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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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19 Dec 2014 Legalized Loophole – Is Legalized Marijuana Truly “Lawful?”

On Sept. 30, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Coats v. Dish Network, a wrongful termination case centered on use of medical marijuana. In 2000, Colorado passed a law permitting medical marijuana and legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, but the drug is still prohibited under federal law.   Dish Network LLC fired Plaintiff Brandon Coats after he tested positive for the active ingredient in marijuana. Mr. Coats was aware Dish Network had a zero tolerance policy for prohibited substances, including…

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18 Dec 2014 Retailers, Janitorial Firms and Security Services Need to Learn About San Francisco’s New “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights”

California retail establishments with operations in San Francisco should prepare to comply with the new “Predictable Scheduling and Fair Treatment for Formula Retail Employees Ordinance” law, dubbed the “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights” by its proponents. This new law, which is the first of its kind in the United States, applies to “formula retail establishments” and their contractors, and requires them to provide employees with advance notice of work schedules, compensation for last-minute schedule changes and on-call shifts, and equal treatment of part-time and full-time…

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18 Dec 2014 Uber Argues That Its Drivers Are Not Employees

In a case pending in California federal court, Uber is arguing that its drivers are not employees. O’Connor et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc. et al., No. 3:13-cv-03826 (N.D. Cal. filed Aug. 16, 2013). Uber drivers have sued the company in a putative class action that alleges that they were short-changed because they received only a portion of the 20 percent gratuity paid by passengers.   In response, Uber recently filed a motion for summary judgment that argued that its drivers are not employees because…

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15 Dec 2014 Some Reminders on Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Liability LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

We spend a lot of time coming up with timely and cutting edge topics for seminars, webinars, and blog posts for employers. However, for years no topic attracts more continuing interest than old fashioned sexual harassment, seemingly a timeless topic because some (mostly) guys can be counted on not to manage their behavior in the workplace.  This week S is for sexual harassment, and a recent case that is a good reminder of some key points about sexual harassment.   The case is Boone v….

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11 Dec 2014 Unanimous Supreme Court Denies Compensation for Time Spent in Security Checks

On Dec. 9, 2014, U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require an employer to pay its employees for time spent undergoing security screenings at the end of their shifts. Justice Thomas wrote the Court’s opinion in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, with Justice Sotomayor filing a concurring opinion which Justice Kagan joined. Barnes & Thornburg has issued an Employment Alert on this case which can be found here.  This case has been closely watched…

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05 Dec 2014 The Employer Mandate Is Almost Here. Is Your Company Ready?

In less than a month from now, all employers in the United States that employ more than 100 full-time equivalent employees will need to offer affordable coverage to their employees or risk potential fines under the Affordable Care Act.   While employers already should be geared up to address these issues, below is a primer for those employers who have procrastinated or have opted to stick their heads in the sand hoping in vain that this will just go away:   The deadline for large…

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01 Dec 2014 ADA: Does “Regarded As” Still Matter? LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  One of the things that makes the Americans with Disabilities Act distinctive among discrimination laws is its “regarded as” prong.  It protects not only people who in fact are disabled from discrimination, but also people who are regarded as disabled. R is for “regarded as” and what it means for most employers and employees in 2014.   While the question of what conduct is “because of” sex and therefore covered by Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition is a hot topic and somewhat analogous, generally…

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26 Nov 2014 Can you be fired for doing “The Chicken Dance” at work?

It is challenging to find a blog idea involving employment law and turkey (search engines come up with articles on the employment laws of Turkey).  So our labor law lesson of the day involves chicken instead, and comes from Sydney, Australia, where you can’t be fired, it seems, for an allegedly intimidating workplace performance of “The Chicken Dance.”   The employer, Harbour City Ferries, discharged a 51-year-old male employee and cited as one of its reasons that he had performed “The Chicken Dance” as an…

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24 Nov 2014 Decision Bears A Close Look on Application of Quid Pro Quo Harassment LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

Many readers will have a general sense that there is a difference between quid pro quo and hostile work environment (HWE) harassment.  HWE is (fortunately, I suppose, in some relative sense) the more common form of harassment, and an employer can often avoid liability if it has taken sufficient steps to manage harassment in the workplace.  Quid pro quo comes up less frequently, and is the conditioning of employment benefits such as a promotion, raise, or even continued employee on the submission to a managerial…

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20 Nov 2014 Yikes!! AutoZone Hammered with Record $185 Million Dollar Punitive Damages Jury Verdict

A federal jury – not surprisingly from California – recently issued a whopping $185M ($185,000,000) punitive damages verdict in a single-employee gender discrimination case, believed to be a record award. The plaintiff also received over $872k in compensatory damages for front pay, back pay and emotional distress. The case is entitled Juarez v. AutoZone (Case No. 3:08-cv-00417), and currently sits in the Southern District of California.   Ms. Juarez, who originally filed the suit in 2008, claimed that AutoZone imposed a glass ceiling on women…

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