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Employment Law Update

Making faces doesn’t count as retaliation

By Mike O’Brien Not every negative consequence amounts to retaliation In asserting a claim for retaliation, an employee must prove he or she suffered a “materially adverse action.” But that probably doesn’t include someone “making faces” at you. In Fisher v. Bilfinger Industrial Services Inc., the employee alleged that his supervisor retaliated against him by (among other things) “making faces at him.” The First Circuit Court wasn’t impressed. The court noted that “adverse employment actions” are things like “discharges, demotions, refusals to hire, refusals to promote, and reprimands.” “Making Faces,” on the other hand, amounts to “a frivolous claim that does not implicate Title VII.” In the litigation world, we call this a “bench slap.” You can read the full decision here. More limits on non-competes . . . eventually On July… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Disability discrimination and lookism in the workplace

By Mike O’Brien EEOC sues a work placement agency on behalf of disabled workers for disability discrimination The EEOC announced this week that it has filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against a Hawaii work placement agency for disabled workers. The suit alleges that the agency refused to provide sign language interpreters for deaf employees, despite repeated requests by several deaf individuals. The workers had asked for interpreters to be present at staff meetings where matters such as work safety, protocols, and assignments were discussed. Despite these requests for accommodation, the agency declined to provide interpreters and instead gave the deaf workers written notes and handouts, or asked a deaf employee to interpret for other deaf employees. The EEOC asserts that these accommodations were ineffective and that as a… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Beware of privacy pitfalls when remotely monitoring telecommuters

Before the pandemic, 80 percent of U.S. employees worked primarily from an external workplace; today, only 21 percent do. Coaxing employees to return to the workplace will be an uphill battle, with recent surveys, including one from Pew Research, suggesting that 54 percent of those who are currently working remotely want to continue spending at least some of their working hours at home. In short, as with other employers, law offices need to adjust to the realities of telecommuting. Among the biggest challenges will be maintaining productivity. One potential solution is to deploy technologies that monitor employees’ whereabouts and use of computer and other work equipment to verify that employees who work remotely are actually doing their jobs. Unfortunately, doing this exposes your office to liability risks under privacy and… . . . read more

TOOL

Tool: Model Lab Employee Remote Monitoring of Telecommuters Policy

Letting employees telecommute poses significant operational and management challenges to employers, not the least of which is ensuring that employees are actually doing their jobs and meeting expected productivity standards when working from home. Software, apps and other monitoring technology can go a long way in meeting this goal; but it can also get you into hot water under privacy and other laws. The best way to manage privacy liability risk is to include specific language in your telecommuting policies and arrangements that provides for monitoring. The idea is to let employees know exactly what you’re going to do and how, and ensure they don’t have reasonable expectations in the information collected. Here’s some model language you can adapt for your own use.

COMPLIANCE

Wage whispers: Can we stop salary talk?

By Paul Edwards When one employee finds out another employee makes more money, it can send ripples throughout your entire workplace. In light of the morale damage this kind of talk can cause, you may be tempted to tell employees not to discuss salaries at all. The problem is employees have a legal right to discuss their salaries with other employees because of existing NLRA protections. What is the NLRA? The NLRA or National Labor Relations Act, is a large, developing area of federal law that’s rapidly changing the way you can regulate your employees’ speech, both on and off the job. Section 7 of the NLRA grants union and non-union employees alike the right to engage in certain activities so they may collectively bargain. These protections apply to all speech related… . . . read more

QUIZ

Who has OSHA responsibility for the health & safety of a temp?

What are your OSHA duties to temporary workers (“temps”) whom you hire from a temp agency to work at your firm? Stated differently, are you or the temp agency responsible for the temp’s health and safety? Here’s a set of scenario quizzes that illustrate how the rules work. SCENARIO 1: RESPONSIBILITY FOR HAZCOM TRAINING The Temps R’Us Agency (Agency) assigns an employee to temporary work at XYZ Company (Company). Agency is perfectly aware that knows that Company’s workers handle and use hazardous chemicals. But the temp has no Hazcom training whatsoever. As a result, he suffers an injury as a result of exposure to a toxic chemical while working for Company. QUESTION Who’s responsible for providing the temp the required Hazcom training? Agency Company Both Neither ANSWER Both the Agency… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Three White House announcements for employers

By Mike O’Brien  bio President Biden calls on employers to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated In a White House press release dated April 21, 2021, President Biden called “on every employer in America to offer full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination.” The White House statement adds that President Biden will announce “a paid leave tax credit that will offset the cost for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full payment for any time their employees need to get a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from that vaccination.” By Executive Order, President Biden increases the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15/hour On April 27 President… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Dare we ask our coworkers: Are you safe?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: We have a small eight-person office. We don’t interact with the public. Although we’ve worked remotely for the past year, we’ll be moving back into the office in the next few weeks. We’re generally looking forward to it, Most of my coworkers have been vaccinated. We talk on Zoom about how happy we are to have gotten vaccinated and compare side-effect stories. Two of our coworkers don’t participate in these discussions. I suspect they haven’t been vaccinated and don’t intend to get vaccinated. Am I allowed to ask? Is it necessary or appropriate to have different rules regarding masks for different employees; for example, “masks aren’t required unless a meeting includes person “x”? Can we forgo masks all the time and figure any unvaccinated employees… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Court gives guidance on return to work and ADA

By Mike O’Brien In ADA Case, Tenth Circuit says onsite work may be essential One of the most frequent questions that the writers of these updates receive is whether employers who moved to a remote workplace in response to the COVID pandemic may now recall employees to onsite work. Generally, we’ve advised employers that they are free to require onsite work, although they may need to make exceptions for employees with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or provide leave to eligible employees under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). On April 8, 2021, the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appellate court for the mountain west region), issued an important ADA decision about onsite work requirements in the case of Unrein v. PHC-Fort Morgan,… . . . read more

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Most of your law office employees are vaccinated. Now what?

By Lynne Curry bio Most of your office staff have received vaccines. Those who remain unvaccinated either haven’t decided whether they will or have refused to get vaccinated. What’s next? Can you relax your workplace protocols? New CDC guidance In recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided new COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.1 Fully vaccinated individuals may interact indoors with other vaccinated individuals without wearing masks or physical distancing. Fully vaccinated individuals, except for those who live in a group setting or themselves experience COVID-19 symptoms, no longer need to quarantine and test if they’ve been around someone who has COVID-19.2 Fully vaccinated individuals do need to wear a well-fitted mask, physically distance and practice other prevention protocols when interacting with unvaccinated individuals from multiple… . . . read more


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