Pipefitter Otto May, Jr., employed at one of Chrysler’s assembly plants, filed a hostile work environment lawsuit claiming he was subjected to racist and anti-Semitic harassment from his co-workers. The jury awarded May $750,000 in compensatory damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages after a week-long jury trial. Click here to read the article in its entirety.
Apparently France now thinks so, as reported in the Huffington Post. In fact, sexual harassment can be a crime in the U.S. if it involves a battery, assault or false imprisonment. Times have certainly changed. I can remember the French scoffing at U.S. sexual harassment laws claiming that flirting was the French national pastime. Now that pastime can land them some jail time!
ELK GROVE, CA — The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) today announced the $70,000 settlement of a workplace sexual orientation harassment case against Limited Brands Store Operations, Inc., and Bath & Body Works, LLC. A manager of a Bath & Body Works was accused of harassing her co-manager because of his sexual orientation.
The DFEH filed an accusation with the Fair Employment and Housing Commission after investigating a complaint from the co-manager, who began working at Bath & Body Works in August 2007. The complainant claimed that from his first day on the job, his female supervisor referred to him multiple times a day using slurs based on his sexual orientation, drew pictures of male genitals, which she hung in the store’s back room, told his co-workers that he liked kissing boys, and falsely claimed that his attitude was affecting the work environment. The Department’s accusation further alleged that, although another store manager witnessed the harassment and the employee complained to the district manager, Bath & Body Works failed to stop the harassment, ultimately forcing the complainant to quit.
“The Department of Fair Employment and Housing takes great pride in leading the enforcement of California’s civil rights laws,” said DFEH Director Phyllis Cheng. “This compelling case should remind employers that they must have policies in place to prohibit discrimination and harassment against employees—and employ managers who can enforce those policies.”
As part of the $70,000 settlement, Bath & Body Works, LLC agreed to provide discrimination and harassment prevention training to its supervisors and managers, provide training to all new hires within 60 business days of hire, display posters informing employees of their right to report discrimination to the DFEH, and retain copies of all complaints of discrimination and harassment made by employees alleging a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Bath & Body Works did not admit to any liability in the agreement to settle.
“The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out an employment application.” – Stanley J. Randall
This issue discusses:
- Editor’s Column: Suicide Nets
- Opposing Unemployment Claims: Managers, Beware
- AARP Helps Employers With Older Workers
- Five Year Plan for the Workplace
- Alliances That Make Employers Nervous
- Criminal Records: No Employer Policy, No Employee Claim
- Mini-Medical Plans May be Eligible for Exemption
- Religious Expression and Workplace Harassment
- Stupid E-Mail Tricks
- Auto-Forwarding Employee E-Mails Presents Risk
We have also provided you with the Form of the Month.
Please click here to view the newsletter in PDF.
Editor’s Column: Suicide Nets
I read an interesting but disturbing article in Business Week magazine that talked about Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronic components. What was startling was the picture of suicide nets hung outside its company dormitories. Apparently, 12 workers have leapt to their deaths within the past year.
When we see pictures of assembly factories and hear stories about suicide nets, it’s easy for us to point fingers at the Chinese and their inhumanity toward the working masses. However, the U.S. underwent a similar revolution 100 years ago. I can show you pictures of injured children who worked in factories 12 hours a day, six days a week. If they were injured, they were fired. There was no medical coverage or Workers’ Comp. We also went through an incredible labor/management struggle, which continues to this day. You can bet that China will go through its labor struggles as well. Fortunately, and perhaps in part due to global pressure, Foxconn has raised salaries and benefits.
Experts attribute the high suicide rate to repetitive stressful work environments and detachment from the familiar—whether it’s friends, family, or countryside. There’s a deep sense of isolation despite the sea of humanity—a disconnect, if you will.
Let me ask you a question: Isn’t that the condition here as well? Many of us remain equally chained to our desks or cubicles, even if they’re larger or have a better view. Americans work insane hours. In a study we did of HR That Works members, most respondents take fewer than two weeks of vacation per year. At least China mandates two weeks of vacation a year. In France, it’s eight weeks, and in England six weeks.
Where are the safety nets at your company? Is it the EAP? Is it a wellness program? Is it incredible support and flexibility? How do we keep ourselves and the people we work with sane when we’re all running 75 mph? That’s the question, whether you’re in the U.S., Russia, China, Pakistan, or Brazil. How do you make sense of this thing we label as “work” in a way that nurtures us instead of tearing us down?
