It May Be A New World For Sexual Harassment, But Many Old Rules Still Apply

It May Be A New World For Sexual Harassment, But Many Old Rules Still Apply

In the weeks since allegations began to surface regarding the sexually predatory behavior of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment allegations (sometimes admitted and sometimes disputed) against powerful, prominent men have been a daily feature of the headlines, involving Oscar-winning actors, sitting and would-be senators, talk show hosts, and numerous other high profile figures. Allegations against the both the current...

Are We at a “Tipping” Point for Wrongful Discharge Claims in Minnesota?

Are We at a “Tipping” Point for Wrongful Discharge Claims in Minnesota?

A bartender is told by his employer, in violation of state law, that he must share tips with other employees. He refuses to comply and is fired. The state law in question says he can sue for being required to share tips, but doesn’t say anything about suing because he was fired. Does the law effectively provide a “wrongful discharge”...

“Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”:  How to get yourself fired for a Facebook post

“Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”: How to get yourself fired for a Facebook post

Social media has created a minefield of concerns for both employees and employers. The news is full of stories of employees documenting their questionable off-duty conduct on social media, or posting comments containing racist or derogatory remarks. Often, the employer—or sometimes, the rest of the online community—will demand that the employee be fired. In such a scenario many employers may...

Don’t Make a Habit of it, but Sometimes, Ignorance IS Bliss

Don’t Make a Habit of it, but Sometimes, Ignorance IS Bliss

As a general rule, of course, Human Resources Departments and company management want to be – and should be – well-informed about issues in the workplace, including employees unhappy enough to have raised claims of discrimination or harassment. If key people at the company are unaware of such complaints, the employer might leave itself open to charges of sloppiness, indifference,...

Refusal to Transfer an Employee as an Adverse Employment Action; or, How Life Imitates 1950s Movies

Refusal to Transfer an Employee as an Adverse Employment Action; or, How Life Imitates 1950s Movies

In the classic 1955 movie, Mister Roberts, Henry Fonda plays Doug Roberts, a frustrated Naval officer aboard a supply ship in a backwater area of the Pacific during World War II. Roberts desperately seeks a transfer to a combat ship more directly involved in the war, but he is continually – and maliciously – turned down by Captain Morton, portrayed...

For Any Lawful Reason:  Firing an at-will employee under dubious circumstances need not lead to liability if the reason for the firing was not illegal

For Any Lawful Reason: Firing an at-will employee under dubious circumstances need not lead to liability if the reason for the firing was not illegal

A recent decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals highlights the distinction between firing an employee for personal or politically expedient reasons (which may be entirely legal) and firing an employee because of his or her protected status or for exercising protected rights (which is typically illegal). The decisive question answered in this case was can an employer terminate...

It ain’t Over ’til it’s Over (and Even Then, it Might not Be Over): How long can the EEOC Continue Investigating – after Issuing a Right-to-Sue Letter?

It ain’t Over ’til it’s Over (and Even Then, it Might not Be Over): How long can the EEOC Continue Investigating – after Issuing a Right-to-Sue Letter?

EEOC charges are a fact of life for employers.  Even with comprehensive equal employment policies, top-notch human resources personnel, and a great workplace culture, many employers will at some point encounter a charge of discrimination or retaliation.  While any charge is an unwelcome event, the stakes increase even further if the EEOC decides to take the employer to court.  The...

If a Whistleblower is Just Playing the Same Old Tune, Does the Law Protect Him?

If a Whistleblower is Just Playing the Same Old Tune, Does the Law Protect Him?

Some of the trickiest employment decisions can involve employees who have made accusatory complaints against the company they work for. Many state and federal laws protect “whistleblowers” who try to bring to light illegal behavior by their employers. But in many instances employers legitimately wonder whether the complaint was made in “good faith,” or just to stir up trouble, or...

Biometric Attendance Scanner or “Mark of the Beast”?:  How an Employee’s Unusual Religious Belief Cost the Employer $600,000.

Biometric Attendance Scanner or “Mark of the Beast”?: How an Employee’s Unusual Religious Belief Cost the Employer $600,000.

A recent case from the Fourth Circuit illustrates the risks for employers posed by the obligation to reasonably accommodate religious objections to workplace rules and practices under Title VII.  How should an employer handle accommodation requests based on religious beliefs that the employer views as misguided or even crazy?  A sincere religious belief, even if non-traditional or highly idiosyncratic, must...

Second Circuit Holds Pro-Union Sentiment Outweighs Impropriety of Profanity-Laden Rant Against Supervisor, His Mother, and “His Entire ****ing Family”

Second Circuit Holds Pro-Union Sentiment Outweighs Impropriety of Profanity-Laden Rant Against Supervisor, His Mother, and “His Entire ****ing Family”

Use of profanity by employees, whether in the workplace, outside the workplace, or on social media, presents difficult legal issues for the employer, as highlighted by a recent Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning the firing of an employee who engaged in a highly profane Facebook rant against a supervisor. Although an employer has a justifiable interest in keeping...