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 8, 2012

Five pending Supreme Court cases for HR, In-House & the C-Suite to follow

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court reconvened for its 2012-2013 term.

Although not chock full of pending employment-law cases, this term will see several important issues decided which could affect your workplace. Below, I have a collected a series of links to stories on these cases:

Of the five employment-law cases on the Court's docket, the one in which I am most interested is Vance v. Ball State Univ., where the Supreme Court will clarify just who is a "supervisor" for purposes of Title VII.

October 5, 2012

GUEST POST: 3 Reasons to Consider Job Applicants with Online Degrees

guestblogger.jpgToday we have a guest blogger at The Employer Handbook. It's Caroline Ross. Caroline is a former educator who writes for accreditedonlineuniversities.com and specializes in distance education platforms and online program accreditation. She is an avid reader and advocate for global education and equality. Please submit any comments or feedback in the section below! Feel free to email her some comments!

(Want to guest blog at The Employer Handbook? Email me.)

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Continue reading "GUEST POST: 3 Reasons to Consider Job Applicants with Online Degrees" »

October 4, 2012

$$$ reasons to have a second-language anti-harassment policy

Bilingual signsWhen an employer is faced with a sexual-harassment lawsuit, one of its best defenses is that the company took reasonable care (e.g., policy, training) to prevent sexual harassment (and then addressed complaints in a manner that is reasonably designed to end the sexual harassment)

In EEOC v. Spud Seller (opinion here), the employer had an anti-harassment policy that detailed what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report it. Further, it specifically advised employees that, "You can feel state that your complaint will receive immediate attention and if the facts support your complaint, the offender will be disciplined."

Sounds good to me.

Except...the policy was printed only in English. And in Spud Seller, nine Spanish-speaking employees claimed that they were victims of sexual harassment. So, did the company take "reasonable care" to prevent sexual harassment? According to a Colorado federal court, maybe not...

The Handbook that contained the policy was in English, and there is no evidence that its provisions were translated into Spanish or that written translations were supplied to Spanish speaking employees...Second, there is a question as to whether the policy itself was sufficient - both on its face in English, and as to whether it provided a meaningful remedy for Spanish speaking employees...Due to the makeup of the workforce, assuming that a Spanish speaking employee had a complaint, she could not bring it directly to the persons identified in the policy because they did not speak Spanish.

The court further noted that the primary bilingual person who customarily explained the policy and interpreted for Spanish speakers was the alleged harasser.

If you have a multilingual workplace, please make sure to have your anti-harassment policy translated into multiple languages. Also, make sure that non-English speaking employees know to whom they can report claims of unlawful harassment.

October 3, 2012

New bill would require accommodations for pregnant employees

Pregnant woman2Does an employer have to provide a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee to allow her to perform the essential functions her job?

Let's see.

Americans with Disabilities Act? No. Pregnancy is not a disability. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act? Well that depends. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is part of Title VII. But the current state of law is such that employers need only treat pregnant employees as they would other employees with temporary disabilities. However, most employers do afford accommodations (e.g., light duty) to employees with temporary disabilities. So, they would have to do the same for pregnant employees too.

But do I smell some duplicative federal legislation after the jump? I sure do. Click through for details...

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Continue reading "New bill would require accommodations for pregnant employees" »

October 2, 2012

In its first Facebook-firing decison, the NLRB backs an employer

All Saints church - flying pig - geograph.org.uk - 1692162Look out for that flying pig!!!

No, it's true. I've got proof after the jump...

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Continue reading "In its first Facebook-firing decison, the NLRB backs an employer" »

October 1, 2012

CA enacts workplace social media protections; NJ gets closer

Thumbnail image for facebookprivacy.jpgLast week, CA became the third state to pass a law that bans employers from requesting online usernames and passwords from employees and job candidates. Maryland was the first state to pass such a law; Illinois was the second.

As in the other two states, not only is it illegal to request online information, but also CA employers may not retaliate against anyone who refuses to turn it over.

