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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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02 May 2016 Federal Trade Secrets Bill Passes Overwhelmingly in the House: What It Means to Employers

On April 27, the House voted 410-2 to approve the creation of a federal trade secrets law, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). The DTSA has now passed both the House and Senate and it is expected that President Obama will approve this quickly to create a new federal private right of action for trade secret misappropriation under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.   Currently, trade secret misappropriation has previously been purely a matter of state law with 48 of the 50 adopting some…

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26 Apr 2016 Is There a Silver Lining in the EEOC’s Continuing Quest to Make Employees Untouchable?

At this point, it’s all over but the shouting. In January, the EEOC issued its proposed enforcement guidance on retaliation charges filed by employees. The public comment period for the proposed guidance is now closed. (If you haven’t gone through it yet, settle in, make yourself comfortable and read the 73-page proposed guidance found here).   The proposed guidance will likely be adopted soon and it will likely affect almost half of the EEOC charges filed by employees. That’s because a retaliation charge is either the…

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23 Apr 2016 A RIFing Yarn: How Being Able to Support a RIF Pays Off Down the Road

If getting sued by a former employee is bad, it stands to reason that getting sued by a former human resource employee is worse.  Aside from having to deal with the typical headaches associated with litigation, the employer also has to contend with someone who may know all of its dirty laundry. Mack Trucks / Volvo North America successfully faced down the appeal of such a suit just this last week in the federal Third Circuit.   The case, Andersen v. Mack Trucks, Inc.; Volvo…

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22 Apr 2016 The Benefits of Adopting an Effective Complaint-Reporting Procedure

A recent federal case from Washington reminds employers of the benefits associated with procedures making it easy for employees to complain of harassment or discrimination. The case is Matthiesen v. Autozoners, LLC, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (Case No. 2:15-cv-0080).   Matthiesen involved a female employee who worked at an Autozone store for about five months.  The company’s handbook provided several options for reporting concerns about discrimination or harassment: discussing the situation with management, discussing the situation with human resources (HR)…

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19 Apr 2016 11th Hour Questions about DOL’s Overtime Rules

As the DOL’s final proposal nears reality, the expected economic impact is making some members of Congress very nervous.   Even supporters of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) upcoming overtime regulations (anticipated to be released in final form sometime soon)  are raising last-minute concerns about the regulations’ potentially adverse impact on businesses– small businesses in particular.   The expected revised DOL regulations on overtime will affect the exempt status of an estimated five million white-collar employees.  The DOL has proposed a salary threshold of $970 per…

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18 Apr 2016 Court Says Mandatory Flu Vaccine for Hospital Worker Does Not Violate Title VII

A federal court in Massachusetts recently issued an opinion that provides much needed guidance to hospitals and other healthcare institutions on whether it is permissible – under Title VII – to require mandatory influenza vaccinations for healthcare workers who object to receiving the vaccination on religious grounds.   The case started in 2011, when Children’s Hospital Boston announced that all persons who worked in or accessed patient care areas would be required to be vaccinated against the influenza virus. The requirement applied to employees, volunteers,…

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15 Apr 2016 EEOC Consent Decrees Highlight That Employers Must Prevent ADA Claims — Or Pay the Consequences

Public consent decrees that resolved several recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) disability discrimination lawsuits are a stark reminder that clear policies and training can help employers to avoid such consequences.   A common theme of the recently-settled EEOC lawsuits is that once the EEOC files a lawsuit it will demand a public settlement that includes substantial financial terms and non-monetary relief including posting of notices in the workplace and mandatory training.   In a case that the EEOC filed against a paper manufacturing company…

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07 Apr 2016 Morbid Obesity Not Necessarily a Disability Under Americans with Disabilities Act

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held this week that obesity in and of itself is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Instead, obesity generally is a physical characteristic and “qualifies as a physical impairment (and thus would be covered under the ADA) only if it falls outside the normal range and it occurs as the result of a physiological disorder.” (Emphasis added.)  Even morbid obesity has to have physiological underpinnings to qualify as a disability, ruled the Eighth Circuit.  Such disorders…

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06 Apr 2016 Don’t Call a Transgender Employee “It”

By now, most people know enough about the law to know that you can’t discriminate against a worker because of characteristics like race, sex, age and disability. Those are pretty obvious and those laws have been in place for as long as most of us can remember. However, society and laws are constantly evolving, and there are always new issues employers need to watch for, both to ensure all of their employees are protected from discrimination and to make sure they are protecting themselves from…

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05 Apr 2016 Ok…Are You Sitting Down?

More than five years ago, the California plaintiffs’ bar launched a series of lawsuits against various retailers alleging that they were violating a part of the California wage orders that require suitable seating to be available to workers. For the mercantile industry, the regulations require:   (A) All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.   (B) When employees are not engaged in the active duties of their employment and the nature…

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