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The Modern Workplace

The Modern Workplace

  • Posts by Kathryn M. Nash

    Kathryn Nash chairs the firm’s Labor, Employment, and Higher Education practice areas. She regularly advises colleges and universities on a wide range of issues unique to higher education institutions, such as Clery, Title IX ...

As we mentioned in a post last month, the EEOC has a clear agenda to target employer wellness programs. In our earlier post, we discussed two lawsuits against employers in Wisconsin. Now, the EEOC has set its sights on one of our local employers - Honeywell. Last week, the EEOC sued Honeywell over a wellness program that involves employees and their spouses being asked to participate in biometric screening and a determination of body mass index. According to the EEOCs complaint, employees who don't participate along with their spouses are assessed a surcharge of up to $500 on ...
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I recently read an article about how college football recruiters are using twitter to screen out potential players for their teams. Its becoming a somewhat common practice for recruiters to monitor the twitter accounts of high school players that they are scouting to see whether any red flags are raised. Based on some of the inappropriate tweets, colleges have decided not to pursue particular players and, in at least one instance, have even withdrawn a scholarship offer. Some of these college coaches are encouraging high school coaches to teach players that they need to be careful ...

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If you work in HR or Student Services for a college or university, you're likely well aware of the Campus SaVE Act and the fact that it has added a long list of items to your to do list. When the law was first passed a year ago, its March 2014 effective date seemed so far away. Time sure flies! Not only is the Act going into effect, the U.S. Department of Education recently issued draft regulations on the law. The regulations wont be final for some time, but they will provide additional guidance to institutions on complying with the Act.
The Campus SaVE Act amends existing law to promote ...
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You may have read recent media reports about a dispute between a doctor and his patients son in which the doctor sued the patients son for, among other things, referring to the doctor as a real tool. Frustrated by the care that his father received from the doctor at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, Dennis Laurion posted online that [w]hen I mentioned Dr. McKee's name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, Dr. McKee is a real tool.  Upset by this and other negative comments posted by Laurion, Dr. McKee sued him for defamation. The case was eventually appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, where ...
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Its hard to watch or read the news without being bombarded with the story of General Petraeus affair and resignation. The story has expanded beyond General Petraeus conduct to include allegations of inappropriate conduct by an FBI agent involved in the investigation (sending a shirtless picture of himself to Jill Kelley) and General John Allen (exchanging thousands of possibly "inappropriate" emails and other documents with Jill Kelley). As an employment lawyer, I'm continually amazed at the personal content that employees will send in emails and text messages, even from ...
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While reading a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, I was reminded how important it is for companies to be sure that the right people within their organization are informed of new and ongoing litigation and of the company's obligation to preserve potential evidence. When a lawsuit commences, your attorney should send you a litigation hold letter, informing your company of its obligation to preserve documents that may be relevant to the lawsuit. Most people understand that this means that they cant go shred a bunch of documents that might be relevant. What not everyone ...
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I was researching cupcake places for an upcoming trip to New Mexico (I have a thing for cupcakes) when I came across the following advertisement for an unpaid internship on a cupcake shops website:

We're looking for interns! While these positions are unpaid, there is potential to lead to paid employment with [XYZ Bakery]. An internship with us is a great opportunity to learn all aspects of working in a scratch bakery, you'll have the opportunity to learn about cake batters, fillings, buttercream, fondant, gum paste, cake decorating and tiered cake construction.

No, I wasn't thinking of ...

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I recently read an article in the Star Tribune highlighting four bills that have passed the Minnesota House which are intended to limit the costs of lawsuits. According to the article, the bills are favored by a coalition of business groups. What caught my eye was the statement that one of the bills would limit attorney fees in certain cases, such as wrongful termination or sexual harassment, where state law requires the fees be paid as part of the lawsuit. I wasnt sure how fees could be limited in sexual harassment cases but not in other types of harassment cases. I did some digging and ...
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During a recent training that I provided on hiring dos and don'ts, one of the managers attending the training asked if his company should continue to call previous employers for references.  The manager expressed frustration that most often, previous employers will only confirm dates of employment.  He wondered whether it is really worth the effort to continue to make these calls.  Short answer: I believe it continues to be a worthwhile step in the hiring process.

Although it is frustrating to a prospective employer to be given only basic information, theres a reason it happens that way ...
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In the course of defending employment discrimination claims, I've had the opportunity to review thousands of emails produced by clients.  Most often, were hoping that the emails will provide documentation of performance concerns or otherwise validate the company's legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its actions.  Many times, we find ourselves in luck and are able to do just that.  More often though, we find emails that aren't very helpful. Those types of emails can range from content that makes the supervisors frustration with an employee quite obvious (i.e. forwarding an ...
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Last week, I provided some training to a clients HR team on conducting investigations.  As we were working through some hypothetical situations, the discussion turned to accessing employees emails.  The group knew that their company's policy addressed accessing the emails of current employees, clearly warning company email is not private and that it could be accessed or monitored by the company.  That being said, one individual raised concerns about accessing a recently departed employees emails.  She was concerned about who should have access to the email, and for what purpose and ...
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Posted in Hiring & Firing
I recently finished teaching Employment Law to a group of students at Bethel University.  The class was comprised of students who are going back to school to finish their four-year degrees, with most students majoring in Human Resource Management.   Each class period involved a lot of discussion, with students contributing stories from their current or former employment experiences. 
During our discussion on background checks, one student shared a story about what her company discovered when it did a quick Google search before offering a candidate a position.  The company was hiring a ...
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In my last post, I cautioned employers about using information that it learns about its employees through social networking sites. A few more thoughts on that. With employees posting running accounts of their daily activities on social networking sites, its quite tempting for employers to want to take a peek at what employees are saying about how they are spending their work day or what theyre doing on a day when they are supposedly missing work because of an illness or injury. Its even more tempting for employers to want access to this information when the employee in question has been a ...

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Posted in Health Care, Leave

One can hardly turn on the news without seeing coverage of the stand-off in Madison, Wisconsin between Governor Walker and union protesters over the Governors proposal to require government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and to largely eliminate their collective bargaining rights. Many protesters who called in sick to attend the protest rallies were allegedly able to obtain sick notes from doctors who were providing sick notes at the protest rallies without any medical examination. This raises an interesting questionwhat is an employer to do when ...

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