There are two carve-outs in the CA law to protect legitimate employer interests. An employer may:

  1. require an employee to divulge personal social media reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of allegations of employee misconduct or employee violation of applicable laws and regulations; or

  2. require or request an employee to disclose a username, password, or other method for the purpose of accessing an employer-issued electronic device.

Meanwhile, in NJ, the Senate Labor Committee voted 4-0-1 in favor of a similar bill. Under the proposed NJ legislation, the aggrieved party may seek injunctive relief, compensatory damages, counsel fees and court costs. According to Law.com (here), the 1 absention came from a Republican Senator who wishes to amend the bill by removing that private cause of action.

That legislation now goes to Governor Christie for signature.

September 28, 2012

Rapper's Delight: Lil Wayne gives a deposition for the ages [VIDEO]

This.

September 27, 2012

What one employment-law question would you ask Paul Ryan?

paulryan.jpegWe're just a few months away from the Presidential election. That means that the debates are right around the corner.

Monday, started a week-long series of hypothetical debate question for the 2012 candidates for President and Vice President. Here are the questions I asked President Obama, Mitt Romney, and Vice President Biden.

And here's my question for Rep. Paul Ryan:

Your campaign website claims (here) that "unions drive up costs and introduce rigidities that harm competitiveness and frustrate innovation." Both you and Mitt Romney have been critical of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would have made it easier for employees to unionize. Indeed, you once received a 7% approval rating with the AFL-CIO
Do you feel that unions today provide any benefit in America's workplace? 
And, if given the opportunity, would you repeal the National Labor Relations Act altogether?

To see what my fellow bloggers would ask Mr. Ryan, check out:

What would you ask Mr. Ryan at the '12 debates? Let me know in the comments below.

September 26, 2012

What one employment-law question would you ask Joe Biden?

joebiden.jpegWe're just a few months away from the Presidential election. That means that the debates are right around the corner.

Monday, started a week-long series of hypothetical debate question for the 2012 candidates for President and Vice President. Here are the questions I asked President Obama and Mitt Romney.

And here's my question for Vice President Biden:

The White House (here) touts the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act as the first piece of legislation -- employment-law or otherwise -- signed into law during President Obama's first term. The President touts fair pay and equal rights, but there hasn't been a second significant employment law passed yet.
Why hasn't there been a second? (Negative points if you blame the Republicans).

To see what my fellow bloggers would ask Mr. Biden, check out:

What would you ask Vice President Biden at the '12 debates? Let me know in the comments below. And be sure to come back tomorrow for a question to Paul Ryan.

September 25, 2012

What one employment-law question would you ask Mitt Romney?

mitt romney.jpgWe're just a few months away from the Presidential election. That means that the debates are right around the corner.

Yesterday, started a week-long series of hypothetical debate question for the 2012 candidates for President and Vice President. Click here to see the softball that I tossed President Obama. 

Let's see if I can raise my game for Mitt Romney:

As you know, the Family Medical and Leave Act provides job-security protections for qualifying employees with serious health conditions, loved ones with serious health conditions, or who need time off to care for a newborn. Presently pending in Congress are bills to expand the scope of the FMLA. For example, the Domestic Violence Leave Act would provide leave for workers to address domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and their effects. The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act would amend the FMLA to permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent who has a serious health condition. 
These efforts would broaden the law. But what if you had the power to repeal the FMLA altogether. Would you do it? And why?

To see what my fellow bloggers would ask Mr. Romney, check out:

What would you ask Mitt Romney at the '12 debates? Let me know in the comments below. And be sure to come back tomorrow for a question to Joe Biden.

September 24, 2012

What one employment-law question would you ask President Obama?

obama.jpegWe're just a few months away from the Presidential election. That means that the debates are right around the corner.

Back in 2008, around this time, employment-law blogger Daniel Schwartz at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog rounded up some other bloggers to pose hypothetical debate questions to the '08 candidates for President and Vice President.

Four years later, Dan has resurrected this successful series and asked yours truly to join in. Today, the question goes to President Obama:

Protection of women's rights in the workplace seems to have been a priority for you since taking office. In 2009, you signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which effects the statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit, into law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, includes workplace breastfeeding protections. 
Should you win reelection, what further changes would you make to workplace laws?

