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.

January 13, 2012

And the most ridiculous lawsuit of 2011 was...

According to FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org, the lawsuit that keeps those lawyer jokes flowing is...

bartsimpsonfrivolous.jpgConvict sues couple he kidnapped for not helping him evade police. A man who kidnapped a couple at knifepoint while he was running from the police is now suing the victims, claiming that they promised to hide him in exchange for an unspecified amount of money. The plaintiff, currently in jail, is seeking $235,000 for the alleged "breach of contract."

And from the ridiculous to the sublime just-about-as ridiculous...

A top runner-up was featured on this blog back in October; thus proving, once again, that the author of this blog has the maturity of an immature 12-year-old. It's the 60-year-old musician who sued for age discrimination and then claimed that the presiding 88-year-old judge was too old to hear the case.

Although, I particularly like the one that also ppears on the ridiculous lawsuit list about the mother who is suing Chuck E. Cheese, claiming that its games encourage gambling in children. Incidentally, I took my two-year-old and 10-month old to Chuck E. Cheese, last month. Although I have yet to find them throwing dice in the alley behind our house, I'm going to keep a close eye on them.

You can read the rest of 2011's most frivolous lawsuits here.

January 12, 2012

SCOTUS: Religious groups nearly exempt from job-bias laws

Thumbnail image for Supreme Court.jpgYesterday, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar employment-discrimination lawsuits by ministers against their churches. More on this decision and some helpful reminders for private-sector employers after the jump...

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Continue reading "SCOTUS: Religious groups nearly exempt from job-bias laws" »

January 11, 2012

PA companies offering severance to employees should read this...

Starting this year, employees who receive severance pay in excess of 40% of the average annual wage in Pennsylvania will have their unemployment compensation benefits offset. Currently, that 40% number is $17,853.00.

As Jonathan Segal, Legislative Director for PA State Council of SHRM, notes here, employers should be very careful not to represent anything in a severance agreement that an employee could reasonably construe as suggesting that this change in the law will not apply. He adds here that employers should also consider beefing up their severance-agreement-release language to confirm that the release is effective even if severance is offset or reduced under PA law.

You can read more on the change in the law here.

January 10, 2012

Say cheese! Thank you for supporting organized labor.

photographer.jpgNo inflatable rats here, folks. Just some organizing shenanigans.

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board was tasked with determining whether a union may use the photograph of an employee, without his authorization, on union-organizing materials. Click through to find out how the NLRB decided this one...

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Continue reading "Say cheese! Thank you for supporting organized labor." »

January 9, 2012

Can ADA-disabled employees be required to work overtime?

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To prove disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a plaintiff, at a minimum, must prove that:

  1. she is disabled;

  2. she is otherwise qualified to perform the job requirements, with or without reasonable accommodation; and

  3. she was discharged (or otherwise suffered an adverse employment action) solely on account of her disability
After the jump, I have a recent federal court decision from Michigan which addresses the second prong above; specifically, whether and when working a minimum number of hours a week is an essential job function, such that if a disabled employee can't work those hours, she can be fired -- legally.

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Continue reading "Can ADA-disabled employees be required to work overtime?" »

January 6, 2012

10 of most common interview questions...and 5 of the crazaziest!

body language in job-interviewRecently, Glassdoor.com poured through thousands of interview questions and posted 50 that come up more often than not.

Here are the Top 10:

1. What are your strengths?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
6. Why was there a gap in your employment between [insert date] and [insert date]?
7. What can you offer us that someone else can not?
8. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
9. Are you willing to relocate?
10. Are you willing to travel?


Glassdoor also listed 25 additional interview questions that are sure to blow your mind. These five would definitely freak me out:

    1. "Are you exhaling warm air?" (Asked at Walker Marketing).
    2. "How do you feel about those jokers at Congress?" (Asked at Consolidated Electrical).
    3. "You're in a row boat, which is in a large tank filled with water. You have an anchor on board, which you throw overboard (the chain is long enough so the anchor rests completely on the bottom of the tank). Does the water level in the tank rise or fall?" (Asked at Tesla Motors).
    4. "Does life fascinate you?" (Asked at Ernst & Young).
    5. "Just entertain me for five minutes, I'm not going to talk." (Asked at Acosta).
What about you? What's the wildest interview question you've ever heard? Let me know in the comments below.

January 5, 2012

Who owns the LinkedIn account you maintain for an employee?

powered by Fotopedia

Yesterday, we looked at a recent federal-court decision to determine whether LinkedIn connections are considered trade secrets. Today, after the jump, we look at whether your business has any protectible interest in a LinkedIn account that you create and maintain for your employees.


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Continue reading "Who owns the LinkedIn account you maintain for an employee?" »

January 4, 2012

Re-open for business: Obama recess-appoints three to the NLRB

Well, color me surprised (I think that's purple).

Today, President Obama exercised his executive power to "recess" appoint -- actually, to be technical about it, no one is on recess -- three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, thus bringing the Board up to its full capacity of five members.

nlrb.jpg

The recess appointees are Sharon Block (Dem.), Richard Griffin (Dem.), and Terence Flynn (Rep.). You can read more about them here in a White House release. And here is a release from the NLRB.