As with the immigrants who came to the U.S. and continue to do so, the Chinese who immigrate to their cities will reconnect and form associations, special interest groups, sporting teams, non-profit organizations, and find other ways to build their community.
Perhaps our greatest export will be helping emerging economies accelerate through struggles that took us dozens of years to resolve. Workplace struggles surrounding access to work, pay, safety, and the sharing of power will continue to affect today’s workplace, both here and abroad.
Opposing Unemployment Claims: Managers, Beware
Many employers misunderstand the standard unemployment claims. The bottom line: Even a claimant who has performed horribly on the job is eligible for unemployment benefits, unless they leave under these circumstances:
- Voluntary departure without good cause.
- Discharge for misconduct connected with their work.
- An irresistible compulsion to use or consume drugs, including alcoholic beverages.
- Return to school (for students employed temporarily).
- Joining a spouse or domestic partner at a place from which it’s impractical to commute to employment, to which a transfer of the claimant by the employer is not available.
- Protection of the employee or their family from domestic violence abuse.
If you decide to oppose an unemployment claim, it makes sense to get help from an expert in this area.
AARP Helps Employers With Older Workers
The changing demographics of the workforce have gathered much attention. The AARP has done an excellent job of providing insight and tools for employers to help manage the older-than-50 workforce. Click here to view this information. The older workforce will be with us for some time. The proper “retirement age” has been a source of intense debate, due to its impact on the ability to fund pensions and Social Security. The combination of low birth rates and rising life expectancy will transform the demographics of the workplace.
Five Year Plan for the Workplace
The Secretary of Labor has issued “The Strategic Plan” for fiscal years through 2016. As you can see in the diagram, the essence of this plan consists of work-life balance, health care, income security, and advocacy – all noble goals. The challenge: Defining a context or meaning for these terms.
Here’s what The Plan states:
Strategies for Reforming Worker Protection
- Target the most egregious and persistent violators.
- Protect the most vulnerable populations while assuring broad-based compliance.
- Regulate to eliminate or reduce the hazards with the broadest and most serious consequences based on sound science.
Evaluation. Establish regular processes for evaluating the success of enforcement and regulatory strategies in helping achieve desired outcomes.
- Foster a culture that emphasizes continuous improvement in regulatory and enforcement programs.
- Shift the burden of compliance to the employer or other regulated entity, rather than relying exclusively on enforcement interventions to eliminate “catch me if you can” regulation and enforcement.
- Emphasize organization-wide enforcement and other strategies for leveraging limited resources to accomplish the broadcast possible compliance.
- Use openness, transparency, and effective press and communications strategies to help ensure broad-based and continuing compliance.
- Implement collaborative enforcement strategies with other DOL, federal, state, and local agencies to leverage limited resources and ensure broad compliance in the entire workplace.
- Establish and maintain an effective partnership among worker protection agencies, the Solicitor’s Office, and the Policy Office in all aspects of regulation and enforcement.
- Impose penalties and other remedies which are consistent with the seriousness of the violation and act as effective deterrents, including identifying and aggressively pursuing appropriate cases for criminal prosecution.
- Partner with worker and community-based organizations to identify likely violations and educate workers, small businesses, and others about the law’s requirements.
- Involve workers and worker organizations in the workplace to prevent, identify, and remedy violations.
- Provide meaningful compliance assistance and engage the regulated community in designing and implementing compliance assistance.
Learn more on the DOL website.
Alliances That Make Employers Nervous
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is holding a series of discussions with the National People’s Action Network (NPA). The goal is to explain worker rights and how to file a complaint against rights violations with the Labor Department. At a recent discussion in Rhode Island with the Fuerza Laboral organization, more than 100 workers and stakeholders spoke with Wage and Hour officials and garnered information on finding help when denied the wages they deserve.
According to the NPA Web site affiliates entered into a partnership with the US Department of Labor. DOL representatives in NPA affiliate states will attend field meetings to help local organizations expand their campaigns on Wage Theft, misclassification, and other labor violations.
Conclusion: These types of partnerships make business owners nervous. The Bush Administration was one of the most pro-employer on the books. Employers recognize that the pendulum has swung 180° in the opposite direction. The Department of Labor, EEOC, OSHA, and NLRB are in business to help employees – not employers. Whining about this won’t do any good. Engaging in sound HR risk management practices is the only thing that can or will work.
