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?
Last night, I read this press release from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, announcing a $2 million recovery for 50 male employees of a New Mexico automobile dealership.
What happened, you say? From the press release:
“In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged a former lot manager, James Gallegos, under the direction of Charles Ratliff, Jr., then general manager, with subjecting a class of men to egregious forms of sexual harassment, including shocking sexual comments, frequent solicitations for oral sex, and regular touching, grabbing, and biting of male workers on their buttocks and genitals. The EEOC also alleged that Pitre retaliated against male employees who objected to the sexually hostile work environment. During the pendency of the lawsuit, the retaliatory actions of Pitre raised such concern that a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Pitre, prohibiting the dealership and all of its agents from threatening or engaging in retaliatory actions against case participants.”
Now, that is some messed up ish.
(Gawd, if I had a nickel for every time I used that line in a court filing…)
So, here’s my HR pro-tip of the day: Grab your employee handbook. Turn to the anti-harassment policy. If it doesn’t specifically reference same-sex sexual harassment, then update that jawn right away.
Because the EEOC is taking it hella-seriously
(that nickel thing again…)
On Monday, it was public urination.
Yesterday, we had indecent proposals.
And today, the blogging gods, in which I hold a sincerely-held belief, serve me up this federal court opinion about an alcoholic named David Crosby — not that David Crosby, but still — who sued his former employer for supposedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, as a result of his termination of employment after a 30-day stint in rehab.
Oh, sweet child! Someone catch me; I do believe I have the vapors.
Let us rejoice in the bounty together, after the jump…
Terribly sorry about the confusion created by my sloppy use of possessive pronouns in today’s lede. The “his” wife refers to the employee’s wife. Otherwise, this post doesn’t make any sense, does it? (Don’t spend too much time contemplating the question, ok).
Yep, just another Tuesday at The Employer Handbook.
Click through for what should prove to
be a cluster of a gender discrimination claim contain many valuable takeaways for proactive employers.
I’m pretty sure Larry David had this written into the Seinfeld Parking Garage episode before making a last-minute script change to uromysitis.
I would have stuck with the former. But, Mr. David is a comedic genius and I just write this crappy blog.
How bad is this blog, you ask? I was contemplating using the words “wicked pissah” in the lede, only to realize that I’d already used them.
Then again, you’re the ones reading this. Go ahead. Click through to read more after the jump…
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Sorry, gang. Last night was my fantasy baseball auction. And I got home hella-late. So, no post today.
Ahhhhhh, I can’t totally leave you hangin’. So, you can read about how the University of Northwestern football team can now organize and form a union (here), or you can grade my fantasy baseball team (right) in the comments below.
Oh, no. Meyer’s slacking. Let the unsubscribes begin!
(Well, maybe, I can salvage this with some Adele Dazeem).
Have a nice weekend.
Over the past several years, seemingly, we’re seen the NLRB take a more active interest in employee handbooks.
We’ve certainly seen it with respect to social media policies; especially, where these policies purport to limit the rights of employees to discuss their employment with one another. This is because Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act allows employees to discuss their terms and conditions of employment together.
And you don’t need to have a union either. The act applies in most every private-sector workplace.
So, whether it’s employees gabbing about how their workplace sucks, or how they are being underpaid, you can’t forbid that.
This holds true even if you have a workplace policy which categorizes wages as “confidential.” The National Labor Relations Board won’t have any of that.
And, most recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed it in this case, by underscoring that “a workplace rule that forbids the discussion of confidential wage information between employees patently violates section 8(a)(1) [of the Act].”
Indeed, even a workplace rule that doesn’t expressly lump wages into the definition of “confidential information” can still be overbroad and, therefore, unlawful.
The company’s “confidentiality” policy highlighted in the Fifth Circuit opinion didn’t mention wages explicitly. Instead, it precluded discussion of company “financial information, including costs.” Both the NLRB and the Fifth Circuit concluded that an employee could reasonably construe this language to preclude discussion of wages.
Therefore, when drafting your confidentiality policy language, consider carving out wages and benefits specifically, or more narrowly defining your confidential information so that a reasonable person wouldn’t read the policy to preclude discussion of their paycheck.
Image Credit:”WinonaSavingsBankVault” by Jonathunder – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Employee comes to you with a leave request in which he potentially qualifies for FMLA. Must you provide it?
Break ’em off Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals:
“The plain text of the [FMLA] provides a cause of action against employers who ‘deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under this subchapter.’ Nothing in the statute speaks of ‘potential rights.'”
So, the answer to today’s “Fact or Fiction” is fiction.
However, remember that if an employee comes to you requests leave that potentially qualifies as FMLA leave, you still must ascertain whether the employee’s absence actually qualifies for FMLA protection.
And don’t forget that the employee doesn’t need to use the letters “FMLA” in order for his leave to qualify under the FMLA. So, educate your supervisors and others who may receive leave requests to know the type of leave that could qualify as such under the FMLA, and to respond accordingly.
Maybe it’s a few years of light duty to accommodate your employee’s bad back. Maybe it’s keeping your employee with medically-documented sleeping issues off of the graveyard shift.
Or maybe, like in this case, it’s allowing an employee who takes morning meds for ADD and bipolar disorder to arrive to work a late, so the meds can kick in. Indeed, for 2 1/2 years, the employee in this particular situation was accommodated with modified start time.
But following a change in management at the company, without explanation, the employer unilaterally withdrew the accommodation. Just like that.
So, the employee brought a failure-to-accommodate claim under the ADA.
Now, you may be thinking, can an employer really do that? Can it just stop accommodating an ADA-disabled employee without some sort of justification or demonstrating undue hardship?
Funny, that’s what a federal judge was thinking when he not only denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment, but also granted the plaintiff’s cross motion:
“Crane had already made a reasonable accommodation to enable Isbell to do her job — for some 2-1/2 years it had accommodated the later-starting work schedule that she had requested to meet her special needs for the performance of her job responsibilities. No real reason has been proffered by Crane as to why a new management broom, who (not incidentally) had no prior knowledge of Isbell’s special arrangement or of the needs that had prompted it, should be entitled to start by subjecting her to a one-size-fits-all timing sweep. Indeed, as already indicated in the preceding paragraph, such uniformity of treatment is precisely what the underlying purpose of the ADA rejects.”
* * *
Because the undisputed facts, even when construed in Crane’s favor, demonstrate that Isbell could and did adequately perform her essential duties for over two years with the reasonable accommodation of a 10 a.m. start time, Crane’s sudden replacement of that start time with a more onerous schedule without considering her known disability plainly constituted an unreasonable failure to continue to accommodate that disability under the ADA.
Does this mean that employers who offer long-term accommodations are stuck providing them for life? No. One option is for the employer and employee to re-engage in a good-faith interactive dialogue to determine what other accommodation(s) may allow the employee to perform the essential functions of her job.
But, to discontinue an accommodation altogether, an employer will have to demonstrate that the existing accommodation has become an undue hardship.
Image credit: Eyemage on Flickr