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The Golden RuleLast week, I talked about reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the importance of having an open-minded, respectful conversation with a disabled employee who requests an accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job. Ultimately, as I’ve discussed before, the employer (and not the employee) may insist upon a particular accommodation as will enable the employee to perform the essential functions of his job.

But is that always the best move?

Consider this recent case, in which a diabetic service technician requested that his employer provide him with an air conditioned vehicle to keep his insulin cold. Providing an air conditioned vehicle seems pretty reasonable to me. Instead, however, the company had a policy, which allowed all employees “take breaks at restaurants or other establishments to cool off on hot days.” Thus, the company claimed that this policy would be a accommodation and; therefore, the employee should not have refused it.

Rather, it’s just being — oh what’s that word — ‘human.’

Like in this case, in which a supervisor with breast cancer was disciplined — yes, folks, you can reprimand an employee with an ADA “disability” or FMLA “serious health condition” — for allegedly calling other employees names such as “idiot,” “moron,” and “dumbass;” and also striking a few of them on the head for good measure. The supervisor-plaintiff was then demoted and given a pay cut commensurate with the other deputy clerks at her position. When told of the demotion and pay cut, her boss also mentioned that “she should probably focus on her health rather than worry about the stress of supervising people.”

My heavens! I’ve caught the vapors. A boss who expresses concern for the welfare of his employees. Sounds like a terrible place to work!

You’re about to have a reduction in force and you’re going to offer a severance package to those effected: one week of salary for every year of service in exchange of a full release of all claims. If one or more employees affected by the reduction in force is 40 years of age or older, you’d better make sure that your release language complies with the the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), as amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (“OWBPA”). Unlike other general releases, by statute, an ADEA/OWBPA release must have certain required elements for it to be effective.

One employer, in this recent case, learned the hard way. The employer RIFed the plaintiffs, but failed to inform them “about the group of employees who were being terminated as a result of the reorganization or about employees who were not selected for termination,” as the law requires. Consequently, the age discrimination release that the plaintiff signed wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Kinda like this blog.

Sounds like someone’s taken a page out of the Lionel Hutz playbook.

Patrice Williams is a Seventh-Day Adventist. Seventh-Day Adventists believe that the Sabbath runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Because of her sincerely-held religious beliefs, Ms. Williams requested that her employer not require her to work during the Sabbath, to which the employer allowed her to do so through a combination of swapping shifts with co-workers, using vacations days, using sick days, scheduling doctors appointments, and other means.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVPG-jnehr0But, that wasn’t good enough for Ms. Williams. 

J. Neil DeMasters worked as an EAP counselor for Carilion Clinic. During the course of his employment, a co-worker came to him complaining to have been a victim of sexual harassment. Mr. DeMasters relayed his co-worker’s complaint to HR. Then he was fired.

Does Mr. DeMasters have a possible retaliation claim? Nope.

DeMasters’ statements to Carilion’s human relations department qualify as protected oppositional conduct. There are no allegations in this case that DeMasters played any role in Doe’s sexual harassment complaint beyond counseling Doe through the EAP and relaying Doe’s complaint to Carilion’s human relations department. Merely ferrying Doe’s allegations to Carilion’s human relations department is in no sense oppositional, and DeMasters did not engage in protected activity in so doing…. DeMasters intended only to relay Doe’s complaints to Carilion, not voice his own opposition to any unlawful employment practice, such as the sexual harassment or hostile work environment alleged by Doe.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the National Employment Lawyers Association – New Jersey Annual Conference.

I must admit that I was a bit leery. While it sounded legitimate enough — they asked me to speak on a panel addressing accommodation issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act — being the guy with The Employer Handbook blog, I half expected to be chloroformed upon arrival, and buried under a jughandle, left to be constantly trampled by folks making left turns from the right lane.

But, instead, I spoke to a sharp, engaged audience and met some wonderful people. (NJ management-side lawyers: there’s a reason we get paid the big bucks. These employee-side folks don’t make it easy!)

Last week, CareerBuilder.com released its survey and study of resume do’s and don’ts. The one I received on used toilet paper was both a do-do and a don’t. But, at least she used 12-point Times New Roman. Still, that didn’t make the list. Here’s what did…

How long should a resume be?

Two pages max; one page if you are a recent college grad.

theysaid.jpgNow, where did I put the mustard for my deep fried Red Bull battered Twinkie dog? (Like I would ever use ketchup for that?!?)

While I search for the spicy brown, after the jump, I’ll get you caught up on the latest employment-law news…

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DOLlogo.pngI remember back in the good old days, when law-firm internships meant private jets, caviar lunches and….toilet paper? As if!.

But now, times are tougher. Some firms find themselves forced to forego paying law students in lieu of offering volunteer pro bono opportunities to enable them to receive work experience. This recent advice letter from the Department of Labor sorts out the circumstances in which not paying these interns will pass muster on the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But the DOL wasn’t done there. Yesterday, it announced a final rule extending the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. There is also a new set of answer to Frequently Asked Questions here.

In Philadelphia, we’re known for certain things, such as cheesesteaks. Ordering the cheesesteak is a bit of an art form. For example, I could order a “Cheese steak, with Cheez Whiz and fried onions.”

Or, I could simply say, “Cheese wit.” As most anyone around her knows that Cheez Whiz is the default “cheese” and “wit” means “with fried onions.

[Those of you who are giving me that disdainful Cheez Whiz stink face through your computer — right back at ya, when you order the “Philly Cheesesteak” on your local dinner menu. For there is nothing “Philly” or “Cheesesteak” about that sludge, right down to the Swiss cheese and mayo. Ya heathen!]

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”