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The Modern Workplace

The Modern Workplace

  • Posts by Tana S. VanGoethem
    Counsel

    Tana VanGoethem practices in the areas of higher education, and employment and labor law. She has extensive experience conducting higher education investigations and adjudications on behalf of institutions, including sexual ...

Posted in Leave
Nearly a year ago, we began discussing the growing movement from the local to the national level to require employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. Just last week, St. Paul became the latest city to pass an ordinance that guarantees paid sick leave for covered employees who work 80 hours or more in the city per year.
Here are some key details of the St. Paul sick leave ordinance:
  • The ordinance will become effective July 1, 2017 for employers with 24 or more employees. The effective date is January 1, 2018 for employers with 23 or fewer employees.
  • The ordinance requires all
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A Chinese employer made news last week for an unusual workplace discipline episode after a cellphone video revealed employees receiving public spankings for poor performance. The cellphone video shows a man with a wooden stick spanking eight employees four times each. The employer, a bank, claimed the spankings occurred during a team-building exercise facilitated by a corporate coach.
Corporal punishment is illegal in China, and, not surprisingly, a spanking policy or team-building endeavor of this kind would raise serious legal issues for U.S. employers as well. 
In ...
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A white news anchor has filed a race discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, a Pittsburgh television station. Wendy Bell made headlines earlier this year when she was let go from her anchor position after posting controversial comments on a Facebook page sponsored by the television station. Now, Bell is making headlines again for her unusual race discrimination claims.

Earlier this spring, the Washington Post reported that Bell was fired after she posted comments on Facebook about a mass shooting that Bell had recently covered on air.

In her comments, Bell stated You ...

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Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that a Jimmy Johns franchisee engaged in unfair labor practices and violated the rights of workers under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), after the employees were terminated for staging a public campaign protesting the company's sick leave policy.

In MikLin Enterprises, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, employees were fired after displaying posters which protested the company's sick leave policy at the franchisee's Jimmy John's sites. The employees had ...
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In the early days of 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continues its strategic enforcement focus on LGBT rights. Last week, the EEOC filed an amicus brief in a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit case, Burrows v. College of Central Florida.  In its brief, the EEOC argued that employment discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination and unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.


In the Burrows case, the plaintiff, a college administrator, sued her former employer, claiming she was ...

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The National Labor Relations Board (the "Board") continues to focus on protecting employee activity in social media outlets, as reflected by the Board's protected concerted activity page.  Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case that will likely further that enforcement activity.
In Three D, LLC, d/b/a Triple Play Sports Bar & Grille v. National Labor Relations Board, the Second Circuit upheld the Board's decision that an employee's use of the Facebook "like" and comment features can be protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA").  ...
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As anticipated, President Barack Obama celebrated Labor Day by issuing an executive order mandating that federal contractors provide paid sick leave to their employees. The executive order requires that federal contractors and subcontractors provide their employees up to seven days of paid leave per year for themselves, to care for a sick family member, or to address domestic violence and stalking situations.

President Obamas order is the latest in a series of executive orders aimed at federal contractors as the administration tries, so far unsuccessfully, to get broader ...
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Continuing his pen and phone approach to effecting change, The New York Times announced last week that President Obama is considering using his executive authority to mandate paid sick days for federal government contractors and subcontractors.

The draft executive order, which is marked pre-decisional and deliberative, would require a minimum of 56 hours (or seven work days) per year of paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. Under the draft executive order, the paid sick leave would allow an employee to take paid time off to care for themselves or a ...
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Posted in Discrimination
This month, the EEOC began to roll out ACT Digital, the agency's first step to a digital charge system. ACT Digital will enable electronic transmission of documents filed between the parties to a charge and the EEOC. Implementation began on May 6 with EEOC offices in the Charlotte and San Francisco areas. EEOC offices in Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Phoenix will also begin implementation by the end of May. The remaining EEOC offices will roll out implementation in stages, with the EEOC expecting ACT Digital to be available in all offices by Oct. 1, 2015.

Phase 1 of implementation ...
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In an update to a previous post, the highly anticipated United States Supreme Court decision in UPS v. Young was announced last week. In a 6-3 decision, the Court vacated rulings of the district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, both having issued summary judgment in favor of UPS. The Court remanded the decision to determine whether the policies of UPS were legitimate and nondiscriminatory. The Court stated the Fourth Circuit had not yet considered the combined effects of UPS' other accommodation policies or the strength of UPS' justifications for the ...
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As we previously reported, the EEOCs targeting of employer background checks has been controversial and continues to fizzle in the courts. Recently, in EEOC v. Freeman, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower courts grant of summary judgment to an employer. The Fourth Circuit found that the EEOC failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination with respect to the employers background checks, because the EEOCs expert testimony and corresponding statistical analysis was unreliable. This is the same reason that the EEOCs background check ...

