The EEOC reports that 2011 is on track to exceed the record number of retaliation lawsuits set in 2010. Last year, the EEOC collected more money than ever before from employers charged with retaliation after a complaint was filed.
In a recent ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that employee Eric Thompson was protected from retaliation by his employer, even when the complaint was filed by his fiancée. Thompson, an engineer, was fired from North American Stainless LP three weeks after his fiancée filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Initially, the 6th Circuit Court of Appealsdetermined that Thompson had no protection under Title VII because he was not the person who filed the complaint. Thompson had a workplace romance with coworker Miriam Regalado. Their engagement was well known within the company before Regalado filed the discrimination complaint with the EEOC.
In a rare unanimous decision, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling. The justices found that earlier court rulings set a very broad definition of retaliation as “any action that would discourage a reasonable person from filing a complaint.” Penalizing a spouse, family member or other third party would fall into that category, according to the court. Read about the ruling here.
The National Labor Relations Board or NLRB recently sued an employer when a worker was fired for ranting about her supervisor on Facebook. Although the case was settled out of court, the employer had to pay a hefty financial settlement to the employee for infringing on her rights to free speech.
Under federal law, employees are permitted to discuss wages, working conditions and hours with their coworkers and others. This right is protected under the freedom of speech in the Constitution, and in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act or NLRA. That law gives employees the right to join together to improve working conditions, within a labor union or outside of a union.
State law is also an issue. Several states prohibit an employer from firing a worker based on legal conduct on the employee’s own time. These states include California, Connecticut, New York, North Dakota and Washington.
Apparently, the NLRB has decided that when an employer forbids negative remarks on Facebook, the employer violates the employee’s rights to discuss working conditions under the NLRA.
In the case before the Supreme Court American Medical Response or AMR, a Connecticutambulance company, had a policy forbidding employees from posting negative remarks online about the company or supervisors. Employee Dawnmarie Souza violated that policy in a Facebook update disparaging her supervisor, posted on her own time. A customer (more…)
During inclement weather, many offices and businesses will close early. While last week’s post examined payment when the business is closed or remains open all day, different rules apply when the employer opts to close the workplace early.
Many states have reporting pay laws that guarantee an employee payment for a minimum number of hours when the employee reports for a scheduled shift. In those states, even if the employee works only 5 minutes, or reports to work but does no work at all, the employee is entitled to a minimum payment.
Laws vary from state to state, but many times reporting pay is not required if the employer made a good-faith effort to inform the employee in advance that the business would be closed or that the employee’s schedule has been changed. Many states also exempt employers from reporting time pay when a business is closed due to an act of God, as when a tornado or flood destroys the building.
According to SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, seven states plus the District of Columbia have reporting time pay laws that affect adults: California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Oregon has a reporting time pay that applies to minors only.
A brief summary of reporting time pay laws by state: (more…)
Employers in Illinois will have to provide many benefits to same-sex partners under the new state law that legalizes civil unions. The law allows any two people to enter into a civil union that is legally recognized by the state as entailing the same responsibilities, benefits and protections as marriage. An Illinois civil union can be between a man and a woman, or between two people of the same sex.
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on January 31, 2011.
In practical terms, employers will need to provide many benefits to straight, gay or lesbian partners in a civil union beginning on June 1, 2011, when the Illinois civil union law goes into effect. On that date, employers must provide the same benefits to the partner of an employee in a civil union, as the employer provides to spouses of married employees. In particular, an employer who provides group health insurance coverage from an outside company, must provide the same coverage at the same price for employees in a civil union, as for married employees.
There are two notable exceptions to coverage under the law, according to attorney Theresa Essig with Fischer & Phillips law firm. First, an employer who is self-insured need not provide coverage to civil union partners, even if they provide coverage to spouses. Second, the law specifically allows religious organizations to make their own decisions about which dependents to cover.
Any other benefits provided to employees under state law, such as paid vacations and sick leave, will have to treat married spouses and partners in civil unions the same.
Ms. Essig adds that final regulations have not yet been written, so there may be changes in these policies. Her assessment is based on the impact of similar legislation in other states. Currently gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry (more…)
Updated federal labor law posters for 2011 such as the federal minimum wage poster, the “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” poster and the worker safety poster affect employers in other states as well.
Employers across the nation can be fined for not prominently displaying required labor law posters in the workplace, where all employees can see them. Employees who fail to do so can be subject to fines and penalties.
One of the best ways for busy employers and HR professionals to remain in compliance with employment poster requirements is to subscribe to a reputable labor law poster service. The poster service will deliver durable, high-quality laminated posters each time a federal or state poster is updated.
Other poster updates are specific to the state of California, including updated versions of the California minimum wage poster, the employee polygraph poster and “Your Rights under USERRA (Veterans Benefits).”
In addition, some California employers are required to display additional posters in 2011. Employers who (more…)