To see what my fellow bloggers would ask President Obama, check out:

What would you ask President Obama at the '12 debates? Let me know in the comments below. And be sure to come back tomorrow for a question to Mitt Romney.

September 21, 2012

Telecommuting as an ADA accommodation: Maybe; maybe not

Much has been written lately in the blawgosphere about telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act for qualifying disabled employees.

Last month, Jon Hyman posted (here) about this case, in which a federal court in Ohio held that telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation based on the unique facts concerning the employee and the workplace -- and that issue was up to a jury to determine.

telecommute.jpgEarlier this month, I came across another case (EEOC v. Ford Motor Co.), in which a Michigan federal court also recognized that telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation. However, unlike the prior Ohio decision, the Michigan court recognized that there are some telecommuting arrangements that are just so impractical that no jury would conclude that telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation.

In Ford Motor Co., the court refused to second guess the business judgment of Ford's managers who concluded that the plaintiff could not work from home on a regular basis for up to four days a week. The court further noted that no other employees who held the same position as the plaintiff were allowed to telecommute that often. It also found credible Ford's evidence that frequent, unpredictable absences negatively affected the plaintiff's performance and increased the workload on her colleagues. Consequently, the court dismissed the plaintiff's claim that Ford had failed to accommodate her disability.

The EEOC, which lost the Ford Motor Co. case, has published some guidance on telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation. Jon also has some good tips in his post regarding telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation. Against the backdrop of the Ford Motor Co. decision, Jon's most notable tip is documenting the cost of establishing and monitoring an effective telecommuting program.

Ultimately, each telecommuting request or, for that matter, any reasonable accommodation request, should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis after discussion with the employee about the various reasonable accommodation options.

September 20, 2012

NLRB's 1st social media ruling: Slams Costco policy; greenlights defamation

candycorn.jpegIt's been a while since I've addressed social media policies and the National Labor Relations Act on this blog. Longer than Kim K's marriage to what's his name? Indeed. Methinks things at the National Labor Relations Board have been quiet lately. Maybe a little too quiet.

And then...

Click..click...BOOM! [Cue music]

Earlier this month, for the first...time...evah, the NLRB weighed in on the validity of an employer's social media policy.

I know. I know. Sit down, catch your breath. This is big stuff! Big stuff!!! Mmmm...double stuf. And speaking of Oreos, have you seen these bad-boys? Who wants to send me a package for Halloween?

Wait! What were we talking about again? Was it fantasy football? Should I start Martellus Bennett tonight? 

No, it was NLRB. Dang! What did the NLRB decide about social media policies? WHAT OF SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES!?!? I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Hit the jump and find out!

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Continue reading "NLRB's 1st social media ruling: Slams Costco policy; greenlights defamation" »

September 19, 2012

That moment right before the pain begins: an EEOC subpoena

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Back in July, I blogged here about a federal appellate court recently emphasizing just how broad the subpoena power of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission really is. [Editor's Note: the technical legal term is "crazazy broad"]

Last Friday, as I was hosting the weekly dip-spit distance shot organizing my office, I saw this opinion from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which further underscored just how far and deep the EEOC's outstretched hand can go into your business.

Yeah, you, dude! The one who is not accused of discriminating against anyone, but who may have information relating to a pending EEOC investigation.

What's in store if you are on the receiving end of that subpoena? Find out after the jump...

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Continue reading "That moment right before the pain begins: an EEOC subpoena" »

September 18, 2012

Want 5 court-approved workplace anti-harassment tips? Read this...

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You've got an anti-harassment policy. All managers and employees have copies and you just completed training on the policy for your entire workforce.

Sweet!

But is your policy bulletproof? I mean really bulletproof? 

And if an employee claims that a harasser lurks in your workplace, if sued, will a court agree that the steps you have taken were reasonably designed to end the harassment?

Just how confident are you?

After the jump, some not so obvious pitfalls from a recent federal-appellate-court decision and six ways (5 from the court; 1 from me) to help you stay legal and out of the courtroom.

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Continue reading "Want 5 court-approved workplace anti-harassment tips? Read this..." »