Category Archives: Employment Practices Liability

Status Update: Facebook “Likes” Receive Constitutional Protection

Social media issues arising out of the workplace are ever-changing. Your friends at Professional Liability Matters recently discussed the potential consequences to employees for posting objectionable personal information on Facebook. However, a novel decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday may turn the tables on employers who take retaliatory action against employees based upon their Facebook activity. Spoiler alert… Facebook "likes" are protected free speech under the First Amendment.

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Good At-Will Hunting: At-Will Employment Put to the Test

While most countries allow employers to dismiss employees only for cause, employment relationships are presumed to be “at-will” in all U.S. states except Montana. As a result, most employers are well aware that employment relationships in the States may be terminated at any time, for any legal reason. But, the at-will presumption is a default rule that can me modified by contract whereby the employee may hold a reasonable expectation of continued employment. The modification of employment terms by way of contract was recently put to the test in New York. Victory for the employer.

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Employee Fired for “Private” Facebook Post

Plaintiff Deborah Ehling thought she could comment freely on Facebook because she limited her posts to a restricted group of her “friends” and her posts were not available to the general public. She was wrong. When her employer learned of her controversial posts and terminated her, she thought she had recourse. She was wrong. In an important ruling for employers, the District Court of New Jersey recently dismissed Ehling v. Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corp., et al., (August 20, 2013). This case put to the test the Federal Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-11 (“SCA”) as applied to social media content in the workplace.

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Fantasy Sports in the Workplace

Football season kicks off Thursday, September 5. As a result, millions of otherwise well-respected and seemingly professional Americans turn their attention to a grown-up version of make believe; a/k/a fantasy sports. Over 25 million Americans now belong to at least one fantasy football league and fantasy sports represent a multibillion dollar industry. Surveys suggest that many of those fantasy football participants access their league at the workplace, on equipment provided by employers. Most employers are cognizant of the importance of maintaining up-to-date computer use policies, social media protocols and other important workplace regulations, yet they inexplicably miss regulating participation in fantasy sports.

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Life for the Employer After a Discrimination Claim

The workplace is often incredibly uncomfortable following an employee’s claim of work-related discrimination. The employer must balance its goal of productivity and profit while maintaining employee morale and equality on the job. At times, an employer facing a charge of discrimination may feel hamstrung by the looming charge and may permit employee conduct that was otherwise sanctionable out of fear of what may be perceived as retaliation against the employee for filing a charge. But, as the recent decision out of the Seventh Circuit proves, a charge of discrimination does not provide the employee with free rein to violate work-place protocol.

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The Floodgates have Opened: Unpaid Internship Suits on the Rise

Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Last month we discussed the first suit filed by unpaid interns against their “employers” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Channeling our inner Miss Cleo, we suggested at the time that the decision in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., would have far-ranging implications on the EPL community. Sure enough, the floodgates have opened for unpaid interns seeking repayment under the FLSA.

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Supreme Court Changes the Standard for Retaliation Claims

Often, it’s not the crime but the cover-up that will do you in. In some ways, that sentiment is applicable to retaliation claims for alleged discrimination in the workplace. Or at least it was, until the Supreme Court's recent decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. Previously, an employer facing a discrimination suit was susceptible to a retaliation theory despite establishing legitimate reasons for the alleged discriminatory conduct (usually terminating or demoting the employee). Specifically, so long as the plaintiff could show that the desire to retaliate for the employee's pursuit of a charge of discrimination was at least a “motivating factor” behind any adverse employment action, the employer could be held liable. Thus, the potential existed for an entirely well-intentioned employer to be held liable under this standard. Nassar addressed this potential and changed the rules.

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Professionals Beware: Unpaid Internships May Prove Costly for Employers

With summer break in effect, many students are utilizing the time off from school to participate in internships. Internships provide students with an opportunity to gain work experience in a particular field and, arguably, make them more marketable upon graduation. However, these intangible benefits may not excuse an employer from failing to pay interns under state and federal labor laws.

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Hell’s Kitchen: Star Chef Sued for Wage & Hour Violations

On Thursday, June 13, 2013, a proposed class action was filed on behalf of all former and current employees of Chef Gordon Ramsey’s Los Angeles restaurant “The Fat Cow.” The class action is led by a former server, barista, and two hostesses who are taking their beef to California state court against the celebrity chef’s restaurant. The class action alleges that the restaurant’s management took tips from former employees, and violated a series of other wage-and-hour labor codes. The Fat Cow opened its doors on October 1st, 2012, and is already catching steam over improper managerial practices.

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Firing Problem Employees: A How-To Guide

“They come into work disheveled and drunk. They swear while talking to customers. They have sex with a co-worker in the stockroom. Or worse yet, they steal money from the company or threaten to hurt the boss. Some employees turn out to be bad news for a company and need to be fired, but how can a company show misbehaving workers the door while protecting itself from wrongful termination or discrimination suits?” Our friends at Law360 provide great insight on the difficult and risky task of terminating an employee, here.

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