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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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28 May 2015 Transgender Status in the Workplace – First an EEOC Issue and Now an OSHA Issue?

Transgender status has been all over the news lately. As many of you saw on 20/20, Bruce Jenner publicly announced his gender transition to a woman in late April. We have also covered the various cases that have addressed transgender discrimination in lawsuits brought by the EEOC as well as individuals since late 2014. Most recently Saks & Company settled a controversial transgender discrimination case back in March. We are aware of EEOC’s position on this issue – that gender identity discrimination is covered by…

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27 May 2015 Getting What You Don’t Ask For – The Perils Of ADA Accommodation By Inference

A case out of the federal court of Maine provides a useful reminder that employers cannot put blinders on when it comes to the ADA and requests for accommodation. The case, Heath v. Brennan (Case No. 2:13-cv-386-JDL), involved a long-time postal employee who developed tendinitis in the early 1990s, forcing him to wear arm braces at work. His co-workers teased him about the arm braces, which ranged from the mild (“gave him a hard time”) to the salacious (“he needed the braces because he had…

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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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21 May 2015 Constructive discharge case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court

While the U.S. Supreme Court is sprinting to the finish line of its current 2014-2015 term at the end of June, the court already is starting to fill its docket of cases for the October 2015 term and a constructive discharge case will be among those heard and decided in the next year.   In a nutshell, a constructive discharge claim arises when an employee asserts that an employer made working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would feel forced…

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18 May 2015 Pro-Enforcement Noncompete Decision from Wisconsin Supreme Court

I have written here before on the unique issues raised by state-by-state variations in noncompete law, and here in depth on one of the key variations – what a state’s courts will recognize as sufficient consideration for a noncompete. Is “mere” continuing employment sufficient as it is in Ohio, for example, or is does it require something as is the case in Kentucky since a 2014 decision from that state’s Supreme Court? In the closely watched case of Runzheimer Int’l Ltd. v. Friedlen, Wisconsin has…

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07 May 2015 Pitfalls in Citing “Advice of Counsel” in Decision Making

A case decided in April underscores the risks and unanticipated consequences of referring to “advice of counsel” in defending adverse employment actions. A former hospital employee sued in federal court for alleged sexual harassment, assault, retaliation and FMLA violations. In discovery, both the hospital’s CEO and its human resources manager testified not only that they sought the advice of the hospital’s employment attorney when considering whether to place the employee on extended probation, but also that the hospital’s counsel recommended the specific action taken. The…

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06 May 2015 Employers Won’t “Like” Ruling Allowing Class Action Notifications via Social Media

A New York federal court recently approved a proposal that would allow potential class members to be notified of a collective action via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. In Mark v. Gawker Media LLC, a class of former unpaid interns claims Gawker violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York State Labor Law. The plaintiffs are unaware of any mail or email address for 55 of the former Gawker interns who are potential class members, so they proposed reaching out to the potential class…

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06 May 2015 Legislators in House and Senate Propose Gradual Increase in Minimum Wage to $12

On May 1, a group of 200 Democratic lawmakers introduced the “Raise the Wage Act,” a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and by $1 in every succeeding year. Under the bill, the federal minimum wage would reach $12 per hour in 2020. Sponsors of the bill include 32 Senators and 160 members of the House of Representatives. Supporters of the legislation indicated that the wages of 38 million workers would increase by more than…

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01 May 2015 Reference Searches Through Social Media Do Not Create FCRA Claims

In their recruitment efforts, many employers will utilize social media to find suitable candidates for job openings. And, often employers will use the social media tools available to perform reference checks and/or verify a candidate’s employment history, experience and education history. Recently in California, a group of individuals challenged these social media background searches by suing the professional social media website, LinkedIn Corporation, because the information gleaned about these persons allegedly violated their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).   In Sweet v….

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