Criminal Records: No Employer Policy, No Employee Claim
The case of EEOC v. Conway Express, Inc. (8th Cir. September 26, 2010) involved an employer’s use of conviction records as a practice, but not a written policy. The EEOC sued on behalf of the charging party, Roberta Hollins, who claimed she was not hired based on her race. Hollins applied for a part-time position at the company’s Poplar Bluff, MO, office. The company’s service center manager, Kenneth Gaffney, interviewed her and recommended to his boss that the company hire her.
However, Gaffney’s boss expressed reservations about hiring her due to race. Gaffney told Hollins that if the company were to hire her, it would “open a can of worms” and “my boss told me not to hire you because if I hired you that was just asking for the NAACP.” This looks like a clear-cut case of racial discrimination, but that’s not how it turned out.
Answering a question on the employment application about prior convictions, Hollins wrote that she twice was convicted for shoplifting. Gaffney offered to employ Hollins, but failed to follow the company’s protocol, which involved obtaining approval from Human Resources before extending an offer. Gaffney was terminated and when Hollins told Gaffney’s supervisor about the employment offer, the supervisor said that he knew nothing about it and he would not hire her. The company hired a white male for the position, and stated that Hollins would not have been offered employment based on her prior convictions.
The EEOC argued that a jury should decide the question of whether Hollins was not hired based on her race because the employer’s background check policy was unwritten. The court ruled that it was irrelevant that the policy was unwritten. The company provided evidence that during the 18 months before Hollins applied, the company disqualified 28 applicants based on their criminal conviction history and no current employee had a criminal conviction. Said the court: “the [EEOC] argues that a reasonable jury could conclude that the policy did not exist because it was not in writing, but they do not cite any legal authority for the proposition that a policy must be in writing to be effective.”
The court got it right: An employer’s practice need not be in writing to be a bona fide, nondiscriminatory reason for an action taken.
Furthermore, although the manager’s supervisor expressed reservations about hiring Hollins because of her race, she would not have been hired anyway due to her conviction record – a factor that the employer applied consistently to applicants.
Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland. (www.lehrmiddlebrooks.com)
Mini-Medical Plans May be Eligible for Exemption from Health Care Reform Law
Employers offering limited health benefit plans (“mini-med” plans) can do so without modifying them to comply with the Affordable Care Act, provided they obtain a waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Many of the companies who offer mini-med plans are applying for these exemptions on behalf of their customers.
The mini-med plan market, which by some estimates covers more than 3 million Americans, has been rocked by the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Mini-med plans, which offer limited benefits but low deductibles and co-pays, have become a cost-effective way for employers with high turnover and low wage earners to provide their employees with basic health insurance. If mini-meds were forced to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s rules, including those that impose “minimum essential coverage” requirements or eliminate lifetime or annual caps on benefits, the entire market would dissolve, leaving 3 million Americans without even the most basic coverage.
As a result, mini-med plans have prevailed on HHS to grant them an exemption from the Affordable Care Act in order to protect basic coverage for their insureds. Employers must submit waiver applications at least 30 days before the beginning of the plan year for plans starting between September 23, 2010 and September 23, 2011. For calendar year plans, the deadline to apply for a waiver is December 1. Plans receiving a waiver must re-apply each year until the waiver program ends in 2014.
Any plan – not just mini-med plans — can apply for a waiver from the Affordable Care Act, provided they can show that:
- The plan covers both full-time and part-time workers.
- Without a waiver, premiums would rise so much that employers would drop the plan or workers would refuse to buy into them.
If you offer a min-med plan, contact your plan’s insurance carrier or your benefits broker to see if the plan has applied for or obtained an exemption. Note, however, that the exemptions are only a short-term fix. HHS will have some tough decisions to make about these plans when the exemption period ends in 2014. Ultimately, mini-meds might be the type of Health insurance coverage that dooms the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all American citizens carry “minimum essential coverage” by 2014.
Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland. (www.lehrmiddlebrooks.com)
Religious Expression and Workplace Harassment
In Mitchell v. University Medical Center, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky addressed a sensitive issue: The tension between an employer’s need to maintain a professional, harassment-free workplace and an employee’s right to voice her personal religious conviction on the job. The plaintiff, a staff nurse at the University Medical Center hospital, was a devout Christian. Based on her readings of the Bible, she believed that she had calculated the date for the end of the world or the coming of the Antichrist. She shared her calculations and revelations with co-workers. Several of her co-workers were uncomfortable with these conversations and reported them to a supervisor, who gave the plaintiff a verbal warning not to discuss religion at work or face discipline, up to and including termination. Upset about the meeting, the plaintiff resigned at the end of the day, and filed a religious discrimination claim against her employer.
