Welcome Pennsylvania and New Jersey employers.

Settle in and read on for easy-to-navigate, clear and concise summaries of the employment-law landscape in PA and NJ. Plus, we highlight the latest legal trends and changes in the law. You can even improve the way you and your employees conduct business with our featured guest commentary and insights from other management-side employment lawyers and human resources professionals.

This isn't your average blog; this is The Employer Handbook. Read it cover to cover.

October 21, 2014

Is it legal for the EEOC to send 1,330 emails to your employees at work?

Back in 2013, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began investigating Case New Holland, Inc. for age discrimination, or so a complaint that Case New Holland recently filed in federal court alleges.

So, how is this news? Let alone blog news, which is hardly news at all. I should know. I publish this drivel. And I don't get paid for it. Which makes this the worst kind of drivel.

Anyway, apparently, the EEOC sent 1,330 emails to Case New Holland email addresses trolling for potential class-action plaintiffs -- or so the Case New Holland complaint alleges. And by sending those emails, the EEOC violated the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution -- or so Case New Holland alleges.

So, if the the EEOC sent 1,330 emails to your workplace, would that rub you the wrong way? Well, probably so, unless your workplace is the EEOC. But, would 1,330 emails actually break the law?

Well, if the concern is that the emails could potentially be used to gin a up a class-action lawsuit against your company, then according to a federal court, in this opinion, the answer is probably not:

Plaintiffs "cannot manufacture standing by choosing to make expenditures based on hypothetical future harm that is not certainly impending....Nothing in the Complaint or the plaintiffs' opposition suggests that class-action litigation is "certainly impending," and thus, this alleged injury is also speculative and insufficient to establish standing.

So, the clear takeaway here is that if the EEOC sends 1,330 emails to your business, wait until your employees form a class and sue you before filing against the EEOC.

Yeah, that must be the takeaway.

October 20, 2014

You'd think emailing FMLA paperwork would be ok. Yeah, you'd think that.

Remember, over the Summer, when I blogged about how sending FMLA paperwork to an employee via first class mail is a big mistake.

Why? Because if the employee claims not to have received the paperwork, then you have no proof of delivery, and possible FMLA interference issues if the employee is somehow precluded from taking FMLA leave.

So, I offered three alternatives:

  1. Pick a method of delivery that requires a receipt/other proof of delivery with a signature, such as certified mail, overnight delivery.

  2. Hand-delivery at work (with a signature) is pretty good too.

  3. Or email, with a return email from the recipient acknowledging receipt.

Last week, in this opinion, a federal court in Michigan highlighted the importance of confirming receipt when emailing that FMLA paperwork:

Defendant had the right to require Plaintiff to recertify her FMLA leave....Specifically, the issue is whether Defendant (through FMLASource), by informing Plaintiff of the recertification requirement via email, gave Plaintiff proper notice of that requirement...The transmitting of an email, in the absence of any proof that the email had been opened and actually received, can only amount to proof of constructive notice.

Parenthetically, it's worth noting that, for FMLA re-certification, even oral notice to the employee would suffice. However, oral notice can often devolve into a "he-said/she-said" situation.

So, I'll say it again. When it comes to satisfying FMLA notice requirements, consult the list above and have proof that the notice was delivered.


October 17, 2014

The one thing HR can't afford to do if an employee reports a noose

One employer appears to have screwed up royally. Click through to find out how.

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Continue reading "The one thing HR can't afford to do if an employee reports a noose" »

October 16, 2014

The Employment Law Blog Carnival: Halloween Edition #ELBC

Three nights ago...

Eric: How many bags of Halloween candy do you think we need this year?

Wife: Our neighbors said last year they had ten.

Eric: Ten?!? *** rubs belly of golden goose ***

Wife: Yes, and the kids have your costume all picked out. It's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?

Eric: What's that now?

(Wife leaves room and returns with costume and four different-colored headbands)

Wife: You get to pick which Turtle you want to be?

(Eric squints, rubs temples raw, remembers last year's costume)


Can you believe that I practice law...and get paid for it? 

Anyway, here's the The Employment Law Blog Carnival: Halloween Edition, with a collection of the best recent employment law blog posts. Special thank you to Mark Toth, Chief Legal Officer at ManpowerGroup, NA, for hosting this month at The Employment Law Blawg.

