Employer Law Report

Tag Archives: Traps for the Unwary

Boeing Data Breach is yet another illustration of need for employee education and training

In November 2016, a Boeing employee experiencing difficulty formatting an Excel spreadsheet. Not realizing that hidden columns included birth dates and social security numbers for 36,000 Boeing employees, he emailed the spreadsheet to his wife, who was not a Boeing employee, so she could help. This seemingly innocent act prompted Boeing to launch an investigation and notify those employees and officials in four states of a data breach.

You see, data breaches are not always caused by Russian hacks or other cyber-criminals. Sometimes it is the most innocuous action taken by the most well-meaning of employees. As a result, Boeing

Sunday deliveries of FMLA paperwork: A recipe for disaster

A recent case highlights the intersection of FMLA and workers’ compensation laws. Angela Samuel (Samuel) was employed by Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. (Progressive) as a retention specialist and primarily worked out of her home. While on a leave of absence covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Progressive notified Samuel that she needed to submit documentation in support of her FMLA request. Previously, Samuel’s documents in support of her FMLA leave were either never received or misplaced by Progressive.

On a Sunday evening, Samuel hand-delivered the paperwork to an unattended reception desk outside of a human resources department at …

Above the fray: The employer’s how-to guide on navigating the election season

A special thanks to Adam Bennett for his assistance with this article.

Election Day is quickly approaching. Rejoice! There really is a light at the end of the tunnel when the endless stream of attack ads will cease to exist. But before the last ballot is cast, the last precinct closes and the final votes are tallied, employers are sure to have plenty of questions about how to address employees’ political expression in the workplace without violating the law or making any employee feel alienated. To avoid being left with post-election blues, Ohio employers are wise to consider how they …

The word “or” might render your non-compete worthless

The Northern District of Ohio recently refused to grant a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or Preliminary Injunction against an employee for allegedly violating a non-compete because the court said the agreement was written in the disjunctive. Alloy Bellows & Precision Welding Inc., v. Cole, Case no. 1:15CV494 (N.D. Ohio, April 22, 2016).

The claim was brought by Ohio corporation Alloy Bellows that manufactures “bellows assemblies,” which are highly specialized components of machines used in aerospace, heavy equipment, medical, nuclear, petrochemical, power generation (gas turbine) and semiconductors. Its former business development manager, Defendant Jason Cole, took a job with one …

Hunka Hunka Burning Love. How Employers Stop the Heartburn of Workplace Romances and Avoid Litigation

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we have a two-part series on workplace romance. Next week, we will have a featured post on love contracts in the workplace.  Stay tuned!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is a good time to remind employers that dear old Cupid is alive and well, and strutting his stuff in the workplace. I won’t bore you with the statistics about how many romantic relationships blossom in the workplace, and how many of those end up in marriage or crash and burn like the Hindenburg. As many employers already know, it is not just the parties actually …

When Employee Taunts Employer via Facebook to “FIRE ME. …Make my day. . .” NLRB Memo Concludes the Employer Can Go For It

The National Labor Relations Board Office of the General Counsel released an Advice Memorandum in Tasker Healthcare Group, d/b/a Skinsmart Dermatology ("Tasker") Case 04-CA-094222 on May 16, 2013 and concluded that an employee was not engaged in protected concerted activity when she posted comments to a Facebook group message that taunted her employer to "FIRE ME … Make my day …"

The Charging Party was employed by Tasker, which was a medical office with approximately nineteen employees. The Charging Employee along with a few current and former employees engaged in a private Facebook group message to organize a social …

Don’t Expect Any New Right-to-Work Legislation in Ohio…Until Perhaps After 2014

First it was Wisconsin. Then Indiana. Then Michigan of all places. Right-to-work legislation is being considered, and in some cases passed, by legislatures throughout the Rust Belt. Given that trend, and the economic benefits to businesses and the state that follow with right-to-work, it was only a matter of time before regional pressures led the Ohio legislature to consider the idea notwithstanding the previously failed attempts on Senate Bill 5.

Just recently, two Ohio House of Representatives members, Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Ron Maag (R-Lebanon), announced they are sponsoring bills that would enact right-to-work for both the public and private …

OFCCP Enforcement and Regulatory Agenda Heightened for Fiscal Year 2013

Federal contractors and subcontractors should take notice that, in the last couple of years, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has been pursuing a much more aggressive enforcement and regulatory agenda. Final revised rules on disability and veterans affirmative action are expected soon. Later in 2013, proposed new rules for construction contractors and gender discrimination are expected. We will post to this blog when these are available.

