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EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Civility & conduct rules, marijuana, and website access & ADA on the HR radar

By Mike O’Brien Get ready to take a new look at your employee handbook. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is widely expected to issue a decision soon that will mean increased scrutiny of common types of workplace rules, including civility and conduct rules. In a case pending before the Board, its General Counsel submitted a brief last month urging a return to an Obama-era standard for assessing the lawfulness of employer rules. A quick primer may be helpful. The NLRB is the federal agency charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Section 7 of the Act gives employees the right to discuss pay and other terms and conditions of employment, and to engage in concerted activity to improve them. A common misunderstanding is a notion that the… . . . read more

HARASSMENT

Russian-American workplace discrimination: It’s a thing now

By Lynne Curry Question: Like many other employees that need highly skilled employees and want to diversify their labor pool, ours has hired several Russian emigrants. Other than coworkers complaining that these employees’ accents make understanding them difficult, we had no problems—until Russia invaded Ukraine. At first, nothing occurred that created worry. Many of our employees knew little about Ukraine and so peppered the emigrants with questions. But as the horror of what was happening in Ukraine continued, our employees grew angrier. Several employees asked their Russian-born coworkers how they could possibly “defend” what was going on. Things got worse when one of the emigrants defended Putin, calling him a strong leader. How much trouble do we get into if we fire this one employee? While she’s technically skilled, she’s… . . . read more

DRUGS & ALCOHOL

High at work: Anyone else smell that?

By Paul Edwards More often than you would think, we get calls from managers wondering what they can do about someone whom they think is impaired at work. When that happens, we immediately go into crisis control mode because, well, impairment at work is never acceptable. In this article, we are going to discuss impairment and odors from the perspective of marijuana legalization. From job candidates showing up to interviews smelling like a skunk to employees showing up to their shift distracted with bloodshot eyes, knowing how to handle an employee’s potential marijuana use has only gotten more complicated. Currently, marijuana legalization is in limbo between state versus federal government. While many states have moved to legalize or decriminalize its use, marijuana is still an illegal Schedule I drug under… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Florida’s new “Stop Woke” law impacts workplace training

By Mike O’Brien “Stop Woke” Act passes Florida Senate New legislation in Florida (HB 7) prohibits any teaching that could make students feel they bear “personal responsibility” for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex, or national origin. But the legislation’s reach doesn’t end in schools. In the workplace, employment practices or training programs that cause an individual to feel similarly guilty could be considered an unlawful employment practice, giving rise to legal liability. The Florida Senate voted 24-15 along party lines to approve a measure labeled “Individual Freedom,” and was seen to be in response to Governor DeSantis’ demand for a “Stop WOKE” Act. You can see more here. New guidance from the DOL on FLSA, FMLA, and Visa programs On March 10 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Harassment continues in era of remote work

By Mike O’Brien  In the early days of the pandemic, there was speculation that workplace harassment would decrease when so many workers shifted to remote work. Some recent surveys indicate that hasn’t been the case, and that incidents of harassment have been increasing. Possible reasons for this spike include the stress of the pandemic, the fact that remote workers may lack the kind of personal connections with colleagues that might otherwise hinder poor behavior and a more casual approach to conversations due to working in a more relaxed environment. Zoom meetings have also provided a whole new forum for trouble, with employees behaving badly (sometimes while thinking they are off-camera). The quick and unexpected shift to remote workforces may also have left many employers unprepared for the challenge. To combat… . . . read more

AWAITS SIGNATURE

Forced arbitration of sexual assault and harassment coming to an end

By Mike O’Brien The United States Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act in February. The legislation had previously been approved by the House of Representatives, and now awaits President Biden’s signature. Once signed, the new law will amend the Federal Arbitration Act to make pre-dispute mandatory arbitration agreements unenforceable with respect to claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment. Rather than being required to arbitrate such claims, the employee-plaintiff will have the option to bring the case in court or before an arbitrator. The bill had broad support in both political parties. Importantly, the law does not apply to arbitration agreements for other types of employment-related claims. Employers who use mandatory arbitration agreements should consult with experienced employment law counsel about how this… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW

EEOC updates guidance related to COVID-19 and ADA

By Mike O’Brien The EEOC recently released updated guidance on the intersection between COVID-19 and major federal employment laws. In particular, the agency explained that COVID-19 may be considered an ADA-protected disability in certain cases. While mild or asymptomatic cases of the illness do not constitute an ADA-protected disability, other more severe cases, including “long COVID” presentations, may be a disability and thereby trigger the accommodation, non-discrimination, and non-retaliation components of that statute. Additionally, the EEOC’s guidance addressed employers’ obligations to provide religious exemptions for vaccination and masking requirements under Title VII. Employers must provide exemptions to employees with sincerely held religious beliefs. NLRB signals possible reversal of Trump era board decisions There’s a lot going on at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with enforcing… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

6 things to do when remote workers want to move to another state

By Mike O’Brien Is it a problem for a law office suddenly to have an unplanned, unexpected, and perhaps undesired branch office when an employee moves to another state? Yes! The United States has a national government, state governments, and local governments. They each have powers over employers and make laws that typically apply to and protect people subject to the various jurisdictions. And these laws are not always uniform! There is a lot of variation in state laws related to COVID-19, masks, vaccines, etc. Arizona law requires paid leave, Utah does not. Montana law prohibits age discrimination against any age, not just 40 and above, and also prohibits termination without “good cause” as defined by the statute. Utah does not do either of these things. Nevada law requires daily… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

OSHA emergency vaccine mandate withdrawn and forced arbitration may end for workplace sexual harassment

By Mike O’Brien After a recent United States Supreme Court decision prohibited it, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officially announced the withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccination and testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), effective Jan. 26, 2022. According to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “OSHA’s withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccination and testing ETS, which required employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers were vaccinated against COVID-19 or underwent weekly testing, nullifies employers’ obligations under the standard. The withdrawal would also discontinue the OSHA ETS case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit because OSHA is unlikely to pursue merit finding for a withdrawn regulation. However, employers must continue to comply with state or local government vaccination and/or testing requirements, which are not… . . . read more

DOCUMENTATION

What you write can come back and bite

By Lynne Curry Your recorded words—they’re direct evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that proves the existence of a fact. Direct evidence includes someone else’s direct observations as in “I saw…,” “I heard….” Here’s a recent case where a staffing firm torpedoed itself and their client. The firm’s recruiter emailed 66,000 recipients. They emailed 66,000 individuals seeking applicants for a desktop support position for a client with a subject line “Desktop Support (Need Young Folks Only).1 Really? That’s direct evidence. And in September of 2021 the EEOC sued the staffing agency. Here’s a landmark case, Stewart v. Wells Fargo Bank, 5:15-cv-00988-MHH, that shows how a manager can undercut a potentially needed termination. Wells Fargo bank hired Deborah Stewart as a treasury management sales consultant. She had experience that qualified her for her… . . . read more


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