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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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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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23 Apr 2014 Technological Advances Make Telecommuting A More Reasonable Accommodation

  On April 22, the Sixth Circuit reversed the Eastern District of Michigan in a case that may pave the way for more employees to work at home as a reasonable accommodation. Jane Harris worked as a resale steel buyer for Ford. Her job duties included interacting with steel suppliers and members of the Ford team to ensure that there is no gap in the auto maker’s steel supply. Although managers believed that these interactions were best conducted face to face, Harris suffers from debilitating…

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21 Apr 2014 Fifth Circuit Denies NLRB’s Rehearing Request on Class Action Waivers; NLRB Likely to Continue Ignoring Fifth (and Other) Circuit Court Rulings

  In an April 16, 2014 one-paragraph opinion, the Fifth Circuit rejected the NLRB’s rehearing petition in D.R. Horton v. NLRB, which sought reconsideration of the Court’s December 2013 decision upholding class action waivers in mandatory arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act.  Stating that no one on the original three-member panel that decided the case, nor any judge in active service on the Circuit bench requested that the case be reheard en banc, the Fifth Circuit closed the door to any further circuit-level proceedings,…

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21 Apr 2014 Yes, You Really Were Giving Up FMLA Rights When You Signed That Document and Accepted 13 Weeks Severance

  Granted that many workers are not sophisticated in legal matters and severance agreements are not always written in plain English, but it seems fairly intuitive that when an employer offers an employee the choice of 13 weeks severance or a performance improvement plan, and the employee takes the severance and signs the document, she is not going to be able to sue the company.  Kudos to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in striking a blow for that principle in Paylor v…

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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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18 Apr 2014 Paid and Unpaid Interns Gain Additional Protections Under New York City Human Rights Law

  Attention employers – the use of interns remains a hot topic in the legal realm, as protections for interns continue to grow.  In fact, just this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed off on a New York City Council bill bringing interns under the umbrella of protections against workplace discrimination afforded by the city’s human rights laws (in addition to those protections already afforded to such individuals).  Specifically, the legislation, adds a new subdivision (Section 8-102) to the city’s administrative code…

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