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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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08 Mar 2013 Illinois court revives Whistleblower Act claim of employee who was fired following fine

Say an employee makes a report to a government inspector of an alleged violation of the law, but the government agency already knows of the violation – is the employee still protected from retaliation by his employer under the Illinois Whistleblower Act? A trial court judge in central Illinois did not think so, and granted an employer’s motion to dismiss on the pleadings. But on appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed, ruling that the language of the Whistleblower Act focuses on what the employee reasonably believed,…

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28 Jan 2013 Paid Leave Can Be a Lawful Option When an Employee Is Facing Criminal Charges

Paid administrative leave for an employee who is charged with a crime is not a materially adverse employment action for purposes of proving an employment discrimination case, according to a recent federal appellate court order. The 10th Circuit’s decision in Benavides v. City of Oklahoma City, is a useful reminder for employers that thorny legal issues may arise when an employee is accused of criminal wrongdoing. The Benavides case illustrates that while an employer cannot prevent an employee from filing a charge of discrimination or lawsuit…

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23 Jan 2013 High Court to Decide Whether “but-for” Standard Applies to Retaliation Claims Under Title VII

The United States Supreme Court has added yet another interesting employment law issue to its docket, agreeing to take up the question of whether Title VII’s retaliation provision and similarly worded statutes require a plaintiff to prove “but-for” causation or instead require only proof that the employer had a mixed motive for the employment decision in question. The Supreme Court granted a petition by the employer to hear its appeal in the case of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, Docket No. 12-00484. The…

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22 Jan 2013 Social Media Regulation Attracts Mainstream Media Attention

Regulation of employees’ use of social media continues to make headlines, with an article in today’s New York Times just the latest example of continuing coverage of the subject by national news organizations. The article, available here, summarizes the good and bad in social media policies, pointing out that a policy with specifics is more likely to withstand legal scrutiny than very general, sweeping policies that have the potential to chill lawful speech. Thus, employers are well-advised to adopt policies that remind employees to avoid harassment,…

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05 Nov 2012 Newsweek’s history includes path-breaking gender discrimination case

When Newsweek/Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown recently announced that the print edition of Newsweek will cease publication at the end of 2012 after a nearly 80-year history, the fact that a female editor-in-chief broke the news likely was not lost on former Newsweek staffer Lynn Povich.  Ms. Povich, one of the leaders of a 1970s sex discrimination case against Newsweek, is the author of a newly released book that lays out all the details of the struggle by women at the magazine to rise beyond…

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31 Oct 2012 Illinois Courts to Require Redaction of Personal Identity Information

While employers as a rule know that they must take reasonable measures to protect personnel records from unnecessary disclosures in the course of business, when employment litigation arises there are myriad records that may become subject to disclosure in discovery, including personnel records of the plaintiff as well as individuals who are not parties to the case, such as decision-makers and comparators in employment discrimination cases.  Protective Orders can be entered to govern the use and protection of confidential information during the pre-trial discovery phase…

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17 Sep 2012 To Avoid Employer Liability for Harassment, Keep an Eye on “Supervisors”

The United State Supreme Court on Friday set oral arguments for Nov. 26, 2012, in Vance v. Ball State University, Docket No. 11-556, in which the Court is expected to address the issue of who is a “supervisor” for purposes of employer liability for sexual harassment under Title VII. The question highlights a split among federal circuit courts of appeal on the definition of supervisors, and we provided additional details on the facts of the case in our prior blog entry when the Court granted the petition…

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08 Aug 2012 EEOC’s Litigation Focus Includes Cases Involving Teen Workers

While the EEOC receives thousands of charges each year, it selects very few to go forward to litigation with EEOC as the plaintiff. It is no easy task to predict which specific charges will become lawsuits litigated by EEOC, but charges that involve allegations of discriminatory treatment against multiple individuals – including teen workers – seem to be among those that attract attention at the federal agency. A case in point is the recent resolution for $1 million of a federal court lawsuit that EEOC brought in Wisconsin…

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06 Aug 2012 New Illinois Law Prohibits Employers from Seeking Social Media Password Information

Employers in Illinois will be prohibited from seeking social networking password information from employees and applicants starting Jan. 1, 2013, now that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law Public Act 097-0875, which is an amendment to the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, 820 ILCS 55/10. As we previously reported, the legislation makes it unlawful for an employer to require an employee or applicant to disclose passwords or other related social networking account information in order for the employer to access information…

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13 Jul 2012 OSHA – Employers have a duty to help prevent heat-related illnesses

Although the oppressive heat wave that affected much of the country is behind us for now, as the summer rolls on we can expect that additional hot weather will continue to pose challenges for those who work outdoors or in locations where heat can build up to extreme levels. Prevention of heat-related illnesses can be even more of a priority with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees that cause the heat index to soar to potentially dangerous levels.  To help employers anticipate issues that can arise when…

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