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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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03 Jan 2014 The Importance and Limitations of Internal Investigations

Many companies pride themselves on maintaining and rigorously enforcing equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies. From a business perspective, EEO policies help ensure a company is regarded as a fair place to work – improving employee morale and productivity. From a legal perspective, strong EEO policies (a) help protect the company from discrimination, harassment or retaliation claims by identifying and (hopefully) resolving problems ahead of costly litigation; (b) force the company to create a record of its position with respect to an employee’s claims and the…

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03 Jan 2014 Different Strokes for Different Folks (or Red, Blue, and Purple-Pencil America): How The 50 States Differ On Revising Non-Competes

Employers with multistate operations who utilize non-compete covenants to protect their businesses frequently run into questions about whether those agreements will be enforceable across state lines.  While many states (fortunately) tend to view restrictive covenants somewhat similarly, there are some critical – and perhaps surprising – exceptions.  For example, North Dakota will not enforce non-compete agreements by statute, and while Oklahoma may enforce a non-compete, the terms spelled out by that’s states law are extraordinarily more restrictive than in other jurisdictions.   One key distinction…

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02 Jan 2014 The Dangers of Employees Taking A “Working Lunch”

An Employer’s liability may turn out to be more than anticipated when employees work through their meal breaks. The Department of Labor’s FLSA regulations say that “meal breaks” of 30 minutes or longer ordinarily may be unpaid. By contrast, “rest periods” of 20 minutes or less must be paid. “What happens,” a wary human resources manager might ask, “if my company allows its employees to take breaks that are longer than 20 minutes and less than 30 minutes?”  And, if the company’s timekeeping system automatically…

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31 Dec 2013 Cruising into 2014: New Year, New Driving Laws in Illinois

Two new Illinois laws may impact employers with employees who drive as part of their job duties. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, Illinois drivers can speed up as long as they put their phones down. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will commence changing speed limit signs on designated Illinois Interstates, which will increase the limit from 65 mph to 70 mph. At the same time, use of all hand-held mobile devices will be prohibited. Changing the speed limit signs is estimated to take two weeks….

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31 Dec 2013 EEOC Measures its Performance in FY 2013

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for Fiscal year 2013. The report summarizes the agency’s activity and assessment of its financial performance from October 2012 through September 2013. It reveals some interesting details about the agency’s work this past year. Highlights from the EEOC’s report include the following: 1. The agency received a total of 93,272 private sector charges of discrimination, a 6,000 charge decrease from the prior three fiscal years. 2. 97,252 charges were resolved, nearly…

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26 Dec 2013 Trends for 2014: A Death Knell for Unpaid Internships?

At least one major media organization – New York City-based magazine publisher Conde Nast – will ring in 2014 by saying goodbye to its unpaid internship program, a decision that has generated both cheers and jeers in news coverage.   Given the large amount of media attention that was focused on unpaid intern wage-and-hour lawsuits in 2013, it will be no surprise if more big-name employers – and perhaps some major educational institutions – make adjustments to the way they handle internship programs.   In…

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23 Dec 2013 Seventh Circuit: Failure to Conciliate is Not a Defense in EEOC Lawsuits

Employers who are defendants in actions brought by the EEOC in federal court cannot assert failure to conciliate as an affirmative defense, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled. In so doing, the Seventh Circuit is the first federal circuit court of appeal to explicitly reject the failure-to-conciliate defense, the Court noted in its lengthy opinion released Friday. In determining a question of law brought up on an interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit ruled in EEOC v. Mach Mining, LLC that…

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23 Dec 2013 Coast to Coast Noncompete Part 2: Still Going in 3 Courts in 2 States

A few weeks ago I wrote this post about a dispute between two language learning companies over two relatively short term employees. The dispute illustrates some common strategic lessons of which employers must take account in planning, administering and enforcing noncompete agreements. Perhaps most significant, the dispute is a classic example of the gamesmanship over forum states (and the various laws that may favor or disfavor one of the other party) that characterizes many noncompete cases. Because this is an interesting dispute for employers who have noncompete agreements…

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18 Dec 2013 Criminal Background Checks Remain on EEOC’s Radar

Although not an official opinion or interpretation, the EEOC just released discussion letters giving another peak behind the curtain as to the agency’s stance on criminal background discrimination. Answering the letter of an incarcerated veteran who anticipated having a tough time finding employment upon his release, the EEOC, through its Assistant Legal Counsel, reiterated that “[e]xcluding people from employment due to criminal records may raise issues under Title VII, especially if it disproportionately harms people of a particular race or national origin.” While not banning the…

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17 Dec 2013 You May Want To Leave Your Leave Policy Behind

Employers understandably want their employees to miss as little work as possible. This goal may be reflected in their leave of absence policies, which encourage a return to work as soon as they can. While this is not a problematic goal, policies that are overly harsh or inflexible in granting accommodations for disabled workers may result in costly and embarrassing lawsuits. The EEOC recently filed suit against Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, California because it refused an employee’s request for additional medical leave…

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