[WARNING: This post has some VERY foul language. Although the National Labor Relations Board may tolerate it, many of you may be offended].


 

By now, all of us have read the articles, which claim that the law permits your employees to complain about work on social media … and keep their jobs.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The National Labor Relations Act, which applies to most private-sector workplaces — both union and non-union — protects employees who engage in protected concerted activity. Protected concerted activity is where employees discuss working conditions with one another.

But, an employee who gripes alone is not protected. Also, vulgar and obscene comments are not protected.

Until now. Continue reading

Your company has set up a private LinkedIn Group. Your company, which controls who may become a member of the Group, has seen the number of Group members swell to nearly 700. Way to go! Because it’s a private group, the names of all of the group members are not generally available to the public.

Now, let’s say that the employee whom you have appointed to manage the LinkedIn Group — the one who knows all the passwords — up and leaves. And, of course, he doesn’t return the passwords. What can you do?

How about a lawsuit for misappropriation of trade secrets? Continue reading

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One of the great things about having my own blog is the ability to share and engage with my readers in a number of relatable ways. Mostly, it’s through a casual — some may say snarky — discussion of trending legal issues affecting the workplace.

But, every once in while, I like that we can take a different path together and share personal stories. Whether fueled with joy or sorrow, these “off-topic” posts are what make this forum special.

Today, I want to share with you an update on a special little boy: Shane Metzgar.

Last year, at about this time, I blogged about the story of the Metzgar family, great friends of mine whose youngest of three was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer which kills 9 out of 10 children afflicted.

Over the past year, Shane went through dozens of rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, and other treatments to fight cancer. Still shy of his second birthday, Shane’s strength and endurance helped give his family, his mom, dad, two older siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc., the strength to support his battle.

Sadly, Shane Metzgar passed away Monday. A fighter to the end who recently earned his Mickey ears from a trip to Disney World, Shane died at home, where he was embraced in love, support, and pride. Emily Babay at Philly.com has an article on Shane’s story. Shane’s parents, who are donating Shane’s tumors to the Keller Research Center, with the goal of finding more information about his type of rare cancer, also have a Facebook Page. That page chronicles the life and times of this young, smiling warrior. It’s also where I learned yesterday that Shane got in a proper middle-finger tribute to cancer.

Although Shane succumbed to this horrible disease, he did not “lose” to cancer. Both Shane and his story have helped spotlight this terrible disease. The Metzgars have also set up a foundation, called Shane’s Future Days, to raise awareness  — which you can also do by sharing this post on social media, or just emailing it to a family member, friend, or co-worker. Shane’s Future Days will also raise money for rhabdomyosarcoma research, and help families affected by cancer. If you’d like to donate, click here.

We’ll never forget you, little boy.

R.I.P. Shane Metzgar.

JetBlue A320 at Orlando

One week ago today, a Germanwings plane carrying 150 people crashed and killed everyone on board. Since then, there is mounting evidence that the co-pilot, who was in great physical shape, was also suffering from mental illness which caused him to deliberately steer Flight 9525 into the French Alps.

Why didn’t Germanwings taken preventative steps? Apparently, the co-pilot hid his mental illness from his employer.

Three days after the Germanwings catastrophe, a former JetBlue airline pilot, who was locked out of the cockpit and had to be subdued by passengers, filed this lawsuit in federal court against his former employer.  He claims that the airline was negligent because it knew or should have known that he was “physically and mentally unfit to fly.” Continue reading

I intended to begin the week with a post about a company’s legal obligation to predict — yes, predict — an employee’s mental fitness for duty. Then, I started on a brief tangent on Ellen Pao, the former partner of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, who just lost a highly-publicized gender discrimination claim against said former employer.

And a few hundred words later, that brief tangent became its own blog post — this one. (If you want a wild lawsuit brought by an airline captain who claimed that his former employer was negligent by failing to predict that he’d have a manic in-flight episode, come back tomorrow). Continue reading

The folks over at Glassdoor.com have compiled their Top Oddball Interview Questions for 2015. Except this year, there’s a twist. Glassdoor has grouped the questions by country: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany.

So, let’s put these question to the test. I’m going to take a random “oddball” question from each country, list my response, and predict whether I would have gotten the job: Continue reading

But, I’ll do my best to sort it out for you.

Let’s assume that you have a pregnant employee who tells you that she has a lifting restriction. In the past, you have accommodated employees with disabilities who had similar lifting restrictions. You’ve also done the same for folks who got injured on the job and others who lost their Department of Transportation (DOT) certifications.

If you don’t provide the same accommodation to the pregnant employee, have you violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

Continue reading

A few years ago, I posed the question: Is a workplace “English-only” rule legal? 

Yadda, yadda, yadda, sometimes.

That is, in this Compliance Manual, the EEOC confirms that employers may adopt English-only rules under certain circumstances, insofar as it is adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons (e.g., safety, business necessity) and not to discriminate on the basis of national origin. 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.

Continue reading

I’ve gotta hand it to the company in this recent federal appellate court opinion. The company almost — soooooo close — avoided several claims for unpaid overtime.

Let me set the stage for you. So, there I was wearing nothing but feathers and a coy smile. Back in 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor began investigating a complaint that a marketing company had misclassified some employees and failed to pay overtime. During the DOL investigation, the company sent the employees checks for back wages. Each check bore the following note in fine print:

“full payment from Actinlink [sic] or [sic] wages earned, including minimum wage and overtime, up to the date of the check.”

A bunch of employees deposited these checks. So, the marketing company claimed that, voila, those employees had agreed to waive their right to any additional back pay. Continue reading