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.

July 12, 2012

PA to require public-works contractors & subcontractors to use E-Verify

everify.jpgLast week, Governor Tom Corbett (R) signed the Public Works Employment Verification Act. The Act goes into effect on January 1, 2013, and will require contractors and subcontractors on PA public-works projects to confirm the employment eligibility of newly hired workers using the federal E-Verify program. E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine where employees may legally work in the United States - either U.S. citizens, or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization.

A first offense will result in a warning. A second offense will result in 30-day debarment from public work and a small fine. All subsequent violations will get you a public-work bar of between 180 and 365 days. Any willful violation may result in a 3-year public work ban.

Moreover, the Department of General Services of the Commonwealth will be conducting both complaint-based and random audits of covered employers to determine compliance with the Act.

So check yourself before you wreck yourself.

July 11, 2012

It's tough to prove age bias after getting caught sleeping on the job

Sleep at workI was reading this Third Circuit decision yesterday about an employee who got demoted for sleeping on the job, and all I could think of was Homer Simpson. For not unlike Homer J., a nuclear safety technician, this employee was responsible for monitoring his plant's equipment to prevent malfunctions that could result in explosions, property damage, injuries, and fatalities. Except, unlike Homer, the former employee was allegedly found sleeping on the floor of his office, with a pillow, blankets, and an alarm clock nearby. Now that's what I call an all-out Costanza! All that's missing here are the empty calories and male curiosity, eh Georgie?

Instead, we are left with a baseless age-discrimination lawsuit from a employee, claiming that when he was demoted, it wasn't for sleeping on the job. Rather, it was because of his age and an unwritten policy "to get rid of older employees," premised upon a single stray remark and slipshod investigation into the sleeping incident.

Smell that? Yeah, me too... (And it's not what The Rock is cookin')

To prove age discrimination, an employee must demonstrate, at a minimum, that the employment action taken occurred under circumstances that give rise to an inference of discrimination. One stray remark and a poor investigation -- even if true -- do not indicate that age was the motivating reason behind an employment decision, which is the burden that a plaintiff must meet to prove age discrimination.

What's the lesson to be learned here? If you are going to sleep at work, don't get caught, of course. Or maybe do your sleeping at home...in a bed.

Continue reading "It's tough to prove age bias after getting caught sleeping on the job" »

July 10, 2012

HR 101: Don't suggest "No More Hysterectomies" to a woman on FMLA

D`ohIn my years of practicing employment law, I've drafted several employee handbooks and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies for employers. The policies I draft are thorough. But just the other week, it occurred to me that I should probably add some language to the effect that supervisors should refrain from recommending the book No More Hysterectomies to any female employee who requests FMLA leave, especially to have a hysterectomy.

That recommendation would be stupider than stupid stupid. And, wouldn't you know it, a company in Ohio appears to have managed to screw that up.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to. Well, except for the part about the policy revision. That's pure BS. But the screw-up is not. Details after the jump...

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Continue reading "HR 101: Don't suggest "No More Hysterectomies" to a woman on FMLA" »

July 9, 2012

U.S. Department of Labor has a new FMLA guide and webinar

FMLA Employee GuideLate last year, the US Department of Labor issued this fact sheet, which provides general information concerning the Family and Medical Leave Act's (FMLA) prohibition of retaliating against an individual for exercising his or her rights or participating in matters protected under the FMLA.

Last month, the DOL followed up with the "Family and Medical Leave Act Employee Guide," a copy of which you can download here. A related webinar, which the DOL held on June 27, includes a list of frequently asked questions. You can view it here.

Although geared towards employees, these are both nonetheless good reads for HR professionals looking to hone their FMLA chops.

July 6, 2012

NJ reaffirms that officers may be personally liable for unpaid wages

Ilya BryzgalovWant another reason not to enter into a long-term contract with an employee? Click through...

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Continue reading "NJ reaffirms that officers may be personally liable for unpaid wages" »

July 5, 2012

Pennsylvania to relax OT requirements for hospitals

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Last week, Pennsylvania's Governor, Tom Corbett was presented with this bill that will allow hospitals and other medical care facilities in Pennsylvania to better control the scheduling of employees to control payment of overtime. Details after the jump...

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Continue reading "Pennsylvania to relax OT requirements for hospitals" »

July 3, 2012

PA bill will protect privacy of employee social media passwords

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On June 18, 2012, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives introduced the Social Media Privacy Protection Act, which would protect the privacy of employee online user names and passwords.

A summary of the bill, and what this could mean for PA employers, follows after the jump...

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Continue reading "PA bill will protect privacy of employee social media passwords " »

July 2, 2012

Paid sick leave now in effect in Philadelphia

As of yesterday, July 1, 2012, covered employers in Philadelphia are now required to afford sick leave to certain employees. Here is a copy of the new law. You'll also need to read this bill to have any chance at making heads or tails of the new sick-leave requirements. 

But, I'll give you a brief summary of the new law after the jump...

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Continue reading "Paid sick leave now in effect in Philadelphia" »

June 29, 2012

Healthcare, what? Eyeball 3 other pending employment law bills

ThreeI heard that there was some Supreme Court decision yesterday about healthcare. Want the scoop? Google it.

