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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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01 May 2018 More on Medical Marijuana – Will Ohio Protect Employers’ Zero-Tolerance Policies?

When I wrote my last post on medical marijuana, I stated that once Ohio’s new medical marijuana law goes into effect in September, employers will still have a right under state and federal law to enforce zero-tolerance policies regarding marijuana use. Since then, people have pointed out to me that employees in other states have found exceptions to these laws that protected marijuana use and have questioned whether such loopholes exist in Ohio’s new law. While no courts have yet ruled on any cases regarding…

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08 Jan 2018 Goals for the New Year: Prevent and Better Defend Employment Claims

  As sure as the calendar turns to a new year, there is no doubt that employers will see new employment discrimination charges and employment lawsuits filed.  So now is a good time for a check-up to see if you are well-positioned to minimize the risks of such claims in 2018.  Here are three quick, general pointers:   Clear Expectations. We’ve all seen it, in one form or another – the employee who, when faced with termination, will say: “I didn’t know that could get…

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26 Jan 2017 Drill Deeper Than “Fit” as Reason For Termination

  It is common for employers to tell us “he is just not a fit here.” My recent article in another publication discusses how, while it is certainly true that some employees are not a good fit in your organization, it is almost always advisable to break down and articulate the more specific pieces that make up “fit” for liability prevention purposes. Read more here. Bill NolanWilliam A. Nolan serves as the Managing Partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Ohio office, which he opened in 2009. He is a…

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08 Jul 2016 Court Provides Roadmap for Managing ‘Intolerable’ Behavior From Employee with Disabilities

  What is an employer to do when a long-standing employee with a known anxiety disorder engages in a public display of suicidal gestures and disruptive behavior? Don’t act in haste, but if careful consideration of the situation leads to a termination, the decision-making process may withstand scrutiny in court.   That’s the outcome in a recent ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Felix v. Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, which provides a thorough and detailed analysis of a challenging situation involving an employee…

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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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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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26 May 2015 This Should Go Without Saying: Replacing an Older Worker with Two Younger Workers is Not Consistent with a Reduction in Force Defense

A recent case from a Chicago federal court is a good reminder that just because you can make a particular argument in defense of a lawsuit doesn’t mean that you should. In Summers v. Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc., Case No 13C1312 (N.D. Ill. May 19, 2015), an employee who had worked for her employer for 40 years was fired, along with a number of other employees. The employee sued for age discrimination. As a reminder, employees must meet the high standard that “but for” their age,…

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26 May 2015 A Reminder from the NLRB to Scrutinize Your &!^@$) Policies

We have written often at BT Currents, including here and here, about the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) intense focus on employer policies that assertedly might be viewed by an employee as restricting employees’ – in union and non-union workplaces alike – to communicate with each other about the terms and conditions of their employment, i.e. engaged in “concerted activity.”  This past week I was part of a panel on various labor law topics including a union-side lawyer and representatives from Regions 8 and 9…

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29 Apr 2015 Supervisors Are Employees Too … to the Tune of $6.6 Million

What termination of a single employee can justify a $6.6 jury award?  (The punitives award was reduced by the lower court from $15.9 million. The employee also received $2.2 million in non-punitive damages). According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court for western states including California, the following elements justify a lower court jury’s award in this amount:   Discharge found to be in retaliation for suing for overtime pay, reporting violations to OSHA and Department of Transition, and inciting other…

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29 Dec 2014 THREE MOST UNDERUTILIZED EMPLOYMENT LIABILITY PREVENTION TOOLS LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

This week U is for under utilized – the readily available liability prevention tools that, in our estimation, employers most often neglect to use to their advantage.   The extra step.  Before terminating an employee with a medical issue, that is. As we have written here and here, much FMLA and ADA liability is preventable if you will methodically work through the communications steps that years of case law tells us courts are looking for. The sooner you start, the sooner you can finish. I…

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