No, you can't have my costume.


October 15, 2014

Read this before you ask an entry-level worker to sign a non-competition agreement

My Facebook and Twitter feeds were blowing up yesterday with links to articles at NYTimes.com, Huffington Post, and Jezebel about how the sandwich chain, Jimmy John's, supposedly makes its sandwich makers and delivery drivers sign these non-competition agreements. These agreements purport to preclude employees from working for certain nearby competitors for two years after their employment with Jimmy John's ends.

Now, I know what you're thinking...

That Meyer has the coolest Facebook and Twitter feeds evah! How can I get with him? (Well, here's how you can get with me next month, but I digress).

I'm not going to comment specifically on Jimmy John's and its purported practice other than to say that I work in Philadelphia and it would be sacrilege to let a "sub sandwich" pass between these lips. But, after the jump, I do have a few general pointers from employers about restrictive covenants...

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Continue reading "Read this before you ask an entry-level worker to sign a non-competition agreement" »

October 14, 2014

Everything HR must know about the Supreme Court's '14-15 docket

Coming up during this term, the Supreme Court will decide seven cases relating to HR compliance. To put this into proper perspective, if you were to award a point for every forthcoming Supreme Court decision, that would be seven more points than the entire New York Giants team scored against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.  

[Yep, still basking in the glow].

Anyway, for more on these important cases affecting your workplace, Philip Miles has you covered here at Lawffice Space.

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And speaking of workplace goodies, have I mentioned the free event were are hosting next month entitled, "Social Media @Work, The #BalancingAct between Employer and Employee"? Well, other than the five other times I've mentioned it. Ok, indulge me. Mark your calendars for November 12, 2014 from 8:45-10:00 AM. And get over to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. (We'll even feed you breakfast at 8:00). We're talking me and three key decisionmakers from the EEOC and NLRB gabbing away about stuff you can use to proactively protect your workplace. 

But you'll need a ticket, and they are limited.

More details here.

October 13, 2014

Getting fired for bringing a gun to work probably isn't discrimination

But, hey, what do you have to lose by filing the lawsuit anyway, right? I mean, it can't end up worse than the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.

(Oh yeah, I went there).

More after the jump...

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Continue reading "Getting fired for bringing a gun to work probably isn't discrimination" »

October 10, 2014

Read this before you revoke a job offer in Pennsylvania based on criminal history

Across the country, many states and localities have enacted ban-the-box legislation. In a nutshell, ban the box means that employers cannot inquire about an applicant's criminal history until after the first job interview.

For example, Philadelphia has ban the box. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not.

Still, Pennsylvania does have the Criminal History Record Information Act. But, indeed, a Pennsylvania federal court ruled on Wednesday that the Act and ban the box are two separate things:

CHRIA does not preclude an employer from revoking a conditional offer of employment based on a good faith belief than an applicant intentionally withheld material information on his employment application in violation of the employer's policies.

Just be sure that, if you are asking about criminal history on a job application, you don't operate in a ban-the-box town or city. And, even if you don't, remember that under the Act precludes employers from basing employment decisions on misdemeanors and summary convictions that do not render an applicant unsuitable for employment. And basing an employment decision on a mere arrest...fuggedaboudit. Like my arrest for male prostitution doesn't make me unfit to be a lawyer.

(If only my blogging platform had a double strikethrough).

October 9, 2014

Federal appellate court foils the age discrimination claims of "Superman"

General Zod is not impressed

More on this case after the jump...

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Continue reading "Federal appellate court foils the age discrimination claims of "Superman"" »

October 8, 2014

EEOC, NLRB & Me: Mark your calendars for November 12, you guys

You're Invited.jpg

What if...

I'm just saying, what if you could attend an event -- a free event, with breakfast -- and you get to hear me speak for an hour and fifteen about social media in the workplace and other hot workplace issues, and then grill me during a Q&A?

That would suck, right? Because, apart from the breakfast, who wants to hear me speak for an hour and fifteen minutes?

So, how about something better -- couldn't be worse, amirite?

How about a panel discussion featuring, oh, I dunno...

