Background Checks? That is the Question

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Has your company decided yet whether it will conduct criminal background or credit checks? If you are already using that tool as part of your job screening process, are you keeping up with legal developments in every city, county or state where you do business to verify whether “ban the box” laws are being considered? Is your company a government contractor? If so, are you aware that 100 members of the U.S. Congress support legislation to apply “ban the box” to government contractors? Continue reading this entry

Unfortunately, Offensive Racial Comments Don’t Always Get You Fired (At Least Under Labor Law)

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Under the National Labor Relations Act, certain union activities are considered “protected.” That is, employees engaging in union activity, or union representatives carrying out their duties in the context of grievance processing or labor negotiations, are sometimes protected from discipline even though their conduct would otherwise normally result in discipline under their employer’s policies. For example, an employee who yells profanities at a supervisor during the course of a discussion about the need for a union may be shielded from discipline by the Act even though the conduct otherwise violated the employer’s policies. As a rule of thumb, threats of physical violence are generally not protected under the Act even when they arise in the context of union activity, but disrespectful conduct often is protected when it occurs in that context. Continue reading this entry

Union Contracts to the Rescue? Really?

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We have previously alerted readers to the growing number of cities and states that have enacted paid sick leave laws, and the need to ensure employers that operate in these jurisdictions comply. However, so far, little attention has been paid to the extent to which such laws may conflict with union contracts providing similar benefits, and employers with union contracts should therefore examine their obligations under them to make sure they are not providing benefits to employees above what is required. Continue reading this entry

Obesity, Mere Physical Characteristic or Disability Protected Under Law?

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It is no secret that the U.S. has a weight problem. We all hear the news about how American waistlines continue to expand, the various theories behind what is causing the trend and endless advice to reverse it. The American Medical Association has even labeled it a disease. Many workplaces have employees who are overweight. But news headlines and miracle diet commercials aside, how many employers have truly considered the impact that obesity may have on their workforce, and whether it is a disability under the law? As an ongoing case in Nebraska shows, this is an area for employers to tread lightly. Continue reading this entry

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? When It Comes to Religious Accommodation, the Supreme Court Offers Guidance (Well, Sort Of… )

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What if it looks like someone may need a religious accommodation, but the individual never asks? Does the company still have a duty to accommodate? In a much awaited opinion, the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, determined that “they never asked” does not necessarily let an employer off the hook. Employers subject to Title VII and many state and local laws are required to make reasonable accommodations to an employee’s or applicant’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business. The question the Supreme Court addressed was when and how should an employer realize it has the obligation to explore reasonable accommodation for religious belief or practices. The court’s answer provides some guidance for employers going forward, but also leaves many questions unanswered. Continue reading this entry