We observed last year that the legal industry is no more immune to the holdovers of sexism than any other profession. As we noted, in a step toward stemming this problem, the American Bar Association has passed a new model rule for attorney professional conduct, treating discriminatory actions by attorneys as ethical misconduct. Rule changes, of course, do not immediately result in conduct improvements; just last week, a federal judge in California significantly sanctioned a male attorney for complaining about a supposed display of “female energy” during a deposition. While this latest example appears to be the most serious attorney sanction imposed yet for such behavior, several other attorneys have also been recently sanctioned for similar conduct and statements. Given that at least four different judges have found a need to sanction attorneys in the past few years, it comes as little surprise that in a 2015 survey conducted by the Florida Bar, 43% of all women who responded reported experiencing gender bias and another 17% reported experiencing harassment in their professional setting.
The most accurate answer to this question is, “it depends.”
On March 10, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) weighed in on LGBTQ protections – but the decision is not as clear as some of the headlines make it seem. For instance, some reports proclaimed that the court ruled sexual orientation is NOT a protected characteristic under federal law (Title VII). While that is technically correct, it could also be considered misleading.
Remember when the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) conjured up images of disgruntled employees engaging in workplace violence? Those days of incidents, often sparked by employee discontent over unresolved labor grievances and employment-related complaints, are apparently over. The USPS has learned from the violent incidents of the 1980s and is now considered a go-to source for federal agencies seeking timely and well-executed internal investigations.
I was surprised to learn from Federal News Radio that the USPS now handles roughly 60 percent of all federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints through inter-agency agreements. How has it gone from a back log of 4,000 EEO cases to a trusted source for handling internal complaints? Simply put, the USPS has applied tried and true best practices for conducting internal investigations.
American business experienced a near record number of mergers and acquisitions in 2016, and this trend is likely to continue in 2017. Such corporate transactions raise a number of legal issues, including employment issues. During its due diligence review, the buyer considers whether the seller’s workforce is covered by collective bargaining agreements, what benefits are offered, what policies are in place, and related matters. The buyer, however, often fails to consider the immigration issues that may arise as a result of an acquisition, merger, or other corporate restructuring. The Form I-9 compliance is always a key concern in such corporate transactions, but there also are other significant immigration law concerns. For example, the transaction may cause some of the seller’s employees to lose the ability to work in the United States because their employer is changing. Many temporary immigration classifications are specific to the employer, the worksite, and the job. A sudden change in the identity of the employer or material changes in the job may lead to the loss of employment authorization. Another consideration is whether the buyer is purchasing the stock of the target company (becoming the new owner through the purchase) or buying only the assets of the seller. An asset purchase is more likely to trigger a loss of employment authorization among the foreign nationals following the corporate restructuring.
As predicted, Congress is taking action to repeal and/or alter major sections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). To get the process started, various committees in the United States House of Representatives (House) are in the midst of revising draft reconciliation bills – collectively known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Continue reading this entry