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2014 has been a big year for pregnancy protections in employment law. In May, Minnesota enacted a new pregnancy accommodation law, and in July the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an updated pregnancy discrimination guidance document. Developments in this area are set to continue in the upcoming year. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Young  v. UPS case a highly watched case involving an employers potential duty to accommodate pregnant workers under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). It is well-settled ...
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Unless you were unplugged, you probably saw all the high profile names that made legal headlines last week. Included in that list was David Letterman. In a quick whirlwind of activity, a CBS intern filed a wage and hour lawsuit against CBS News and Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, only to drop the suit a short time later with a public apology. In the lawsuit, the CBS intern claimed that unpaid Late Show student interns were employees and that the failure to pay them wages violated wage and hour laws. The suit, had it proceeded, would have sought to recover back wages ...
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Some popular online services made legal headlines this week. After years of litigation, a federal appeals court held that Yelp did not extort businesses by manipulating user reviews to coerce advertising purchases. While Yelp still faces other legal claims for false advertising and securities fraud, this case is significant given that Yelp's handling of user reviews has been widely criticized.

While Yelp was presumably busy celebrating good news, the ride-sharing service, Uber, received bad news on its efforts to expand its services overseas. A German court banned Uber's ...

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The National Labor Relations Board continues to focus on employer social media policies and employee discipline for online activity.  In a ruling this week involving Triple Play Sports Bar & Grill, the Board concluded that Triple Play unlawfully fired two employees for their response to a co-worker's Facebook post.  One of these employees had only responded to the post by clicking the Facebook like option on the post.  The Facebook post at issue related to the employer paying taxes, and the Board concluded the exchange about the post, including the like response, was a protected group ...

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Significant electronic data breaches made headlines again this week. Supervalu announced that millions of customer credit card numbers were stolen at various stores. In addition, one of the nations largest hospital chains - Community Health Systems - announced that the personal data of up to 4.5 million patients was taken when hackers bypassed the company's security measures. These latest breaches come at a time when a private research report is indicating that the medical sector has had more data breaches in the last two years than military and banking sectors combined. As we've ...
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As a follow up to our last Week in Review, wage and hour claims are still making headlines this week. Another technology company, SpaceX, has been sued for allegedly failing to provide employees with required breaks or to properly pay employees for off the clock work.  SpaceX also faces a separate lawsuit alleging that it failed to give former employees proper advance notice of their layoffs under California law.  Another big legal headline this week is the announcement that a federal judge has rejected a proposed $325 million settlement agreement between Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel and ...

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Its been an interesting week on the wage and hour legal front. One of the big names in social networking, LinkedIn, made headlines this week when the U.S. Department of Labor announced a settlement of allegations that LinkedIn failed to properly record, account for, and pay certain employees for all of their hours worked. You can read the link below for lessons learned from this settlement. In other news, a federal judge ruled that critical federal government employees who worked during last year's government shutdown may be owed additional pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act ...

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Businesses that support the sharing economy continue to grow, as evidenced by this week's news headlines. Airbnb announced it is partnering with Concur, a commonly used expense account management software. This partnership, which will include Airbnb as an expense booking option within Concur's software, is expected to introduce Airbnb to the business traveler market. Airbnb is also making legal headlines, as users of the site expose legal loopholes.  Read the link below to learn how a thirty day Palm Springs condo rental through Airbnb evolved into renters claiming tenant rights ...

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Apple is making the news this week in connection with its recently issued 'iTime' patent for a new smartwatch device and as anticipation grows for the soon-to-be released iPhone 6. The news on Apple isn't only technology related though. Apple is also fighting a class action lawsuit in California for allegedly denying lunch breaks and final paychecks to employees. The link below provides greater detail on this lawsuit, as well as other employment-related lawsuits Apple is currently defending. Be sure to add a review of your wage and hour practices to your to-do list this year.  And, for ...

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Some high profile companies, including two technology giants, made headlines this week after former employees filed lawsuits against them alleging discrimination and harassment.  The case against Yahoo is likely to be particularly interesting, because the executive accused of harassment is alleging that she's being defamed by false allegations. You can read more about each of these lawsuits below, and you can revisit one of our recent prior posts for more information on the same topic.  In other news from Silicon Valley, Google is making headlines this week for its work on ...

