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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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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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01 Dec 2014 ADA: Does “Regarded As” Still Matter? LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  One of the things that makes the Americans with Disabilities Act distinctive among discrimination laws is its “regarded as” prong.  It protects not only people who in fact are disabled from discrimination, but also people who are regarded as disabled. R is for “regarded as” and what it means for most employers and employees in 2014.   While the question of what conduct is “because of” sex and therefore covered by Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition is a hot topic and somewhat analogous, generally…

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26 Nov 2014 Can you be fired for doing “The Chicken Dance” at work?

It is challenging to find a blog idea involving employment law and turkey (search engines come up with articles on the employment laws of Turkey).  So our labor law lesson of the day involves chicken instead, and comes from Sydney, Australia, where you can’t be fired, it seems, for an allegedly intimidating workplace performance of “The Chicken Dance.”   The employer, Harbour City Ferries, discharged a 51-year-old male employee and cited as one of its reasons that he had performed “The Chicken Dance” as an…

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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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17 Nov 2014 3 Key P’s for Minimizing Liability for Employee Health Issues LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

We often remind employers here about the importance of not rushing into adverse employment actions against employees with health issues. For example, see “Play It Safe” I, II and III from earlier this year.  In my opinion, employers who play the game right can get one of the following good results a high percentage of the time:   Employ a dedicated employee in a way that maximizes her abilities and benefits the company. Work an employee who really doesn’t want to maximize her abilities out of…

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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 Another Wave of Employment Bills Proposed in Texas

Texas employers take heed — Texan lawmakers have once again been busy drafting bills which could impact you down the road. Accordingly, you should keep an eye on these items as they progress through the legislative process.   Among other things (and after having failed to attain enactment of a state equivalent of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last year) current proposals again seek to align state law pay discrimination claims with the federal law. Specifically, S.B. No. 65 and H.B. No. 187…

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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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