As we are awaiting these new regulatory frameworks, it should be noted that OFCCP has also been conducting more in depth and more aggressive compliance evaluations of federal contractors and subcontractors. …

Facebook Account Deactivation Leads To “Spoliation Instruction”

Our colleagues over at Technology Law Source advise today of an interesting case in which a New Jersey federal court held that a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit failed to preserve relevant evidence when he deactivated his Facebook account and failed to reactivate it within fourteen (14) days – which according to Facebook’s terms and conditions renders the account’s contents irretrievable. As a result, the court found that the defendant was entitled to a jury instruction that permits the jury to infer that “the fact that a document was not produced or destroyed is ‘evidence that the party that …

Why You Can’t Delete Your Way Out of Your Social Media Mess

Naked pictures? Drunken celebrations? Sexist comments? A click of a button and all evidence of your "Weekend at Bernie’s" can disappear. Job seekers know to scrub clean their Facebook pages before they connect with potential employers, to remove all trace of their off-color on-line life. But here in Ohio you can’t delete your way out of the mess you created through social media. Employers can legally ask employees and recruits to surrender their social media passwords, and thanks to Facebook’s newly expanded access program, the result is a stunningly deep portal into private messages, deleted posts, photographs and everything you …

SHOCKING NEWS!! We Are Spending Too Much Time Surfing The Web For Personal Reasons at Work. What To Do About These Cyberloafers??

According to a news release issued by the university, a Kansas State University study to be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior concludes that between 60 and 80% of the time spent by people on the internet at work has "nothing to do with work." The study, which was profiled this morning on The Today Show, suggests that "cyberloafers" come in all ages. According to one of the researchers, "Older people are doing things like managing their finances, while young people found it much more acceptable to spend time on social networking sites like Facebook."

Certainly, while …

Social Media Firing of the Week. (Final Score: God 10 – Waitress 0)

The Internet is burning up this morning with the story of an Applebee’s waitress who was fired for posting on Reddit, a social news and entertainment site, the receipt from a customer who gave her no tip on a $35.00 check, writing "I give God 10% why do you get 18?" Unfortunately, the waitress did not obscure the customer’s signature when she posted a picture of the receipt, which naturally set off a firestorm of Reddit users and others on the Internet attempting to identify the customer. The customer apparently then contacted Applebee’s and demanded the waitress’s termination.

While there …

Be Careful What You Dismiss as Not a “Real” Religion When Employees Seek Religious Accommodation: Court Holds Veganism Could Plausibly Be a “Religious Belief”

In a recent decision in Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Case No. 1:11-cv-00917, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati held that sincerely held beliefs in veganism could plausibly be considered religious beliefs protected against religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio state law. The Court rejected the argument that veganism was merely a social philosophy or dietary preference.

Sakile Chenzira was a customer service representative for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for over 10 years. In 2010, the Hospital terminated Chenzira for her refusal to be …

Sometimes It Is Best to Bite Your Tongue! Sixth Circuit Holds University’s Diversity Interests Outweighed First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech

In Dixon v. Univ. of Toledo et al., the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a high-level human resources official who writes publicly against the policies her government employer charges her with creating, promoting and enforcing, is not engaging in protected speech. Crystal Dixon, an African-American woman, who was the acting Interim Associate Vice President for Human Resources at the University of Toledo ("the University") when she penned a riveting op-ed column rebuking comparisons between the civil-rights and gay-rights movements. The piece ultimately led to her termination.

On April 4, 2008, Toledo Free Press Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller …

‘Tis the Season For Holiday Workplace Issues – Download our Holiday eBook with FMLA Stocking Stuffer – “Three FMLA Holiday Stocking Stuffers: How to Avoid a Big Lump of Coal”

We hope you enjoyed our five-part series last week addressing the Top 5 Holiday Headaches for Employers. Due to popular demand, we have compiled this series into an eBook for you and have added a special bonus:

Three FMLA Stocking Stuffers: How to Avoid a
Big Lump of Coal

We couldn’t do a holiday-blog series and NOT include something about every employer’s favorite holiday topic. Like fruitcake, it is a gift that nobody really wants or knows what do with… the FMLA.

Here we tackle three prickly FMLA-holiday questions. First, do holidays count against an employee’s FLMA leave entitlement? Second, …

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Workplace Issues. Day 5 – What If Santa Was The One That Got Run Over By a Reindeer?