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According to an article in The New York Times this week, high level executives make up the majority of tablet users in the workplace. That may change, though, as in the workplace tablet usage increases.  It was predicted this week that, during 2015, manufacturer shipments of tablets will exceed shipments of desktops and laptops. This suggests more tablet use in the workplace going forward. While this is good news for the tablet industry, employers should be mindful of new data security issues in the headlines this week. A cyber forensic expert revealed this week that Google Glass wearers ...

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We hope you had a happy 4th of July weekend!  Last weeks news included more employees making headlines for their misuse of social media.  The links below highlight three cases in which employees social media activity or misuse of company computers led to a loss of employment or litigation.  For other recent headlines on the same topic, check out this link to our Week in Review from a few weeks back.  These news stories are great reminders of why all employers should have a robust social media and computer usage policy in place.  So, as you're digging back into your work post-holiday, consider ...

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Technology's impact on privacy took center stage in news headlines this week. The New York Times and National Public Radio (NPR) both reported on alternative software tools to track employees in the workplace - one tool identifies inside security threats and another tracks employee productivity. Our blog post earlier this week also discussed this issue, highlighting both upsides to employee monitoring and some of the downsides and risks. In addition, there was big privacy news coming out of the United States Supreme Court this week. In a highly anticipated ruling, the Court ruled ...

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Can you imagine receiving just a few work-related emails a day? Click the link below to read about the innovative communication solutions that companies are exploring to try to reduce the biggest distraction for their employees the volume of their inbox. Speaking of distractions, as we mentioned in last week's Week in Review, were in the midst of the 2014 World Cup. Much like March Madness, the World Cup is a month-long event that can create productivity concerns for employers. Since the 2010 World Cup, technology advances have created greater challenges for employers who seek to ...

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For months, the discussion about cryptocurrency - primarily "Bitcoin" - has steadily increased in technology news. This week, Dish Network became the largest company to accept Bitcoin payments, following Tesla, Virgin America, and Overstock.com. Click the link below to read about how legislators and regulators are working to find a way both to classify and regulate this bold new world of virtual currency. Also, if trying to understand cryptocurrency makes your head hurt as much as mine, check out the link below to the high-tech headband that de-stresses your brain. At the retail ...

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How did you commute to work this morning?  Google's self-driving car prototype unveiled this week may soon change your answer.  Google is hoping that, within the next decade, these cars may alleviate the most miserable part of the day for many Americans - their drive to and from work.  Not only must Google win over American drivers, however, it also must woo the regulators in all 50 states. With only three states having laws on the books that permit some version of autonomous vehicles on their roadways, these cars are likely to require legal changes in addition to changes to the rules of the ...

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It seems that society may be overdosing on public sharing through social media platforms.  According to this week's headlines, the use of social login services has peaked, the controversial, anonymous app Secret is gaining users, and functional fashion that can disable your gadgets is expanding.  Speaking of oversharing, we are approaching the long Memorial holiday weekend which means lots of time spent with family and friends.  Whether you choose to share in person, through social media, or anonymously, have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

Technology and the Workplace
Too ...

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Large internet companies dominated the legal news this week. In a case against Google, the European Union's top court ruled that citizens may compel search-engine owners to remove certain types of personal information included in search results of the citizens name. While this ruling currently has no direct impact on privacy laws in the United States, the practical implications of the ruling for Internet companies are interesting and the ruling could potentially be used by practitioners outside the European Union to try to influence courts in other jurisdictions. Closer to ...

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Personal wearable technology is all the rage, but can wearable technology also increase employee productivity? A study out this week found that wearable technology in the workplace increases both employee productivity and job satisfaction.  Click the link below to read about how wearable technology may benefit and change your workplace.


Also, in our tracking of There's an App for That, we feature a refrigerator that lets you know when you are out of milk, sunglasses that text you when you leave them behind, and a robotic lawn mower.  If you're late with your Mother's Day gift, these would ...

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The assault on internet security continues to fill news headlines this week. On the heels of the Heartbleed bug, Microsoft announced this week that a security vulnerability exists in all versions of Internet Explorer, with no known fix. This vulnerability is especially concerning for employers, who often do not control the browser choices of employees. Also, you can read below to discover the various ways that security breaches can affect our everyday lives, including jamming up traffic and "war driving" at your favorite free wi-fi spot.
 
Recent Week in Review topics are also back ...

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