The court decided in favor of the employer, ruling that although the plaintiff wanted the right to have religious conversations with co-workers, these conversations were offensive and troubling to them and violated the hospital’s harassment policies. The court noted that any accommodation of the plaintiff would necessarily infringe on the rights of other employees, and ruled that she could not establish a claim for disparate treatment because she failed to show that she received treatment different from that of other employees in similar situations. The Court reasoned that she was not treated differently because of her religion, but because of how her religious beliefs and actions affected others.
For guidelines on dealing with religious discrimination issues in the workplace, see the Form of the Month below.
Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Shawe Rosenthal. (www.shawe.com)
Stupid E-Mail Tricks
An excellent article in the October 2010 Corporate Counsel magazine discussed mistakes executives continue to make using e-mail. The author offered these common-sense guidelines.
- Use company email accounts appropriately.
- Don’t e-mail inside jokes or nicknames for clients or employees.
- Don’t e-mail when angry.
- Don’t e-mail potential ammunition for opposing counsel.
- Avoid using such phrases as “Don’t tell them” or “They’ll never find out” in your e-mails.
This list is far from exhaustive. The article provides excellent job examples of how unwise e-mail conduct on the job has resulted in a significant exposure to the employer. Bear in mind that these guidelines also apply to using such social media as Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. We encourage HR That Works users to examine our Electronic Use Policy, as well as the Social Media Policy.
Auto-Forwarding Employee E-Mails Presents Risk Under Federal Wiretap Act
Employers’ ability to monitor e-mails sent by employees at work is a hot topic being addressed by courts nationwide as privacy laws work to catch up with technology. In United States v. Szymuszkiewicz, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals provides a different perspective on this issue, finding that an IRS agent violated the Wiretap Act by secretly setting up his boss’s e-mail account to forward all received e-mail messages to his own account.
David Szymuszkiewicz worked as an IRS agent whose job required him to visit delinquent taxpayers’ homes. After losing his driver’s license for driving while drunk, he became concerned that he might lose his job and decided to secretly monitor all e-mails sent to his supervisor. The Wiretap Act makes it unlawful to “intercept” electronic communications. Szymuszkiewicz argued that he did not violate the Act because he did not intercept any communications during transmission as one might intercept a telephone call by tapping a phone line. The court rejected this argument, holding that an interception need not be contemporaneous and that Szymuskiewicz’s use of the auto-forward feature in Outlook met the statutory definition. The court also stated that its analysis applies equally to digitally transmitted telephone calls, which are sent in a manner similar to e-mail transmissions.
Although this decision offers a reason for caution, it does not mean that employers must abandon their existing communications policies. Courts have ruled that employers are not subject to liability under the Wiretap Act for monitoring employees suspected of violating company policy if the monitoring serves to protect the company’s “rights and property.” Employers also have a legitimate argument under the Act that they are not liable for monitoring employee communications if the monitoring occurs in connection with “an activity which is a necessary incident to the rendition of [the employer’s] service.”
Nevertheless, it’s wise to act carefully when monitoring employees’ electronic communications, because this area of the law is developing rapidly and the rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Be sure to have up-to-date policies notifying employees that their communications may be stored, monitored and reviewed. You might also strongly consider requiring all employees to acknowledge such policies as a condition of employment.
Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Franczek Radelet. (www.franczek.com)
Form of the Month
Religious Accommodation Flowchart (PDF)
This chart outlines the proper steps to take when considering a religious accommodation issue.
Click here to listen to this month’s newsletter podcast.
“Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments. They do not determine the future; they are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future.”
- Peter Drucker
This issue discusses:
- Editor’s Column: Asking the Right Questions
- Labor History Quiz
- Diploma Mill Scams
- Beware of Punishing Employees Who Complain About Wages Owed
- Create a Fun Workplace
- Moving Down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
- A Review of the 2008-2009 Supreme Court Term
We have also provided you with the Form of the Month
Editor’s Column: Asking the Right Questions
My years as a litigation attorney provided me with excellent insight into failed business and employment relationships. Here are a few critical questions business owners, managers, and employees can ask themselves to make sure that their thinking is on the right path:
- Is it in the best interest of the team? There’s no substitute for playing with a win/win attitude. As they say, “A rising tide floats all boats.” Putting the team first does not mean that you have to settle for mediocrity – or that you decide simply on a consensus basis. Putting the team first means that you ask the critical question: “Is this in the best interest of the team (or company, nation, family, etc.)?”
