Ebola Preparedness: Employee Education Is Key

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In the wake of the world’s largest Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in history, Americans have been inundated with media hype surrounding the disease, and the government and employers’ perceived inadequacy in their response. While the threat of a widespread EVD outbreak in the United States is minimal, healthcare providers in particular, but also airlines and travel-related companies, mortuary employers and laboratories should all take steps to educate and protect their workforce. As experience has taught, educating and openly communicating with employees helps reduce truancy, limits discriminatory activity, and ultimately creates a healthier and safer workforce. Still, many employers are unsure what they can and cannot require of their employees. Below, we touch on some of the most pertinent topics that employers in these critical sectors may want to consider as they confront employees and customer/patient pools concerned about EVD. Continue reading this entry

Marijuana Card Saves Unemployment Benefits, Not Job

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In the rapidly evolving interplay between federal and state employment laws, state medical marijuana laws, and employer policies seeking to maintain drug-free workplaces, an appellate court in Michigan has just concluded that while having a medical marijuana card cannot save your job with a private employer after a positive drug test (as concluded by a federal appellate court several years ago), it will not disqualify the employee for unemployment benefits. According to the Michigan Court of Appeals then, employees discharged after testing positive for marijuana based on their use pursuant to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”) can still receive unemployment compensation. Continue reading this entry

Cha-Ching! New Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors Officially Effective on January 1, 2015

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For federal contractors and their subcontractors, the Administration continues to add new requirements and standards they must meet in order to transact with the U.S. Government. Yet another such requirement recently joined the list – this time an increased minimum wage for federal contractor employees working on federal service or construction contracts (but not federal contractors supplying goods). Continue reading this entry

EEOC Signals Intent to Process and Litigate Claims of Sexual Orientation Discrimination Under Title VII

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Signaling its intent to pursue its viewpoint that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (including transgender identity), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken several recent steps to advance its theory that Title VII’s statutory term “sex” has broad application within the meaning of the federal employment discrimination law. According to the EEOC, Title VII’s general prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex encompasses more specific prohibitions on certain acts of sexual orientation discrimination under a sex stereotyping theory and prohibits employers from taking sex or gender, as well as perceptions regarding gender roles, into consideration when making employment decisions. Continue reading this entry

The Line Out of This Place Is as Long as the Amazon.com River

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This month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in a case that would seem to raise easy enough questions: When does an employee’s workday begin and end? What activities count as “work”? However, these questions have given way to tortured analysis and fairly arbitrary results.

Over the years, courts have ruled pre-shift and post-shift activities are compensable if they are “integral and indispensable” to the principal activity of the employment, whereas activities falling outside this definition are considered “preliminary” and “postliminary” and therefore not compensable. Of course, these definitions raise as many questions as they answer. What is “integral and indispensable”? What is the “principal activity of employment”? Not surprisingly, given this nebulous standard, court holdings vary widely even when fact patterns are very similar. Continue reading this entry