In this press release, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce denounced the NLRB appointments:

"The NLRB's credibility has suffered greatly during this administration due to an aggressive agenda favoring the unions. The president could have chosen to work with the Senate and stakeholders to see if a package of nominees could be confirmed that would help restore the agency's independence and credibility. Instead, today's steps will simply further poison the well with regard to labor-management issues pending in front of the Board and on Capitol Hill."

The Board had been operating in 2012 with just two members, after the term of Craig Becker, President Obama's prior recess-appointee, expired. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a two-member Board is powerless to exercise any authority. Thus, we have the recess appointments.

Correction: This post has been updated with a new quote attributed to the U.S. Chamber. The original post referenced a quote from this article, criticizing President Obama's decision to recess-appoint Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

January 4, 2012

Are employees' LinkedIn contacts considered your trade secrets?

Over the past several weeks, you probably read about this case involving a company suing one of its former employees whom it alleges misappropriated a Twitter account and, along with it, 17,000 Twitter followers that the company believes it owns. A video about the case follows below:


Late last month, I learned of another case (h/t TechDirt), in which a former high-level executive and her prior employer are currently duking it out to see who owns the connections on the executive's LinkedIn page. More on this story and whether LinkedIn contacts are even trade secrets at all, after the jump...

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Continue reading "Are employees' LinkedIn contacts considered your trade secrets?" »

January 3, 2012

The curious case of a high-speed ambulance-chasing whistleblower

'First Birthday cake and cupcakes' photo (c) 2011, kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/But before I get to that, did you know that The Employer Handbook turns one today? It's true. Help me blow out the candle -- hey, kid! Save some for the rest of us.

Whatevs.

Just click through because I've got a crazazy one for you. It's a true story about a police officer - slash - ambulance driver who started a high-speed ambulance chase to serve a restraining order on a co-worker's ex-boyfriend and then...

Yeah, just hit the jump...

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Continue reading "The curious case of a high-speed ambulance-chasing whistleblower" »

December 30, 2011

Your favorite "The Employer Handbook" posts from 2011

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As the year draws to a close, let's take a look back at the most popular posts at The Employer Handbook in 2011, based on number of hits:

5. Social media and the workplace. School teacher Natalie Munroe made several appearances on the blog this year. Remember her? She was the blogging school teacher who wrote that her students were "utterly loathsome in all imaginable ways." Although, Ms. Munroe eventually returned to work, her experience is a sound reminder to always think twice before hitting "send." You can read the fifth-most-popular post, "Yes, you CAN discipline employees who abuse social media" here.

4. I'm a poet and I don't even know it. I'm not sure what inspired the fourth-most-popular post. It must have been a slow news day. How else do I come up with the idea to Haiku -- verbing a noun, sorry -- about recent employment-law decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court?

3. FMLA remains a hot issue. This one surprised me. The third-most-popular post is about FMLA legislation in Pennsylvania that never passed.

2. Short and sweet. The second-most-popular post was one of my shortest. I merely announced that the EEOC had finalized its ADAAA regulations. (Note to self: keep it short)

1. Yeah, I know, you only clicked "by accident." This was a runaway. Not even close. To put things in perspective, nearly 4% of all page views at The Employer Handbook were on this one story. Not to come off as too vain -- I'm sure I've done that already in my other stellar posts -- but nearly four times as many viewers checked out the number-one post than my blog biography. What else can I say? In the end, sex sells. (Note to self: keep it sexy).

Thank you to everyone who made The Employer Handbook such a success in its first year. We'll be back on January 3, 2012, the official one-year anniversary of the blog, with something short and sexy employment-law related. But possibly short and sexy.

Image credit: capl@washjeff.edu

December 29, 2011

This is why HR should timely document employee issues

Documentation and paying attentionLast week, a federal appellate court (here) allowed a white assistant manager to pursue claims of reverse race discrimination against a bank because the reasons that the bank offered to the court for firing the plaintiff did not jibe with the documentation in its own file. Oh, wait a minute, there was zero documentation in the file.

I smell some trouble for the employer and some good lessons for my business readers, after the jump, of course...

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Continue reading "This is why HR should timely document employee issues" »

December 28, 2011

Age discrimination: It's not rocket science.

The "Science" Section in Borders Oxford Street

Oh, Meyer, where are you going with this one?

Well, it's my chance to play a little GnR after the jump while reminding my awesome employer readers about what it takes for an employee to actually prove a claim of age discrimination.

(Hint: It's not easy)...

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Continue reading "Age discrimination: It's not rocket science." »

December 27, 2011

"Sex-plus" discrimination: Illegal? Yes. But what the heck is it?

baby stroller favor

I have no idea. I was hoping that one of you could help me out.

Oh, wait, I'm supposed to be the expert here. Ok. Fine. I'll play some music and dish the deets -- hint, it has something to do with the picture -- after the jump...

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Continue reading ""Sex-plus" discrimination: Illegal? Yes. But what the heck is it?" »

December 23, 2011

NLRB: Employers can keep that union-rights poster on ice

Presents Under the Tree 138/365 And just in time for Christmas.

The National Labor Relations Board announced today that it has again extended the deadline for covered employers to post this notice, advising employees how to form a union, among other things. The new deadline is April 30, 2012.

The NLRB decided to further delay the posting deadline at the request of the federal court in Washington, DC hearing a legal challenge regarding the rule.

Hey, who loves ya! Happy Holidays from The Employer Handbook.