They zig, I'll zag with the scoop on some other pending employment-law legislation of which employers should take note...after the jump...

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Continue reading "Healthcare, what? Eyeball 3 other pending employment law bills" »

June 28, 2012

One roughneck's life: sex jokes, gay innuendo, all legal.

Oklahoma PumpjackWhen Harold Wasek signed on to work at an oil rig in Pennsylvania, he had no idea what lay in store for him, especially when one of his co-workers discovered that Wasek would get easily riled with sexually explicit stories, jokes, fantasies, and names.

  • "You've got such a pretty mouth."
  • "Boy you have pretty lips."
  • "You know you like it, sweetheart."

Wasek complained to his supervisor. But the harassment worsened. He was touched in a sexual manner: grabbing his buttocks, poking him in the rear with a hammer handle and something described as a long sucker rod.

So Wasek sued claiming sex discrimination. And he lost. Why? Because his harasser was a straight man.

Seriously.

I'll explain after the jump...

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Continue reading "One roughneck's life: sex jokes, gay innuendo, all legal." »

June 27, 2012

Beer muscles and a #SHRM12 lesson about accountability

hulk.jpegI'm a fairly easy-going guy. My buttons don't get easily pushed, I'm not easily riled, and I rarely get angry. 

But, when I get fired up....look out, sucka!

One thing that really gets me going is when others fail to accept accountability for their mistakes and do nothing to fix them. As I punch out this blog post on my flight back from Atlanta following the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo -- a truly first-class event that both HR professionals and employment lawyers should make it a point to attend at least once -- all I can think about is an incident that occurred at my hotel, of all places.

It's an unexpected reminder, one that separates the truly great from the good, that I'd like to share with you, after the jump...

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Continue reading "Beer muscles and a #SHRM12 lesson about accountability" »

June 26, 2012

Who is a supervisor?

Thumbnail image for Supreme Court.jpg

Nah, brotha. This isn't Jeopardy. That's the question that the Supreme Court has decided to answer.

Meyer, what are you talking about? Who cares? 

Well, you should...

The Supreme Court has twice held (here and here) that, under Title VII, an employer is vicariously liable for workplace harassment by a supervisor. What the Supreme Court has yet to clarify, however, is just who is a "supervisor" for purposes of Title VII.

In Vance v. Ball State Univ., the Seventh Circuit joined the First and Eighth Circuits in opining that a Title VII "supervisor" must do more than direct and oversee the victim's daily work. Rather, the supervisor must also have the power to take formal employment actions against victim. Prior to Vance, the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits had held, the "supervisor" liability rule applies to harassment by those whom the employer vests with authority to direct and oversee their victim's daily work. Meanwhile, in my backyard, the Third Circuit has fashioned it's own two-part test to determine vicarious liability for an employer.

So, here cometh the Supreme Court to answer the question. We'll get some guidance next year.

June 25, 2012

Employer customer lists: "Whatever you say, dude."

See, Hear and Speak No EvilYou're looking to hire a new salesperson. Scott Salesperson comes in to interview. He currently works for your top competitor.

"Scott, do you have a non-competition agreement?"

"No."

"Scott, do you have a confidentiality agreement?"

"No. In fact, I have a list of my own customers that I could sell to if you hire me."

Sounds good, right. But, before hiring Scott, do you have any obligation to independently verify the facts that Scott has represented?

New Jersey employers will definitely want to click through because, last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court answered...

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Continue reading "Employer customer lists: "Whatever you say, dude."" »

June 22, 2012

Guest Post: The Problem with Safety Awards

guestblogger.jpgToday we have a guest blogger at The Employer Handbook. It's Kristie Lewis. An expert in the construction industry, freelance writer Kristie Lewis offers tips and advice on choosing the best construction management colleges. She welcomes any questions and comments you might have at Kristie.lewis81@gmail.com.

And if you want to guest blog at The Employer Handbook, then email me.

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Continue reading "Guest Post: The Problem with Safety Awards" »

June 21, 2012

Going to #SHRM12 in Atlanta? You know I'll be there.

shrmlogo.jpgLess than one week to go before the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition kicks off. I'll be there. And here's where we can meet up:

Monday night you can find me discussing cutting-edge HR/employment-law issues at The Official #SHRM12 TweetUp & Afterparty powered by SHRM & Glassdoor. And if you believe that, I'll let you buy the first round. I prefer Johnny Blue and Cristal boilermakers. Cuz I'm a baller.

At 10 AM on Tuesday, I'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Live from the HIVE, Social Media Policy 101, for a Q&A with my buddy Curtis Midkiff. I'll hang out afterwards to discuss any questions you may have. Those who bring me Red Bull Sugar Free will get their questions answered first. Unless, of course, you have cash.

But, if you can't make it down to Atlanta for the event, there are many ways for you to still participate. You can join the #SHRM12 Social Circle, follow the #SHRM12 hashtag on Twitter, follow me on Twitter (@Eric_B_Meyer), or visit the SHRM Annual Buzz site.

Hey, I'd love to meet you. Unless, of course, you have leprosy. Keep your distance. Eh, maybe we can work out some sort of reasonable accommodation.

Oh, I kid. I just wanted an excuse to play this song.

Throw 'em up! See you in Atlanta.