It is important not to require employee attendance at holiday parties and that pressure to attend is properly managed. Mandatory attendance at company-sponsored functions, like holiday parties, can result in workers’ compensation claims if an attending employee is injured. It can also mean that the employee is entitled to be compensated for his or her time spent at the event pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In Ohio, employees injured while engaged in an employer-sponsored recreational or fitness activity are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits unless the employee signed a waiver prior to participating in the activity. Hence, …

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Workplace Issues. Day 4 – Holiday Pay and How Not to Get Scrooged by the FLSA

Many employees believe they are entitled to holiday pay, even if they do not work on the holiday. This is not the case. In fact, neither the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) nor most state laws, including Ohio, require a private employer to pay hourly employees for not working on holidays (federal or otherwise).

Holiday pay is typically considered a fringe benefit and is a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s union representative). However, please note that this does not apply to salaried, exempt employees who get paid for holidays, even ones they do …

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Workplace Issues. Day 3 – “Holiday Attire” Does Not Include “Beer Goggles”

Often the question on everyone’s mind when it comes to holiday parties is “Will alcohol be served?” For employers this is a big decision and, depending on where the holiday party is held and how it is contained, one that may expose an employer to liability. For the most part, whether an employer can be held responsible for alcohol-related incidents at or after company-sponsored events depends on the state in which the party is held and the circumstances surrounding the party.

First things first: If the event involves a business purpose that can be considered to have a direct effect …

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Workplace Issues. Day 2 – Being Inclusive Without Being A Grinch

Religion is also a hot-button workplace issue in December because so many different religious groups celebrate different holidays in December. For example: Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus at Christmas; Buddhists celebrate Buddha’s Enlightenment with Bodhi Day; Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights; African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice; Seinfeld enthusiasts celebrate Festivus, and there are many others.

Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination and/or harassment on the basis of religion. This means that an employer cannot treat persons of different religions differently or appear to favor one religion over another. …

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Workplace Issues. Day 1 – Avoiding Holiday Party Liability When the Office Santa Tries to Teach His Employees a Few “Reindeer Games”

As much as everyone loves them, the holidays create increased risk of employer liability and can result in a long list of legal problems for an unprepared employer. As our holiday gift to you, we’ve put together our top five holiday headaches for employers, which will be provided to you in a week-long series starting today.

Numero uno on our list: Sexual harassment at the office holiday party. Who doesn’t have at least one inappropriate office holiday party story? If you don’t, you’ve at least heard a couple doozies. The mix of sparkly outfits, tasty snacks, free-flowing libations and people …

United States Supreme Court: A Challenge To The Enforceability Of A Non-Competition Agreement Must Be Presented To The Arbitrator, And Not A Court, If The Contract Contains An Arbitration Provision

In Nitro-Lift Technologies, L.L.C. v. Howard, the U.S. Supreme Court this week held that if a contract contains an arbitration provision and there is a challenge to the validity of the contract, it is for the arbitrator and not a court to hear that challenge. The case is important for employers because the challenge was to the validity of a non-competition agreement. More specifically, the Supreme Court held that if a contract contains an arbitration provision, it is up to an arbitrator, and not a court, to determine whether the non-competition provision of the contract runs afoul of a …

Not So Fast … CFPB Issues Revised Forms for FCRA Compliance by January 1, 2013, First Ones Contained Typos and Other Errors

As we reminded you last month here, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB"), the agency that has enforcement responsibility over the Fair Credit Report Act ("Act"), revised the forms which employers must use to comply with the FCRA, effective January 1, 2013. There was only one little problem with the forms the CFPB provided for use: They contained various typos and technical errors that the CFPB now has recognized in its Supplementary Information in the November 14, Federal Register Notice.

The forms at issue:

  • The Summary of Consumer Identity Theft Rights;
  • Summary of Your Rights Under the

Complying with the FCRA Amendments Before January 1, 2013 – a Step-By-Step Guide

By now, you should know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has issued “Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions”, which is designed to restrict criminal background checks by employers, but you may not know that enforcement responsibility for the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") has been transferred from the Federal Trade Commission to the recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB").

The FCRA, of course, is the federal law that imposes requirements on employers who use third party Consumer Reporting Agencies ("CRA’s") to obtain “consumer reports" (i.e., background check, reference check, …

What Ohio Employers Need to Know About Employees Taking Time Off to Vote

Election Day will soon be upon us, and with that comes some common questions from employers about what they must do regarding employees who take off work or arrive late to work to vote.

What is an Employer Prohibited from Doing? Ohio Revised Code §3599.06 prohibits employers from discharging or threatening to discharge an employee for taking a “reasonable amount of time to vote.” The law further prohibits employers from inflicting or threatening to inflict any injury, harm, or loss against an employee to induce an employee to vote or refrain from voting for or against any person, issue or …

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