Articles Posted in New Jersey

Happy Monday, everyone.

Glad to see I didn’t break some of your content filters on Friday with my filthy NLRB post. But, hey, just another day in the interesting life of an employment lawyer / HR professional, amirite?

Today, I bring you a very simple lesson, courtesy of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, from right here in my backyard. That lesson is this:

When you terminate an employee, do not write “Health Reasons” on the employee’s termination form. Continue reading

This “invasion of privacy” question is the lynchpin of a new lawsuit from two former employees of one of the largest beer companies in the world. The complaint (available here), which began in state court, has been removed to federal court in New Jersey.

David Gialanella, reporting for the New Jersey Law Journal (full article here), summarizes the facts of the case:

A year ago, five company employees, including Nascimento and Yule, exchanged a series of text messages, apparently disparaging fellow employee Alex Davis. The messages were transmitted using their personal mobile phones, and on their own time, but Nascimento’s personal phone was linked to his company iPad through the iMessaging application, causing the messages to be stored on the iPad, according to the complaint.

Afterward, Nascimento was issued a new iPad, while the old one—with his text messages and credit card information still stored on it—was loaned to Davis. Davis discovered the text messages and complained, after which Nascimento, Yule and the others were questioned by investigators hired by Anheuser-Busch, according to the complaint.

Nascimento, Yule and a third employee involved in the messaging were terminated last September for “‘violation of corporate policy regarding use of company equipment,’” while a fourth was reprimanded, according to the complaint.

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My new blogging platform and email newsletter have their advantages, especially the newsletter.

For example, when a daily post goes out to my blog email subscribers (and, if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that here), one of the analytics I can track is the most-clicked hyperlinks. Welp, in last week’s “Heil Hitler” post, the most popular links were the two that were marked NSFW. That means NOT SAFE FOR WORK. To put this into better perspective, there were three times as many clicks on the NSFW links as there were to the link to the Fifth Circuit opinion I address. Although my analytics don’t literally say it, I will: you guys are hella-twisted.

But, hella-twisted or not, you’re still the best readers on the planet.

Hey, maybe we can just blame those clicks on the plaintiffs’ lawyers who read this blog. (Don’t worry. I love you too. Just not nearly as much). But, I’ll tell you what. One of ‘em came through big time by forwarding me a copy of this opinion, which is a great juxtaposition *** Googles “juxtaposition” — nailed it! *** to what I wrote last week about how no reasonable person would construe a single “Heil Hitler” comment from a manager as creating a hostile work environment. Continue reading

Oyez oyez.

The New Joisy Supreme Court just fashioned a test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for purposes of resolving a wage-payment or wage-and-hour claim. And, shockingly, it doesn’t involve jughandles, diners, or Taylor Ham.

(I live in NJ now, so I can say that stuff and get away with it).

I’ve got all the details after the jump…

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Let’s assume that you operate a business in New Jersey. And you get to thinking:

“What if we put a provision in our employment application, by which a job applicant waives the two-year statute of limitations applicable to most workplace claims and shortens the period for such claims to six months?”

Would that be enforceable?

Well, since we’re talking about New Jersey, which is pretty much the most employee-friendly state next to California, most experts would tell you to pour ‘em a glass of whatever your drinking, because your idea is nuts.

Like spawn of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen cray-cray.

Well, spla-dow!

Tell those so-called experts to check themselves before they wreck themselves, because, late last month, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division (in this opinion) said that an employment application provision shortening the statute of limitations could be binding, yo!

The Court emphasized that the provision in question was “contained in a two-page application and set forth very conspicuously in bold oversized print and capital lettering, just above the applicant’s signature line. The terminology was clear and uncomplicated. Plaintiff was put under no pressure to complete and sign the application quickly.”

And did I mention that English is the plaintiff’s second language? Wow!

This is a MONSTER VICTORY (see what I did there?) for NJ employers. A statute of limitations shortener, maybe paired with a jury trial waiver, that’s a pretty potent 1-2 punch to fend off workplace lawsuits. 

Well that, and a respectful workplace, with training and such.

But, you get the idea.

Thumbnail image for nj1.jpgMany cities in the Mid-Atlantic region (Philadelphia, Newark) have passed legislation that makes it illegal for employers to inquire about criminal history early on in the job application / interview process. The State of Delaware too has passed this so-called “ban the box” rule.

Last week, a New Jersey Senate Committee recommended passage of ban-the-box legislation in the Garden State.

Under the proposed NJ law, an employer may not inquire (orally or in writing) regarding an applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment application process. Although after the initial application process has concluded, then this information would be fair game.

This is the second go-round for potential statewide passage of ban-the-box legislation in NJ. Governor Chris Christie remains open to passing ban-the-box.

I was on such a roll this week. 

You guys were digging the heck out of my peeing in the breakroom post, David Crosby the alcoholic, and the one about a supervisor offering cash to sleep with an employee’s wife.

You know who even read that last one? Scan down to the blog comments. Yep, that’s a comment from the plaintiff himself. OMG!!!

But, can you hear the crickets now? I mean, cue the tumbleweed, because if there’s anything that grinds momentum to a halt here at The Employer Handbook, it’s a post about the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But, since the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is in my hood and surely knows what a jawn is without me having to hyperlink that jawn, issued this precedential opinion on FLSA successor-in-interest liability yesterday. So, it’s the least I could do.

Well, the least I could do is cut right to the chase. So, here’s the money shot:

“The imposition of successor liability will often be necessary to achieve the statutory goals [of the National Labor Relations Act and Title VII] because the workers will often be unable to head off a corporate sale by their employer aimed at extinguishing the employer’s liability to them. This logic extends to suits to enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act….In the absence of successor liability, a violator of the [FLSA] could escape liability, or at least make relief much more difficult to obtain, by selling its assets without an assumption of liabilities by the buyer (for such an assumption would reduce the purchase price by imposing a cost on the buyer) and then dissolving.”

So, buyer beware and either pay less for the acquired company or —

Hey, is anyone still here? Bueller?

Three years at this blog without discussing mohawk hairstyles in the workplace. Now, two posts in one week. Which reminds me of the time I dressed up as BA Baracus for Halloween in law school

Ah, yes. That mohawk….and BA’s fear of flying. Ties right into today’s post.

(I love it when a plan comes together)

You see, recently, I read this opinion about a flight attendant who donned a mohawk and claimed sexual-orientation discrimination under NJ state law. 

Guh?

Yes, he claimed that the crap he took from his supervisors for his mohawk was because he was gay and, consequently, they had created a hostile work environment for him. And to attempt to prove his case, the plaintiff proffered pictures of other employees with “extreme hairstyles,” whom he claimed received more favorable treatment than he.

This argument did not persuade the Court:

“Plaintiff must ultimately show by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation….Indeed, nothing in the record suggests that these employees whose extreme hairstyles Continental allegedly has never questioned are heterosexual…Based on the record before it, this Court cannot conclude that these photographs are probative of any discriminatory animus on the part of Plaintiffs supervisors, as they fail to suggest that Continental applied its grooming policy to Plaintiff in a discriminatory fashion because of his sexual orientation.”

So, go ahead. Tease the heck out of the guy in the mohawk. Fire him if you want. And don’t pity the fool.