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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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13 May 2016 A Smorgasbord of Termination Reasons That Might Be Used Against You

One of the most frequently asked questions in employment law counseling is “Can I terminate Employee X?” The better and more salient question is “For what reason(s) should I terminate Employee X?”   Not all reasons are created equal. There is a perception that the more reasons provided the greater the strength of the employer’s defense. And it’s true. Each discrete reason proffered by the employer must be rebutted. So, the more, the better? No, says the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a recent…

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11 May 2016 How Confidential is Your Information?

As I recently sat in the airport waiting for my flight, I became fascinated by watching and listening to people on their phones.  What astonished me the most was how much “confidential” business information really was not confidential.   During a 30 minute wait, I sat near a gentleman who proudly wore his employer’s logo on his golf shirt and jacket. He also loudly explained, while on his phone, that this same company’s anticipated product now had at least a two-year waiting period for FDA…

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10 May 2016 55-Year-Old Employee Fails to Establish Age Discrimination Claim against 3D Printing Company

Last week, a Minnesota Federal District Court granted summary judgment in favor of a New Mexico company accused of age discrimination. Optomec, Inc., is a New Mexico-based corporation that develops and manufactures 3D printing systems. While Optomec is headquartered in Albuquerque, it has also has a facility in St. Paul, Minnesota.   In 2013, Thomas Nash, who was 53-years-old at the time, began working for Optomec as a paid intern in the company’s St. Paul location. During his internship, Nash received average to “tepid” reviews….

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09 May 2016 Survey Says: Smoke-Free Campuses a Minority, But Employers Addressing E-Cigarettes

This month’s survey results from our friends at Employers’ Resource Association look at employer tobacco policies.  Here are some of the interesting results:   Only 28 percent of respondents have a smoke-free campus (Not included in the survey is how many companies won’t even hire smokers – undoubtedly a much smaller number) 86 percent prohibit smoking while driving a company-owned vehicle 70 percent address e-cigarettes in their policies and 61 percent prohibit smokeless tobacco   The complete infographic can be viewed here.

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06 May 2016 Transgender Bathroom Access Addressed in New EEOC Fact Sheet

In the midst of news coming out of North Carolina, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a new fact sheet that addresses bathroom access rights for transgender employees. The fact sheet’s key point is that transgender employees have the right to equal access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. This right is provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s protection against sex discrimination—even if there is state law to the contrary.   Employers should note that, as…

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02 May 2016 Federal Trade Secrets Bill Passes Overwhelmingly in the House: What It Means to Employers

On April 27, the House voted 410-2 to approve the creation of a federal trade secrets law, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). The DTSA has now passed both the House and Senate and it is expected that President Obama will approve this quickly to create a new federal private right of action for trade secret misappropriation under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.   Currently, trade secret misappropriation has previously been purely a matter of state law with 48 of the 50 adopting some…

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26 Apr 2016 Is There a Silver Lining in the EEOC’s Continuing Quest to Make Employees Untouchable?

At this point, it’s all over but the shouting. In January, the EEOC issued its proposed enforcement guidance on retaliation charges filed by employees. The public comment period for the proposed guidance is now closed. (If you haven’t gone through it yet, settle in, make yourself comfortable and read the 73-page proposed guidance found here).   The proposed guidance will likely be adopted soon and it will likely affect almost half of the EEOC charges filed by employees. That’s because a retaliation charge is either the…

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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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19 Apr 2016 11th Hour Questions about DOL’s Overtime Rules

As the DOL’s final proposal nears reality, the expected economic impact is making some members of Congress very nervous.   Even supporters of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) upcoming overtime regulations (anticipated to be released in final form sometime soon)  are raising last-minute concerns about the regulations’ potentially adverse impact on businesses– small businesses in particular.   The expected revised DOL regulations on overtime will affect the exempt status of an estimated five million white-collar employees.  The DOL has proposed a salary threshold of $970 per…

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