- Will this increase or decrease the level of trust in the environment? I’ve never seen a failed relationship where the parties trusted each other. Trusting partners even dissolve their relationships in an amicable manner. To make a trustworthy decision means that you have the skills or critical thinking necessary to make this decision and that you do so with good intent. That’s what makes anybody trustworthy to me. They have the skills and desires I can trust.
- Is it in alignment with our vision, mission, and goals? Sometimes there can be a true conflict among these outcomes. For example, NASA wanted to launch its shuttles in both a timely and safe manner. When the goal of timeliness overwhelmed the goal of safety, it resulted in an ethical violation – and lost lives. Because it’s very hard to know if you’re in alignment if you haven’t clearly identified your vision, mission, or goals, you might want to throw in values, commitments, and anything else on which you intend to focus.
- How does the approach feel? Often we make poor decisions because we’re running so fast that we can’t feel what’s going on. This is one reason why I often sleep on major decisions, perhaps even for a few days, before making a major decision. If after three or four days it still feels right, I’ll go for it. Unfortunately, when I forget this lesson, I end up paying the price.
- Is it legal? Are you sure or just guessing about it? What further research should you conduct?
- Should I get outside advice? There’s no substitute for professional help when making decisions. People rely on the Worklaw® Network and I try to answer their Hotline calls as part of the HR That Works program. Knock on wood, but from what I can tell, not a single one of these calls has turned out poorly for a client who followed the advice. It’s important to be able to get outside your own head when making critical decisions.
Conclusion: Follow these steps and you’ll avoid a variety of risk management problems.
Labor History Quiz
Enjoy this fun and informative quiz on labor history, created by the Alabama Department of Labor.
Diploma Mill Scams
The FTC has issued helpful guidelines to help employers avoid the pitfalls of false degrees.
Click here for more information.
Beware of Punishing Employees Who Complain About Wages Owed
IMPCO Technologies found itself in a no-win situation. Just after having moved over to a new time-clock program, two employees approached their manager, Manuel Barbosa, claiming that they were not paid overtime for a couple of hours. Since their manager was also paid on an hourly rate, he realized that if they hadn’t been paid, neither had he — so he submitted a claim for overtime to human resources. An investigation determined that the employees did not work overtime. When confronted with this finding, the manager maintained his good faith belief that he was entitled to overtime. The company, which, in fact, had paid the overtime, dismissed the manager for intending to defraud the company. He promptly sued for wrongful termination.
When the case made its way to trial, the court ruled that the company had terminated the employee for his dishonesty, not for making a claim for overtime. On appeal, the court ruled that if an employee brings forth a wage and hour complaint in “good faith,” they are thereafter protected from termination even if, in fact, they prove to be wrong. The case was reinstated, with instructions to determine if the manager had acted in good faith.
Lesson to employers: Think twice about firing any employee who complains about anything. If such a situation arises, contact the HR That Works hotline or your attorney before making a decision. Remember that, in general, if the matter complained about affects public policy (health, safety, labor laws, tax laws, etc.) the employee is generally protected from a retaliatory discharge.
To read the case (Barbosa v. IMPCO Technologies), click here.
Create a Fun Workplace
Life is short. There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t have fun while making money every day. What follows are 13 suggestions that you might want to employ at your company.
- Set up a fun committee. Put some of the “funniest” people at your organization in charge. Give them a budget — maybe $10 per employee per week and see what they can do with it for a couple of months.
- Have a community service day. Giving back to the community is fun. Whether you coordinate an event for the Boys and Girls Club, a homeless shelter, senior citizen home, a group cleanup project, etc, giving back on a group basis is even more fun.
- Set a red noses day. Whether you wear red noses, Groucho glasses, or silly hats, it’s fun to have a day like that. You simply can’t take each other seriously when you do (I can hear the chorus now, “But I want to be taken seriously!”).
- Ask for kids’ pictures. A number of companies have encouraged their employees’ children to produce pictures that they can hang up in a hallway. One company specifically created slot-like frames for 8.5” x 11” paper, which made it very easy for the parents and kids. You can’t stay in a funk very long walking past a bunch of pictures drawn by kids.
