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The Legal Stuff
BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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17 Apr 2015 EEOC RELEASES PROPOSED RULE ON EMPLOYER WELLNESS PROGRAMS

On April 16, 2015, the EEOC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would amend the regulations and interpretive guidance under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they relate to employer wellness programs. A copy of the proposed rule can be found here.   Barnes & Thornburg has issued an Employment Alert on the proposed regulations. This proposed rule was highly anticipated as recent lawsuits filed by the EEOC raised questions about when wellness plans violated the ADA.

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17 Apr 2015 THE SEC JOINS THE NLRB IN ATTACKING EMPLOYEE CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS

Recently, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined an employer $130,000 for making employees sign confidentiality agreements during an investigation. The agreement stated that the employees could be terminated if they discussed the investigation with anyone outside the company without prior approval of the company’s legal department. The SEC charged the company with violating whistleblower protection Rule 21F-17 enacted under the Dodd-Frank Act, which prohibits companies from taking any action to impede whistleblowers from reporting possible securities violations to the SEC.  This case is…

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14 Apr 2015 Caveat to the FMLA Final Rule on Same-Sex Spouses: Not Yet

Put an asterisk on my February blog entry that “spouse means spouse” under the FMLA.   In late March, a federal judge in Wichita Falls, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction against the Department of Labor – to keep it from enforcing its new and expanded definition of “spouse” after being challenged by the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska. Those four states object to the Department of Labor’s revised definition of “spouse” to include same-sex spouses because they claim the agency’s new rule would…

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Green California Road Sign
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13 Apr 2015 Did California Just Fire No-Employment Provisions From Settlement Agreements?

Many employers who negotiate settlements to end a hard-fought battle with a former employee prefer an agreement that the employee will never work for them again. After all, it is perfectly understandable that after a company spends untold thousands in legal bills and severance wishes for complete closure on a difficult chapter, as well as some certainty that they won’t have to worry about the possibility that the employee – now armed with settlement funds – would try another lawsuit based on a failure to…

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08 Apr 2015 Supreme Court Passes on Chance to Apply Uniform Rules on After-Acquired Evidence

When employers were looking for certainty in the ongoing debate about after-acquired evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court said, “No, thanks.” Instead, the high court let stand a Second Circuit court decision in which an employer was allowed to use evidence to support that it fired an employee for breaking work rules.   In Weber v. Tada, 589 Fed. Appx. 563 (2d Cir. Oct. 9, 2014) the Supreme Court recently declined to grant certiorari, which means that the split among the lower courts is likely to…

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01 Apr 2015 No Girls Allowed Isn’t Allowed: Even Roughnecks Have To Follow The Law

Even in the “manliest” of jobs, employers must be careful not to discriminate against female applicants, or it will cost them. On March 24, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment against the EEOC in EEOC v. Unit Drilling Company, finding issues of fact regarding female applicants’ discriminatory failure to hire claims.   Unit Drilling Company operates oil drilling rigs and was hiring for the position of floor-hand, an entry-level job that requires no…

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CurrentsGavelimage
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27 Mar 2015 Abusive Work Environment Proposed Legislation Introduced in Minnesota

Earlier this week, proposed legislation was introduced in the Minnesota State Senate aimed at making abusive conduct in the workplace illegal and holding both employees and employers accountable. This proposed legislation would be in addition to existing Minnesota laws which prohibit discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.   According to S.F. No. 1932, an employer would be held vicariously liable if an employee subjects another employee to “an abusive work environment.”  The employee could escape individual liability if he or she can demonstrate the employee…

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27 Mar 2015 When is a Disclaimer Not a Disclaimer? Certain Employment Policies Trump “No Contract” Disclaimers in Handbooks

An employer’s whistleblower policy and its grievance policy are implied contractual promises that employees may enforce, notwithstanding the valid disclaimer that employment policies are not contracts contained in the company’s employee handbook. So says the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a recent case involving a non-profit organization’s employee who included multiple implied contract and promissory estoppel claims in her post-termination lawsuit.  Leyden v. American Accreditation Healthcare Commission, No. 1:14-cv-01118, March 18, 2015.  The court ruled that a whistleblower policy and a…

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Employee Handbook and Forms
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26 Mar 2015 NLRB Shows No Signs of Releasing Its Death Grip on Employer Handbooks

Calling the analysis of handbook rules an “evolving area of law” (i.e. whatever the NLRB says is proper on that particular day), NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin has recently issued a report offering guidance on the propriety of various handbook policies. The 30-page report can be found here.   Griffin noted the uptick and continuing barrage of complaints about handbook policies, and reiterated that the NLRB took such charges seriously. Remember, it matters not whether your shop is union or non-union when it comes to…

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26 Mar 2015 High Court’s Pregnancy Bias Decision Creates a New Standard

  In a 6-3 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a decision that rejected a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) claim against the employer for failing to provide light duty work to a pregnant employee.  In Young v. United Parcel Services, Inc., the Court not only vacated the Fourth Circuit’s prior decision, but also rejected the arguments by both parties regarding the standard under which PDA claims should be analyzed. Instead, the majority embraced the McDonnell Douglas standard and modified it slightly.   Now, absent direct…

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