Well, hey now! Direct access to three of the most influential workplace decisionmakers in our government. And I'm the moderator. (Oh, alright! You get the free breakfast too).

Is your heart racing? Your pulse quickening? That's not the morning coffee you're feeling. 

Geared to human resources professionals, business owners, and in-house counsel, this incredible collaboration will dish at an event entitled "Social Media @Work - The #BalancingAct Between Employer and Employee." We'll cover a variety of hot topics such as: 

  • Establishing social media policies that withstand legal scrutiny
  • Exploring the impact of social media on hiring decisions
  • Determining how far is too far when it comes to sharing workplace information online

Beyond social media, each speaker will address other emerging workplace issues at their respective agencies and take your questions. And, because I love you guys, this program has been approved for 1.25 HR/General recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

You want in on this? Yeah, you do...

Social Media @Work
The #BalancingAct Between Employer and Employee

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Breakfast: 8 a.m.
Program: 8:45 a.m. - 10 a.m.
National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Limited tickets available here.
.

littletwitter.pngBoth before and during the event, follow along and tweet using #BalancingActlittletwitter.png

October 7, 2014

Remember that a duty to accommodate may exist after childbirth

Seems one employer may not have received the memo. Now, the EEOC is taking aim. More on this and some tips for employers to avoid pregnancy-accommodation traps, after the jump...

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Continue reading "Remember that a duty to accommodate may exist after childbirth" »

October 6, 2014

The importance of having clear employment policies...and following them

Remember that Americans with Disabilities Act case involving Walgreens and the $1.39 bag of chips. In that one, the store appeared to really step in it by firing a diabetic who ate a bag of chips from the store without paying for it. The employee claimed that she needed the chips for her diabetes. The store defended its actions by arguing that the employee violated its no-grazing policy. $180,000 later, that case settled.

I don't know how much the chicken poppers sell for at Wal-Mart. And the case I read over the weekend involving the company's no-grazing policy didn't settle either...

Click for more...

Continue reading "The importance of having clear employment policies...and following them" »

October 3, 2014

The Supreme Court completes my religious discrimination superfecta

Have you noticed a theme here at the blog this week?

I mean, other than the crappy posts.

Well, that and the crotch grabbing.

It's been all about religious discrimination. Good ahead, scroll down the page, there they are.

And yesterday, the Supreme Court announced that it is going to decide EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., a case involving an employee who wore a headscarf (or "hijab") to work for religious reasons, but was told to remove because it conflicted with Abercrombie's clothing policy. The lower court granted summary judgment to the EEOC. The Tenth Circuit reversed and granted summary judgment for Abercrombie, concluding that the employee never informed Abercrombie that she needed a religious accommodation to wear the hijab at work.

Now, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether an employer can be liable under Title VII for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a "religious observance and practice" only if the employer has actual knowledge that a religious accommodation was required and the employer's actual knowledge resulted from direct, explicit notice from the applicant or employee.

Prediction: Abercrombie wins. I can't see how a majority of the Court concludes that anything less than actual notice of a particular individual's sincerely-held beliefs would create a duty to accommodate them.

October 2, 2014

Can crosses on holiday party invitations create a hostile work environment?

Remember yesterday, when I was talking about religious accommodations, I said, "Treat all religions equally."

That same rule applies to  casting out the evil devil of religious discrimination generally. Church!

After the jump, from my bloggerdome pulpit, I'm preaching my religion: employment law. All ye harassers, there is still time to repent! I will bring workplace salvation.

*** dodges lightning strike ***

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Continue reading "Can crosses on holiday party invitations create a hostile work environment?" »

October 1, 2014

A Monday Night Football lesson on workplace religious accommodations

After scoring a touchdown on Monday night, Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah dropped to his knees and prayed.

Kinda like this.

As Kevin Draper at Deadspin.com reports (here), a tweet from Abdullah's brother further confirmed that the player's post-TD celebration was a Muslim prayer.

Except the referees responded with a 15-yard penalty to the Chiefs for excessive celebration, for which the NFL later later accepted blame.

Oops.

What can employers learn from the NFL's mistake? A few lessons on accommodating prayer in the workplace after the jump...

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Continue reading "A Monday Night Football lesson on workplace religious accommodations" »