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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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30 Sep 2014 EEOC SUES TWO EMPLOYERS FOR TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION

  In June, we wrote about a landmark decision where the EEOC found that discrimination against transgender individuals constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. Because it has been a while, here is a recap.   The administrative decision stems from a case where Mia Macy, a transgender individual, was denied a job as a ballistics technician by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The facts are straightforward:  Macy previously was a police detective in Phoenix, Arizona. In December 2010, she decided…

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29 Sep 2014 Texas Court Enforces Noncompete Even Though Employee Did Not Physically Sign The Agreement

  As many readers of this blog are aware, enforcing noncompetes can be a tricky business – and this is doubly true in some states. One of those historically difficult states has been Texas. Unlike many states, Texas has a statute – Sections 15.50-15.52 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code – which governs the enforceability of covenants not-to-compete. For many years, Texas courts adhered to a strict view of the statute that resulted in many noncompetes being rejected as unenforceable. This approach has softened…

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26 Sep 2014 Kentucky Decision Requiring Arbitration Shows A Little Language Makes a Big Difference LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  K is for this week’s Kentucky decision on the subject of the enforceability of class action waivers, a continuing hot topic we have reported on here and here. The Western District of Kentucky’s decision in Coram v. Shepherd Communications, Inc. highlights that seemingly small bits of contractual language can be decisive. This decision seemingly turned on contractual language providing that an arbitrator would have the authority to allocate the costs and fees of a matter on a case by case basis.   The lawsuit involved…

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24 Sep 2014 SEC Awards Whistleblower Largest Bounty Ever

  The Securities & Exchange Commission announced Monday that it is awarding more than $30 million dollars to a confidential whistleblower who led federal officials to an internal fraud that officials say would otherwise have gone undetected.   The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010, established a bounty program to reward employees who report wrongdoing to the SEC.  You can read more about the details of this latest award (and the other developments under Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley) in the blog post by our colleague, B&T litigation…

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22 Sep 2014 CAUTIONARY TALE FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYERS – REMEMBER THE FIRST AMENDMENT

  When a public employee makes unpopular public statements, the employer must remember that the employee’s statements could be protected by the First Amendment. On September 15, 2014, the Firth Circuit Court of Appeals in Christian Cutler v. Stephen F. Austin State University affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the University and four University officials had no immunity from a First Amendment retaliation claim. Cutler, the University’s Director of Art Galleries, received an invitation from a member of Congress to judge a high school art…

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19 Sep 2014 Jehovah’s Witness’s Claims Highlight Employer Need to Manage Workplace Religion Issues LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  A “split decision” on a Jehovah’s Witness’s claims against his university employer serves as a good refresher for employers on the issues they must be aware of in dealing with employee religious issues.  For this week’s letter of the law, J is for Bernard Westbrook, the Jehovah’s Witness who brought these claims.  The decision from a federal district court in North Carolina can be found here.   Bernard Westbrook was first employed by North Carolina A&T University in 1994, and first began working for…

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18 Sep 2014 OSHA ISSUES NEW MANDATORY REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR SERIOUS INJURIES; DATA TO BE MADE PUBLIC

  On September 11, 2014, OSHA announced a final rule which greatly expands the scope of injuries which must be reported to OSHA on an expedited basis. Currently, employers only have an affirmative obligation to report an injury/illness to OSHA under the following circumstances:  a) a work-related fatality (within 8 hours); b) the hospitalization of three (3) or more employees (within 8 hours) or c) the occurrence of a point-of-operation injury on a mechanical power press (within 30 days).   Under the revised standard, an employer…

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18 Sep 2014 Reminder: Pregnant Employees are a Protected Class

  This should come as no newsflash: Just because you own a company, an organization, a pro basketball team or a pro baseball team, does not mean that you have a license to do or say whatever you want. At least, not without stirring up some trouble.   Donald Sterling, the former owner of the L.A. Clippers was ousted from the NBA after allegedly racist remarks were made public. Last week, we learned that Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson self-reported that he sent a…

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17 Sep 2014 What’s In Your RIF? Age Discrimination Decision Highlights Documenting Rationale For A RIF, And That Even as Adults, A Plaintiff Should Not Just Copy Someone Else’s Work . . .

  Consistent with the age-old adage that there is no free ride, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an age discrimination claim of a former employee who based his case on comments allegedly made to another employee.   The case involved a long-time employee of a large financial company who began work in 1988 and survived multiple mergers and restructurings. But, in 2010, his performance was rated in the bottom tier of employee rankings in the company. Coincidentally, his employee conducted a reduction in force (RIF)…

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15 Sep 2014 FMLA Certifications: When “Unknown” and “Probably” Aren’t Enough

  The words on the FMLA Certification jump out at us: “Unknown.” “Unpredictable.” “Probably.” Instead of the certainty we were looking for, we have more questions.   The DOL regulations require that the FMLA Certifications not only be “complete,” but also “sufficient.” What is “sufficient?” In looking at this issue recently, we found no DOL advisory opinions, although there are some court rulings to guide us.   As an initial matter, rely on the regulations: a medical certification is incomplete if information requested is not provided,…

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