Welcome to the LawRoom Blog!

Inspired Employer Solutions LawRoom is proud to be your one-stop resource for all things "Legal" in the Human Resources arena. This blog will make you laugh, make you think, and generally speak to you, the Human Resources professional. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bias & Bathroom Access

We recently wrote about an employee who sued for sex discrimination after she wasn't given permission to leave the assembly line to take a bathroom break. She lost her Title VII lawsuit; see Waiting For Relief.

For a similar case from 2009 involving a Verizon employee who sued for bias over a filthy unisex bathroom, see Sharing Bathroom Isn't Biased.

Although Title VII doesn't ensure access, denying rest room breaks can lead to claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, see $200K For Withheld Relief and Urgency Control Is Major Activity and Right to Rest Break.

For a case about another employee's attempt to gain access using a different federal law, you may also like to see our 2006 story No FMLA Bathroom Breaks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Employment Posters & Translations

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is making employers put up a new workplace poster. Under the regulation, employers must post the new NLRB notice in English, plus any other language:
"Where 20 percent or more of an employer's workforce is not proficient in English and speaks a language other than English...."
The NLRB's new rule isn't the first to require employment compliance posters in languages other than English.

For example,under the the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if a significant portion of the workforce does not speak English, the FMLA poster must be posted in the appropriate foreign language.

And in California, if 10 percent of employees at any workplace do not speak English, 2 CCR 7287.0(d) requires the employer to post the state Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) discrimination poster in the appropriate foreign language.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Easy For HR & Managers

Our last blog post was about how our online anti-harassment training might "scare" supervisors into preventing sexual harassment in your workplace.

But our training shouldn't "scare" you. We make training simple. Here's a comment we received today:
"The format of the course made it easy to use and conducive to a work environment in that you can easily have it up and come back to it. The bullet points and exercises makes the points clear and concise. As the HR Manager who has to task these out to all managers, I feel that this is will be a 'painless' task for all managers and they will step away with what they should be getting from it."
If you'd like similar results, please contact us about our online compliance training.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Training Motivates: Supervisor Anti-Harassment

LawRoom's training has consequences. One consequence is that managers learn of their potential personal individual liability for harassment.

Here are two of the comments we received from managers taking our Supervisor Anti-Harassment course this week:
"The first part was horrendously scary and made me want to curl up in a box and never enter a world where I could be sued for millions, but by the end my fear was coupled with understanding. I feel a lot more comfortable about these kinds of situations now!" (commenter employed by a national film theater chain)
"Before this course, I was not aware of how damaging to me personally the actions of others in the workplace could be. This training puts things in a whole new perspective in regards to how quickly and effectively I need to respond to inappropriate behavior in the workplace." (commenter employed by a national freight shipper)
If you'd like supervisors to be concerned about their liability for preventing harassment in your workplace, contact us about our online compliance training.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feats of Strength or Workers' Comp Fraud?

If employees get hurt working, they're entitled to time off and to collect workers' compensation benefits. But when they try to collect more, they may be suspected of fraud.

For example, former Boston firefighter Albert Arroyo was acquitted from charges of fraud after he participated in bodybuilding competitions while on permanent disability leave. Prosecutors say Arroyo was working out twice a day while claiming his back injury prevented him from working, but the jury didn't agree that it was fraud.

This isn't the first time we've seen permanently disabled employees engage in feats of strength. In February 2011, reports surfaced about a man facing criminal charges after being features on the reality TV show "Ax Men", which profiles the treacherous lives of loggers.

On the other hand, some employees out on workers' comp leave commit fraud by going to work for a different employer. For stories about these unsavory and enterprising characters, check out Workers' Comp & Strip Clubs and Selling Crack is Work.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is a Good Samaritan a Good Employee?

Employees who stop working to help other people may be satisfying a moral duty, but does that justify them leaving their job duties? Some employers don't think so.

Last week, a Long Island bus driver was fired after letting three police officers on his bus during a violent storm. He says he didn't think twice before helping out – and was fired for picking up "unauthorized passengers."

We've seen similar situations before. A 2007 lawsuit involved a Tennesse store clerk who ran out of the store to help defend a woman being attacked by a criminal. The store fired him for getting involved in an incident that was "none of our business." See Don't Fire Samaritans.

Another 2007 case involved a Bakersfield school worker who helped police tackle a suspect. The district refused to pay for the employee's medical bills, claiming his job didn't include helping the police. The Court ruled the employee acted reasonably in the emergency situation, and ordered the district to cover the employee's expenses. See Comp Covers Vigilante's Detour.

For contrast, a 2000 case involved a Pennsylvania Kmart employee who was injured while helping a co-worker who was being attacked by her abusive husband during a lunch break. Despite the employee's good deed, the state Supreme Court ruled that she wasn't entitled to workers' comp since she wasn't working when she was injured. See No Comp for Samaritan.

What do you think? Should "good Samaritans" always be considered "good employees" who are doing their jobs?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lactation Breaks For Exempt Employees

Included in the 2010 federal healthcare bill was a provision requiring time off for nursing mothers to express breast milk. See FLSA Lactation Breaks.

The new lactation break law was enacted as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 29 USC §207. There's a big loophole, however, since §207 is the federal overtime requirement, and most "exempt employees" are exempt from this section of FLSA.

In other words, millions of exempt managers, administrators, professionals, computer analysts, and salespeople who aren't covered by federal overtime rules also don't qualify for reasonable unpaid breaks to express milk for their newborn babies, a right that is currently enjoyed by their non-exempt subordinates.

To fix this loophole, the Breastfeeding Promotion Act was recently introduced in Congress. According to US Representative Carolyn Maloney, "The expansion would cover an additional approximate 13.5 million executive, administrative, and professional women in the workplace."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Individual Personal Liability For Sexual Harassment

Employees and managers who harass their co-workers can be personally liable for their wrongdoing. They may face civil claims (for assault, battery, emotional distress, etc.) and criminal counts (for assault, battery, lewd conduct, etc.).

Some states (including California) have anti-discrimination laws that also allow individuals to be sued for sexual harassment, although the federal law Title VII does not (it only penalizes "employers").

Despite the possibility of individual liability, we don't see many examples where harassers face consequences. However, they do occur.

For example, to settle an EEOC case, a Hilton hotel in Illinois had to ensure that the harasser (it's executive chef) receive "personal anti-discrimination training" (see EEOC Gets Personal).

Another case from a few months ago involved a harassing supervisor who ultimately pled guilty to one criminal count of harassment – and cost his employer over $1 million (see Three For $1.26M).

Finally, one recent case involved an ex-judge who harassed court workers and pled no contest to four misdemeanor counts of assault and oppression, for which he was fined $2,150. Later, the victims sued, and in 2011 the harasser was ordered to pay a civil verdict of $3.2 million (see Personal Judicial Liability).