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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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10 Jun 2014 Illinois moves to ban criminal background questions from job applications

Private employers in Illinois with 15 or more employees will have to revamp their job applications to remove questions about criminal background history and postpone such inquiries to the job interview or conditional job offer stage of the hiring process under legislation that is expected to be signed into law by the governor.   The so-called “ban the box” measure, titled the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act will take effect January 1, 2015, if, as expected, Governor Pat Quinn approves it. The governor already…

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29 May 2014 The Devil’s in the Details – Make Sure Your Agreements Mirror Your Intentions

In an unpublished decision issued this month, U.S. ex rel. Paige, et al. v. BAE Systems Tech. Solutions & Servs., Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of two whistleblowers’ False Claims Act (“FCA”) retaliatory discharge claims, while issuing a warning to employers that the meticulous crafting of arbitration provisions within employment agreements is critical to enforcement.   The Relators in this case were former employees of BAE Systems who had alleged they had complained of purported…

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22 May 2014 A California Cautionary Tale against Settlements that are Silent on Costs

  In a recent opinion, a California Court of Appeal held that a settlement payment constituted a “net monetary recovery” under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, making the plaintiff the prevailing party entitled to mandatory costs. The case of Desaulles v. Community Hosp. of Monterey Penninsula, Cal. App. 2d No. B244832 (2014) (“Desaulles”), ended without a trial on the merits, and while the employer did not obtain a favorable dismissal, it did obtain a judgment denying the employee relief.  In order to obtain…

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19 May 2014 Lessons from the Big Apple

  Last Wednesday’s announcement that The New York Times had abruptly fired its first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, outraged feminists and journalists, fueling debate about equal pay, sexism and double-standards. Regardless of Abramson’s conduct or the Times’s reasons for short-circuiting Abramson’s tenure, this high-profile drama has created a teachable moment for employers.   To briefly summarize, The New Yorker published a now-disputed account that the Times had conceded “Abramson’s decision to hire lawyers to protest her salary ‘was a contributing factor’ to her termination, because…

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12 May 2014 Ouch! Fourth Circuit reminds North Carolina company of its responsibility to protect employees—even from its customers

  As lawyers, we regularly train our clients (and their employees) about anti-harassment, anti-discrimination laws—emphasizing their responsibility to protect employees even from the bad behavior of vendors, contractors and customers. Last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals drove home the lesson of third-party harassment.  In other words, we really mean it.   The North Carolina-based case of Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp., et al., (4th Cir. 2014) involves a plaintiff employee who claimed years of sexual and racial harassment by an independent contractor of Dal-Tile. …

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07 May 2014 Michigan Supreme Court Holds No Preemption When WPA Claim is Based on Reporting Alleged Criminal Conduct

  The Michigan Supreme Court has issued yet another opinion regarding the scope of Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act, MCL 15.361, et seq. (the WPA). This time, the Court considered whether certain claims asserted under the WPA are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). In Henry v. Laborers’ Local 1191 (No. 145631, 5/5/14), the Court held that when an employee asserts a WPA claim premised on his/her reporting of suspected criminal activity, that claim is not…

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30 Apr 2014 Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act Does Not Extend to Contract Employee seeking New Term of Employment

  On April 25, the Michigan Supreme Court, in a matter of first impression, held that Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act (the WPA), MCL 15.362, does not provide a cause of action for a contract employee seeking a new term of employment, even if that employee alleges his or her contract was not renewed because of the employee’s whistleblowing activities.   In Wurtz v. Beecher Metropolitan District, the plaintiff, an administrator for a metropolitan district, was hired under a fixed, 10-year contract. Eight years into his…

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21 Apr 2014 Florida Supreme Court Resolves Split in Lower Court – Pregnancy Is a Protected Class under Florida Civil Rights Act

    On April 17, the Florida Supreme Court held that even though the Florida Civil Rights Act does not list pregnancy among the list of protected classes, pregnancy discrimination is prohibited under the Act because “the capacity to become pregnant is one of the most significant and obvious distinctions between the female and male sexes.”  Prior to this holding, there was a split in the lower state courts as to whether pregnancy was covered under the Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination.  That split has…

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14 Apr 2014 It’s Tax Time . . . . What Does That Mean For Settling Employment Claims?

    Last summer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a Memorandum regarding the reporting requirements for attorney’s fees paid to settle an employment claim.  The Memorandum makes it clear that the manner in which the settlement agreement is drafted and payments are made could impact tax liabilities for both the employee and the employer.   According to the IRS Memorandum, all payments for employment claims, including the specific allocation to attorney’s fees, must be included in the individual’s income, even if the fees are…

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20 Mar 2014 EEOC turns its focus to the impact of social media in employment litigation

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is concerned that efforts to access “private” social media communications through discovery in employment discrimination litigation could have “a chilling effect” on people seeking to “exercise their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws,” according to EEOC’s own summary of a recent meeting on the topic of social media in the workplace.   The EEOC held a Social Media Commission meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. on March 12 to gather information about the use of social media in the…

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