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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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17 Jun 2015 Medical Marijuana Users Get Smoked by High Court of Colorado

Becoming the first state to decide the much-anticipated issue, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously held that a statute barring the termination of workers for engaging in lawful activities outside of work does not prevent employers from firing an employee for failing a drug test, despite having a state license to smoke marijuana for medical purposes. The reason: smoking marijuana is still unlawful under federal law. The case, Coats v. Dish Network, can be found here.   The plaintiff – a quadriplegic customer service representative for…

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17 Jun 2015 EEOC Targets Minnesota Company For Alleged Transgender Discrimination

Through its 2012 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), the EEOC had made it a top priority to target employer-discriminatory conduct directed at “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.” In accordance with the SEP, the commission last week filed a lawsuit against Deluxe Financial Services, a Minnesota-based printing and financial services company. The EEOC alleges that Deluxe discriminated against Britney Austin, a longtime employee who recently began presenting as a woman. According to the complaint, Deluxe would not allow Ms. Austin to use the women’s restroom and…

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15 Jun 2015 If the payroll company says it’s an employee …

I wrote here and here earlier this year about the importance of employers carefully reviewing who they consider to be an independent contractor so the employer avoids the various legal problems that can arise as misclassifying workers who should be employees as independent contractors. A recent decision from a federal court in Florida is another lesson in this. In Rezendes v. Domenick’s Blinds, two workers – an installer and a seamstress – won summary judgment from the court in a wage/hour case that they should…

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12 Jun 2015 Recent Case Illustrates How Types of Associational Discrimination Claims Can Play Out in Litigation

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on their relationship or association with an individual who has a disabling condition. Generally speaking, there are three types of associational discrimination claims:   Expense discrimination: Employer fears that association with disabled person will be costly to the employer. Disability by association: A relationship with a disabled person means employee may also be disabled. Distraction: A relationship with a disabled person will prevent the employee from completing job responsibilities.   A recent…

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11 Jun 2015 Los Angeles Passes Minimum Wage Hike to $15 per Hour

  Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour, becoming the latest large city to increase pay.  In a 12-1 vote, the city council passed the second reading of a proposal that would make Los Angeles the largest city in the U.S. to adopt the higher minimum wage.  Los Angeles follows in the footsteps of such cities as San Francisco and Seattle. The hourly rate would more than double the current federal rate of $7.25 per hour.  …

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10 Jun 2015 Court Says Advice From Counsel is Affirmative Defense to Tortious Interference Claims in Minnesota

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized as an affirmative defense the reliance upon legal advice in defending against a claim of tortious interference with a contract. In Sysdyne Corp. v. Rousslang, et al., No. A13-0898 (Minn. Mar. 4, 2015), the former employer (Sysdyne) brought a claim against the hiring company (Xigent Solutions), alleging tortious interference after it hired its former employee (Brian Rousslang) who had a non-competition agreement with Sysdyne.  Sysdyne also brought claims against Rousslang, alleging violation of his non-competition agreement with…

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04 Jun 2015 In California, You Can’t Pick Your Supervisor

A California appellate court recently held that an employee diagnosed with an adjustment disorder triggered by stress caused by her supervisor’s standard oversight of her job performance is not disabled under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Higgins-Williams v. Sutter Medical Foundation, 2015 Cal.App.LEXIS 455 (May 26, 2015). Coming as quite a surprise and coup to employers, the court rejected the current Californian trend of expanding protection of employees unable to work due to medical conditions.   Employed as a clinical assistant, plaintiff Michaelin…

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02 Jun 2015 Abercrombie Decision: What’s next for employers?

The Supreme Court scored a victory for the EEOC yesterday, and, notably, for religion. The court’s majority decision emphasized that religion is a protected class that requires “favored treatment.” The decision also underscores that religious practices are equivalent to one’s religious beliefs, and are accorded the same protection.   Although the court could have limited its decision to the facts of this particular case (as did Justice Alito in his concurring opinion), it rejected the employer’s view that disparate treatment requires an employee to prove…

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01 Jun 2015 EEOC Wins Big at Supreme Court on Religious Accommodation Case

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the EEOC a victory over national retailer Abercrombie & Fitch on a question of religious accommodation.   The court addressed whether an employer must have actual knowledge of an applicant’s need for a religious accommodation to violate Title VII. By a vote of 8-1, the high court said, “no.”   It started when Abercrombie did not hire a woman who appeared for her interview wearing a headscarf, which would have violated the clothing store’s strict dress code. The…

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01 Jun 2015 Colorado ACLU Posts Settlement Agreement Providing for Place to Breastfeed

We have written here before about the still relatively new Department of Labor rules providing that breastfeeding women must be provided with a private place – not a bathroom – to express milk for up to one year after childbirth.  Because of the relative newness of these rules, and the fact that in small workplaces it can take some rearranging to comply, these obligations are not yet intuitive for some employers.   Last week a settlement between a former employee and a beauty salon was…

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