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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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19 May 2014 UNPAID INTERNS STRIKE AGAIN – CLASS OF 3000 EX-WARNER INTERNS APPROVED FOR WAGE AND HOUR CASE

  As we have covered in posts beginning last July, there has been a rash of lawsuits filed on behalf of unpaid interns suing their former companies for unpaid minimum wages and overtime.  This has resulted in a variety of conflicting opinions regarding whether these cases are appropriate for class certification or not.  Two of these cases have been appealed to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.  The 2nd Circuit will decide the issue whether interns are “employees” under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act…

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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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14 May 2014 Federal Trade Secrets Act: As Big As It Sounds? (And What About Noncompetes?)

  As many readers will be aware, Senators Coons and Hatch recently introduced the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which would create a federal trade secrets law allowing parties aggrieved by the misappropriation of trade secrets (such as former employers!) to bring private actions in federal court.  Right now, former employers seeking to address trade secret misappropriation are governed by state laws, which – in the case of 48 states, some version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.   So why the big news in various…

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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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09 May 2014 EEOC Challenges Another Employer’s Standard Severance Agreement Language

  Employers’ long-trusted standard severance agreements are under fire again by the EEOC.   A few months ago, we told you about the EEOC’s federal lawsuit against a nationwide employer in Illinois, where the EEOC attacked language used in a standard severance agreement. On the heels of that case, the EEOC has filed another lawsuit making similar allegations, this time against CollegeAmerica Denver, Inc. in the District of Colorado.   The new Colorado case involves a campus director who entered into a severance agreement with…

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08 May 2014 Are You Paying Your Employees Frequently Enough?

  One of the biggest challenges for multi-state employers is keeping up to date with the myriad patchwork of laws across the 50 states. What is acceptable in one jurisdiction may get you in trouble in another, or worse yet – could be illegal and result in a lawsuit. One of those minefields is the assorted wage-payment laws regulating how often employees should be paid.   As veteran HR professionals know, there are steep consequences for not timely paying employees in accordance with the local…

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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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02 May 2014 Flextime consideration is now law in some places

  The pros and cons of implementing “flextime” policies have long been debated. Two laws – one state and one municipal – went into effect at the beginning of this year, however, that made it mandatory for some employers in those jurisdictions to consider flexible working arrangements for their eligible employees.   Vermont passed a “flexible working arrangements” law, which grants employees the right to request a flexible working arrangement for any reason and requires employers to discuss and consider such requests at least twice…

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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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30 Apr 2014 Severe Obesity May Be An ADA-covered Disability, Court Rules

  A terminated employee sufficiently alleged that his employer unlawfully terminated his employment for “severe obesity” for his claims to move forward under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal judge has ruled. In Whittaker v. America’s Cart-Mart, Inc., No. 1:13CV108SNLJ (Apr. 24, 2014)),  a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri rejected the employer-defendant’s motion to dismiss, allowing the obesity-as-a-disability lawsuit to continue.   In the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, it argued that obesity is not…

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