- Bring in a magician. Let them walk around and do some magic tricks for your employees. Sure, they might be distracted for all of five minutes, but they’ll have fun doing it — which is exactly the point!
- Hold theme days. Whether it’s Country/Western, 60s, 70s, or otherwise, it’s fun to not only dress up employees, but the environment as well. This goes great for St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day, and of course, Halloween.
- Require people to provide a joke with their résumé. When one CEO told us about this, we thought it was a brilliant idea. He said reading résumés is one of the most boring things you can do. Requiring a joke certainly makes it more fun. Second, if people can’t follow instruction he won’t hire them. And third, you get an idea of what type of sense of humor they have.
- Run a cartoon caption contest. Get a cartoon, blank out the caption, and then have a contest for your employees to fill in.
- Hold food events. Eating with your friends and colleagues can be fun. Many companies will have food events around a holiday theme. Encourage people to bring a dish native to their heritage. We’ve tasted some of the best — and most unusual — food at these events.
- Stage a murder mystery. A body was just found by the water cooler. Who did it? You can easily hire actors who perform these skits in the evening to come into your company and spend an hour or two some afternoon.
- Throw a sundae party. Bring in a boatload of ice cream, nuts, and cherries and engage in some sugar overload. What could be more fun than that?
- Have story day. Have folks share a humorous workplace story either at your company or a previous employer. Issue some basic guidelines, such as no obscenities and no ridiculing any current employees, to avoid offending them. Keep a time limit of, say, five minutes.
- Get out and do something physical together. Whether it’s a ropes course, bowling, or miniature golf, it’s fun to engage in physical activity. Many companies also have softball, soccer, basketball teams, and the like as well.
There are dozens of other ways to have fun, limited only by your imagination!
Moving Down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The recent Internet Labor Outlook Survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) included a question about the most important aspects of employee job satisfaction. The results, in order, were:
- Job security (63%)
- Benefits (60%)
- Compensation/pay (57%)
- Opportunities to use skills and abilities (55%)
- Feeling safe in the environment (54%)
- Relationship with immediate supervisor (52%)
- Management recognition of employee job performance (52%)
- Communication between employees and senior management (51%)
- The work itself (50%)
- Autonomy and performance (47%)
At the bottom of the list came items such as being in a green workplace, networking opportunities, career development, social responsibility, and so on.
These results show that when we hit tough times, our needs move down the Maslow Hierarchy.
In today’s economy, it’s very difficult to self-actualize when you’ve just been laid off from a job. Survival, security, and belonging are what employees need right now. Their egos are in check — and trying to save the world might have to wait until another day. This is one reason why I continue to support the notion of open-book management. It’s about having an authentic and honest conversation about money (an item in great demand today). Show your employees the black and white of their futures and understand how they can shape it to the benefit of all.
A Review of the 2008-2009 Supreme Court Term
Worklaw Network Member Firm Franczek Radelet’s has provided us with a great summary of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases. Labor and employment-related cases figured prominently in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recently concluded 2008-2009 term. The Court’s conservative Justices continued to play a dominant role, with Justice Kennedy often casting the deciding vote. This trend will probably continue at least through the next term, despite the replacement of Justice Souter by Justice Sotomayor.
During the 2008-2009 term, the Court took these actions:
- Considered whether an employer’s well-intentioned decision to disregard promotional test results and avoid claims of disparate impact discrimination violated Title VII.
- Held that “mixed motive” jury instructions applicable to cases arising under Title VII may not be given in discrimination cases pursued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
- Found that a pension plan qualified as a bona fide seniority system and did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by giving less credit for maternity leave taken before that law took effect than for other medical leave in calculating pension benefits.
- Determined that Title VII prohibits retaliation against employees who participate in an employer’s harassment investigation.
- Held that a collective bargaining agreement can waive employee rights under the ADEA.
- Found that a local union’s charge of litigation fees to nonmember employees was constitutional.
- Addressed the constitutionality of a state law that prohibited the use of union dues deducted from public employees’ paychecks for political purposes.
- Adhered to the “plan documents” rule under ERISA requiring that plan administrators follow the express language of plan documents in all but a very few, narrowly defined circumstances.
Read the entire report here.
Form of the Month
Independent Contractor Agreement (PDF)
If you’re sure you have a proper 1099 arrangement, use this agreement to get it in cement.
(HR That Works Users can access this form in Word format by logging on to the site).
Please click here to listen to the February 2010 Podcast.