Does An Employer Need to Completely Eliminate Employees’ Work-Religion Conflicts?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Mon, 10/07/2013 - 04:00

In some circumstances, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) compels a business to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices. It can be difficult for employers to figure out whether they have done enough to accommodate an employee. For example, if an employer gives a Seventh Day Adventist Saturdays off to observe Sabbath, must the employer give the employee every Saturday off? Or, is it reasonable for the employer to require the employee to work some Saturdays? Courts have not given employers clear guidance. The following are examples of differing standards controlling the same issue.

May A Business Ask for Customers’ Zip Codes?

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Tue, 09/17/2013 - 04:00

If you shop at retail stores with any regularity, you’re probably familiar with the checkout clerk asking for your zip code when you make a credit card purchase. A recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court has called into question whether doing so is legal – at least in states with similar consumer protection statutes and when it is done for “marketing purposes” as opposed to verifying the card user’s identity.

New Case Makes It Easier for Businesses to Defend Some Discrimination Claims

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Wed, 09/11/2013 - 04:00

A federal law (known as Title VII) makes it illegal for a business to discriminate in employment based on race and religion, among other things. In addition to prohibiting discriminatory hiring and firing, Title VII prohibits the creation or maintenance of hostile work environments. A business’s potential liability for creating a hostile workplace depends upon who the alleged bad actor is. Where that person is the claimant's co-worker, the business can be liable only if it was negligent in controlling working conditions. Where that person is a supervisor, the business can be held strictly liable for the conduct. It does not matter if the business was negligent or not. In a recent opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a narrow definition of supervisor in the context of claims for hostile work environments.

Pending Case Illustrates Danger of Data Breach to Businesses

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Mon, 08/26/2013 - 04:00

Data breach, most often occasioned by computer hacking, is the acquisition of personally identifying information (“PII”) by unauthorized parties. It can lead to serious issues – notably, identify theft – for the people whose PII is stolen. We have addressed before in this space some of the legal problems businesses may face after falling victim to a data breach. We have also discussed a developing legal theory used by plaintiffs to pursue claims against businesses for data breach, even when a breach has not resulted in identify theft or actual damages. Another large-scale data breach has been in the news lately, and it illustrates just how problematic such a breach can be for a small business.

Under the ADA: Being On Time for Work Is An Essential Job Function…Most Of The Time

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 04:00

We often post about lawsuits filed against businesses under the ADA. Most ADA litigation concerns employers’ conclusions that employees are not capable of performing essential functions of their job or that a particular accommodation is not reasonable. In an opinion it recently issued, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reminds employers, and the trial courts reviewing employers’ decisions, that such determinations must be made based upon fact-specific inquiries, not general rules.

Minimum Wage is Sometimes Not Enough

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Wed, 08/07/2013 - 04:00

Capital Bikeshare, the tremendously popular bicycle sharing business that opened in the Washington, D.C. area less than three years ago, is being accused of underpaying its employees under federal law. This comes just a few weeks after the company set a new mark when its bikes were taken for over 11,000 trips on a single Saturday, and as it plans to expand its service into Montgomery County this year.

Does a Business Need to Accommodate Employees’ Religious Practices?

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Tue, 07/30/2013 - 04:00

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits discrimination in employment based on, among other things, religion. It requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices, unless the accommodation would result in undue hardship on the employer’s business. One issue employers subject to Title VII wrestle with is whether they must accommodate an employee by not scheduling him to work on a particular day of the week.

Does a Business Have to Pay Overtime if it Was Not Approved?

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Tue, 07/23/2013 - 04:00

Disputes about overtime pay are a significant portion of all lawsuits filed against businesses every year. In addition to disputes about what classes of employees are entitled to overtime pay, parties sometimes fight over whether overtime was authorized or approved. Employees who work extra want to be paid. But businesses that did not approve or know that an employee was doing extra work understandably are reluctant to pay. A recent case gives businesses some guidance on the issue.

ADA: Attendance is an Essential Job Function

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Wed, 07/10/2013 - 04:00

We’ve often posted about employers’ struggles with issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). One issue commonly faced by employers is whether an accommodation requested by an employee under the ADA is reasonable. Most recently, we posted about another gray area: whether the job duties that an employee is unable to perform because of his or her disability are "essential functions.” This is important because, if an employee with a disability cannot perform the “essential functions” of his or her job, the employer is not required to provide an accommodation.

Unpaid “Black Swan” Interns Win Lawsuit

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Mon, 06/24/2013 - 04:00

There was a big win for unpaid interns in litigation at the front of a developing legal story with national consequences. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“Act”) requires, among other things, that employees be paid a minimum wage. The U.S. Supreme Court created a narrow exception to the wage requirements for “trainees.” Subsequently, the Department of Labor created guidelines for businesses to use to determine whether their interns fit within this exception and, therefore, can be unpaid.

Notwithstanding the well-publicized, and narrow, standard established by the guidelines, many businesses and whole industries have simply done their own thing. Taking advantage of eager labor, they have called all manner of workers "interns" and employed them without pay. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

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