Employer Law Report

Tag Archives: Traps for the Unwary

OSHA delays electronic reporting requirement start date

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced recently that it intends to delay the initial deadline for compliance with its rule requiring employers to report accident and illness records to OSHA electronically. Under the original deadline, employers with over 250 workers and smaller employers in high hazard industries would have been required to begin electronic filing of certain OSHA-required forms on July 1, 2017. For a more detailed discussion of the electronic recordkeeping rule, go here. That deadline is now off and OSHA has promised a formal notification in the future with more information about revised deadlines.…

Don’t wannacry? Help your IT staff prevent ransomware

I have frequently blogged about human resources departments’ role in preventing data breaches in their organizations and to date have largely focused on training employees to recognize and respond phishing exploits designed to encourage employees to click on email links or attachments that contain malware. See for example here, here and here. But, in what some have been calling the biggest cyberattack ever, the recent “Wannacry” ransomware apparently seeks out computers containing a vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows operating system, which permitted the ransomware to  infect approximately 200,000 computers in 150 countries across the globe. No clicking required.…

Ohio Appellate Court dismisses privacy breach lawsuit against employer

A recently published decision of an Ohio Court of Appeals reminds us that, particularly in this electronic age, employers need to be very careful in the handling of confidential medical information. The decision is also a reminder that sometimes the outcome of a case can depend on the precedent in a particular appellate district.

In Templeton v. Fred. W. Albrecht Grocery Co. the 9th District Court of Appeals (for Summit County, Ohio) the employee responsible for managing workers’ compensation claims for the employer inadvertently sent a psychological report regarding the plaintiff to other employees rather than to the plaintiff’s …

Work from home case shows importance of job descriptions and interactive dialogue

In a recent “work from home” decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court denied Sneaker Villa, Inc.’s, (the employer) motion for summary judgment. Slayton v. Sneaker Villa, Inc. Why is that important? In employment discrimination lawsuits, an employer’s earliest opportunity to have a case dismissed without the cost and risk of a jury trial is with a summary judgment motion. If the motion is denied, the case is headed for trial. The risks go up, the costs go up and, typically, so do the plaintiff’s settlement demands. In this case, the court decided …

#Justiceforbradswife: Responding to viral social media

bradswifeThough you may find it hard to believe, there are some things that southern comfort food and a glass of sweet tea just can’t smooth over. Restaurant chain, Cracker Barrel, is finding this out the hard way this week as it draws the ire of the public after Bradley Reid Byrd, the husband of a former Cracker Barrel employee posted one simple question on Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page on Feb. 27, 2017: “Why did you fire my wife?”

The post went largely unnoticed until March 22, 2017 when comedian Amiri King posted the screen grab (above) to his Facebook page …

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. …

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