Aug 2015 Federal Court Allows Arbitration After Employer’s Nine-Month Delay

  At first glance, a recent decision from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania appears to throw cold water on the generally accepted rule that an employer who waits too long to enforce its right to arbitrate employment disputes waives that right.  The case, Serine v. Marshall, Dennehy, Warner & Goggin, et al., involved an employee who sued her former employer – a law firm – in federal court and the firm waited more than nine months before seeking to pursue arbitration.   The law firm…

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30 Jul 2015 Silencing the Lion King

By now you may have heard of Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist/hunter who has risen to global infamy for allegedly shooting Cecil the Lion. What you may not have heard is the recent revelation in the news that he was sued by a former employee for sexual harassment and that he settled out of court for $127,500. According to news reports, the good (or not so good depending on your point of view) doctor is reputed to have settled the case to resolve it…

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15 Jul 2015 DOL Cracks Down on Definition of Independent Contractors

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), most workers are “employees,” not independent contractors.   After years of watching more contract workers fall outside the categories of “employees,” this morning, the DOL issued an Administrator’s Interpretation regarding the alleged “misclassification” of workers as independent contractors, and broadly includes most workers as employees.   The DOL’s guidance responds to the skyrocketing usage of contract labor in the wake of increased government regulation, including the Affordable Care Act. Bucking this trend, agencies like the DOL have increased…

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27 May 2015 Getting What You Don’t Ask For – The Perils Of ADA Accommodation By Inference

A case out of the federal court of Maine provides a useful reminder that employers cannot put blinders on when it comes to the ADA and requests for accommodation. The case, Heath v. Brennan (Case No. 2:13-cv-386-JDL), involved a long-time postal employee who developed tendinitis in the early 1990s, forcing him to wear arm braces at work. His co-workers teased him about the arm braces, which ranged from the mild (“gave him a hard time”) to the salacious (“he needed the braces because he had…

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13 Apr 2015 Did California Just Fire No-Employment Provisions From Settlement Agreements?

Many employers who negotiate settlements to end a hard-fought battle with a former employee prefer an agreement that the employee will never work for them again. After all, it is perfectly understandable that after a company spends untold thousands in legal bills and severance wishes for complete closure on a difficult chapter, as well as some certainty that they won’t have to worry about the possibility that the employee – now armed with settlement funds – would try another lawsuit based on a failure to…

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25 Feb 2015 Choose Your Expert Wisely: Fourth Circuit Rejects EEOC’s Choice on Background Checks

Fans of the Indiana Jones series will remember the scene near the end of the Last Crusade where our hero is looking over a multitude of chalices to select the one true grail, and the ancient knight beside him warns: “Choose wisely.” When the bad guy pushes his way forward to pick out a pretty – but ultimately incorrect – cup, we find out the grisly consequences of choosing poorly. The knight’s admonition to “choose wisely” not only is good advice for selecting grails, but…

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10 Feb 2015 The Tweet Heard Round the World

From the “I can’t say I blame him” or “I can’t take it anymore” column comes small business owner Robert Waple of Jet’s Pizza in Mansfield, Texas. He hired a teenager named “Cella” to work in his restaurant. Sadly, while the moon might hit your eye like a big pizza pie, she wasn’t in love with the job. The day before she was set to start, she tweeted her friends: “Ew I start this f*** a** job tomorrow.” Unlucky for her, one of Waple’s employees…

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04 Feb 2015 2014: Free Fallin’ EEOC Charges?

Earlier this morning, the EEOC released their charge filing statistics for 2014. For the fourth consecutive year, the number of EEOC charges has dropped – from 93,727 to 88,778. The chart below illustrates the decline and puts the numbers into perspective heading back to the good ol’ days of the 20th Century:     Does it feel like 2007? Well, that’s about where we stand with respect to the overall number of charges filed in the last year. The reason for the decline is unclear,…

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