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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 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" »

September 30, 2014

The religious bias case of the Jehovah's Witness officer who refused to use a gun

Ok, technically, he was a "parking services officer." But, he was working in a police department. And when you work in a police department as an officer, the odds are that you'll need some weapons training.

Well, cue the jump where we learn whether a police department has to accommodate the religious beliefs of a Jehovah's Witness who refuses weapons training....

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Continue reading "The religious bias case of the Jehovah's Witness officer who refused to use a gun" »

September 29, 2014

Court: It's ok to try to hit a co-worker with your car after grabbing her crotch (twice)

The opinion contains the words "fingered," "genital area," and "sexual assault," plus an allegation that the assailant tried to hit the plaintiff with her car in the mall parking lot. But, the court concluded that there was no sexual harassment, because none of these events "affected the conditions of her employment."

** napalms Washington-bound resume; shreds ashes **


September 26, 2014

The #EEOC makes history by filing its first ever transgender-discrimination lawsuits

Bending iPhone6's? Derek Jeter's last home game in Yankee pinstripes? Attorney General Eric Holder to resign?

Bah!

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was the one stealing the headlines yesterday -- err, doing something that I decided to be most blogworthy.

Details on two historic lawsuits after the jump...

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Continue reading "The #EEOC makes history by filing its first ever transgender-discrimination lawsuits" »

September 25, 2014

The Workplace Risks (and Rewards) of Social Media

Wouldn't it be great if two employment lawyers, one representing employees, another representing management, would discuss the employment-law implications of social media in the workplace on a Twitter chat? Then some other lawyers could chime in. And we'd have a moderator.

What's the word I'm looking for? Dorky? A little. But no dorkier than what the rest of you dorks discuss on Twitter.

Well, anyway, we did all this yesterday. If you missed it, keep one eye open tonight; I'm coming for you in your sleep here it is!

September 24, 2014

An orgasm on a treadmill explodes an employee's FMLA claim

Yep, that's what I said.

More on this after the jump...

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Continue reading "An orgasm on a treadmill explodes an employee's FMLA claim" »

September 23, 2014

Hitler jokes from supervisors of German descent are, oh, what's the word?

The German word is "dumm"

Or, as they say in Germ-lish: Hella-dumm.

More after the jump...

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Continue reading "Hitler jokes from supervisors of German descent are, oh, what's the word?" »

September 22, 2014

EEOC's attack on garden-variety severance agreements suffers a potentially MAJOR setback

Earlier this year, the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit against CVS in which it claimed that drugstore chain "conditioned the receipt of severance benefits for certain employees on an overly broad severance agreement set forth in five pages of small print." Specifically, the EEOC took issue with several common provisions that you guys probably use in your severance agreements:

  • a general release;
  • a non-disparagement obligation;
  • a confidentiality provision;
  • a covenant not to sue; or
  • a cooperation clause

But don't go throwing your severance agreements in the trash just yet.

More after the jump...

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Continue reading "EEOC's attack on garden-variety severance agreements suffers a potentially MAJOR setback" »

September 19, 2014

A company so concerned about an employee with cancer....it fired her?!?

That ain't legal, yo.

I'll tell you why after the jump...

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Continue reading "A company so concerned about an employee with cancer....it fired her?!?" »

September 18, 2014

House Democrats seek to breathe new life into ENDA

And here I just got finished telling an audience yesterday at the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was dead.

Guess I was wrong.

More on this after the jump...

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Continue reading "House Democrats seek to breathe new life into ENDA" »

September 17, 2014

Some Senate Republicans seek to reinvent the National Labor Relations Board

So, yesterday, it was all about some House Republicans introducing legislation to constrain the enforcement efforts of the EEOC. Then, I read this story from Ramsey Cox at TheHill.com. It seems some Senate Republicans are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board.

More after the jump...

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Continue reading "Some Senate Republicans seek to reinvent the National Labor Relations Board" »

September 16, 2014

New House bills seek to slow the EEOC's roll

Halftime of the Eagles-Colts game. So, I only have 15 minutes to crank this one out. Here we go...

Two new bills in the House to watch.

1. The Litigation Oversight Act of 2014: This bill would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require the EEOC Commissions to decide by "majority vote whether the Commission shall commence or intervene in litigation involving multiple plaintiffs, or an allegation of systemic discrimination or a pattern or practice of discrimination."

I give this somewhere between between a snowball's chance in hell and hell freezes over chance of passing.

2. The Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2014 would also amend Title VII to allow employers "to engage in an employment practice that is required by Federal, State, or local law, in an area such as, but not limited to, health care, childcare, in-home services, policing, security, education, finance, employee benefits, and fiduciary duties." The intent here is to hamstring the EEOC from scrutinizing background checks of current and potential employees.

Like my daughter in a bumper car, this too shouldn't get far.

Continue reading "New House bills seek to slow the EEOC's roll" »

September 15, 2014

What employers need to know about "subtle bias" before it becomes an in-your-face lawsuit

Over the weekend, I read this CareerBuilder poll, which found that the majority of workers don't aspire to leadership roles. Here are the numbers:

One in 5 workers (20 percent) feel his or her organization has a glass ceiling - an unseen barrier preventing women and minorities from reaching higher job levels.
However, when looking only at workers who aspire to management and senior management positions, the percentage increases to 24 percent and is even higher among females (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), African Americans (50 percent) and workers with disabilities (59 percent).

The kicker is that only 9% of white men think there is a glass ceiling for women and minorities at their organization. The disparity in perception is startling. The actual numbers aren't any easier to swallow. According to this 2013 Forbes article, "only 1% of the nation's Fortune 500 CEOs are black. Only 4% are women. And not a single one is openly gay."

Does overt discrimination have something to do with it? I can't point to a particular study, but I'd be foolish to say no. But, this more recent article from Jonathan Segal, highlights the effect of subtle bias on the relative lack of female and minority business leaders.

More after the jump...

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Continue reading "What employers need to know about "subtle bias" before it becomes an in-your-face lawsuit" »