Category Archives: Employment Practices Liability

When There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Allegations of Harassment Can Point to Liability

The recent departures of high-profile executives and the flurry of harassment lawsuits provide plenty of teaching moments for employers. Notably, these very public exits and lawsuits are a prime example of why employers must act decisively when complaints of harassment arise in the workplace. Unfortunately, this situation is all too familiar for some employers. Some employers may be tempted to overlook the conduct of top performers even though it may open the door to liability. However, it is critical that allegations of harassment be taken seriously and that prompt investigations are conducted by employers. Sometimes it's necessary to bring in third-parties to conduct a thorough investigation particularly if higher level executives are involved or if there is a pattern of troubling allegations.

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Employer Guidance on Mental Health Disorders

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in five US adults experiences mental illness in a given year. In a recent article authored by PL Matters contributor Dove A.E. Burns, the “prevalence of these disorders has a significant impact upon the workplace and upon employers and their accommodation policies and procedures.” The New York Law Journal article evaluates the EEOC’s publication titled “Depression, PTSD & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights.” The article also considers what the EEOC's guidance means for employers navigating the ADA landscape.

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Tax Consequences of Employee Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs are all the rage. While the concept is still relatively new, the potential implications of such programs are still being ironed out. Consider for example our recent post about how such plans can comply with other existing federal regulations. As employers struggle to make sure that their programs comply with existing regulations, another aspect of the employer wellness programs cannot be forgotten: taxes. The potential tax implications for both the employer and employee are an important aspect of any wellness program. In a recent Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) the IRS addressed what constitutes taxable income when benefits are provided to employees through a wellness program. Employers and tax-preparers should take note.

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Final Word on Employer Wellness Plans

Employee wellness plans are a hot item these days. Increasingly, wellness plans are seen as a benefit to both employees and employers alike. As many employers jump on the bandwagon of this growing health trend, they should be aware of the other legal implications of creating and implementing these programs within their company. For example, a popular topic ever since the EEOC issued its proposed regulations last year has been how employee wellness programs can comply with existing regulations such as the ADA and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Well now it’s time for employers to take note because the EEOC has just finalized its rules in this regard.

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Facebook + FMLA Leave = Termination

Had a great vacation? Post it on Facebook. Fun surfing? Post that too. Swam some laps while on FMLA leave due to a shoulder injury? You should probably keep that one to yourself. Employers continue to struggle with balancing their own marketing interests with the interests of employees in maintaining a social media presence. Of course, an employee’s use of social media may not always comport with an employer’s interests as identified in its social medial protocols or otherwise conflict with accepted practices. Take for example the recent decision from the Middle District of Florida.

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Wrongfully Reviewed?  Risks of Performance Review Process

Performance reviews are a necessary step in the path to ensuring a team of productive employees. However, as illustrated by a series of recent lawsuits filed by Yahoo employees against the internet giant, performance reviews are not without risks to the employers who administer them. In one such suit, an employee alleges that he and approximately 600 other Yahoo employees were unfairly fired based upon an allegedly unfair performance evaluation system, and were terminated without the notice required by federal and state laws, including the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

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Pitfalls of Arbitration Clauses in Employee Handbooks

An employee handbook is a necessary and familiar workplace fixture. A recent trend among employers is the inclusion of a mandatory arbitration clause, to avoid a jury trial in the event of employment-related litigation. Both state and federal courts have recently grappled with the validity of arbitration clauses in the employment litigation realm, and have both concluded that such clauses are not enforceable. These cases serve as a reminder that an employer must be vigilant should it wish to make such a clause part of its employment policies.

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Bathroom (Unpaid) Break: FLSA Foul Up

A dispute over unpaid bathroom break time at the office has resulted in an employer flushing away some $1.75 million as a result of violating the FLSA. The case arose when the Labor Department filed suit against a publisher after discovering that its employees were not earning the $7.25 hourly minimum wage during “personal breaks.” Pursuant to the employer’s policy, employees were required to clock out while using the bathroom, getting a drink or similar breaks.

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Professional Liability for Employee Misconduct

Professionals are often entrusted with access to personal and financial information from their clients. Professionals take great care to ensure that they protect this information from disclosure and that they comply with ethical guidelines regarding proper use of client funds. However, even when professionals fully comply with the rules, there may be occasions where employees or other individuals who have access to the information through their professional employer use it for an improper purpose. While professionals cannot always prevent employee misconduct, the actions they take to remedy any misdeed can often mean the difference in assessing personal liability.

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Liability for Improper Use of Database

Many professionals have access to online databases that store information not readily available to members of the public. These databases are a valuable tool for professionals who need additional information about a person for litigation purposes or for other lawful use within the course and scope of their professional practice. While these databases are only intended to be used for professional use, it is generally possible to access them for non-work-related purposes. This improper use of otherwise legitimate databases raises potential civil and criminal repercussions for the professionals.

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