Virtual Big Brother: Monitoring Employees

Data is everywhere. We're being tracked in the car, in the grocery store, even when we're walking the dog. As I write this, I'm being monitored as well, through employee monitoring administered by my firm's I.T. department. This may help to prevent cyber-crime, as well as assisting with productive, employee locating and resources usage. Reportedly, effective employee monitoring systems can help productivity and therefore benefit the bottom line. However, it can also create problems with the employment environment. This is an important balance for all employers: to effectively monitor employee activity in a trusting and comfortable manner.
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Turning up the Heat on Employers

It's hot outside. The rising temperature has implications for employers, specifically the responsibility to monitor employee health. The ramifications of heat related employment issues span from loss of productivity and morale issues to injuries and even death. From a strict legal standpoint, OSHA has regulations governing occupational heat exposure. Moreover, there are risk management tools to consider for all employees exposed to extreme heat.
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Documentation Saves the Day in Retaliation Suit

When facing a wrongful termination/retaliation claim, the organization and detail of an employer's files will be put to the test. In a recent decision, an employer maintained well-documented, detailed files which helped to prove that a termination was not retaliatory. In Lacey v. Norac, Inc., the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment to an employer in a retaliation claim under Title VII based on allegations that the employee was terminated for refusing to sign an affidavit on the employer’s behalf.
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Ambiguity in Arb. Agreement Cannot Be Construed as Consent to Class Arbitration

In Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an ambiguous arbitration agreement cannot provide the necessary contractual basis for compelling class arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. This decision reverses the Ninth Circuit’s decision that permitted an employee’s data breach class arbitration to proceed.
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When Workplace Gossip is Grounds for Title VII Claim

In less than 18 months of employment, Evangeline Parker received six promotions. Then rumors circulated that Parker’s precipitous rise through the ranks "must" have been because she was sleeping with her boss. When Parker complained about the rumors and confronted the employee who allegedly started the rumors, she was terminated. Reversing the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, held that such rumors could form the basis of a sexual harassment claim in violation of Title VII.
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Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes

On December 29, 2018, a 29-year-old woman in a vegetative and uncommunicative state gave birth to a baby boy. The woman had been in a vegetative state for at least a decade after a near-drowning incident which caused brain drainage. She had been a longtime resident of a healthcare facility in Phoenix. The employees of the nursing home only became aware that the resident was pregnant when she was found moaning and it was discovered that the resident was in active labor. Several news reports indicated that the resident required around the clock care and many individuals had access to her room. Since the incident, the facility has changed its policy regarding male employees entering a female resident’s room. It will now be required that a female staff member be present with a male staff member in a female resident’s room at all times.
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Lack of Training Deemed Adverse Action

What is an “adverse action”? In the workplace some may think that it is only when someone is fired. However, much more falls under the “adverse action” umbrella. What about denying an employee a training opportunity? A federal district court in New York recently analyzed this very issue. The case involved a longstanding employee that was placed into a different role but denied training opportunities that were offered to other employees. The plaintiff struggled in her new role and eventually commenced a lawsuit asserting many claims, including race discrimination.
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