• Posts by Steven W. Jados
    Partner

    Steve is passionate about defending business owners who are committed to proactively implementing policies and procedures that minimize legal exposure and maximize potential for success. Through creative advocacy and thorough ...

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees essentially two paths to bring lawsuits for alleged FMLA violations:  retaliation claims and interference claims.  Employers are generally familiar with the concept of retaliation, and FMLA retaliation claims tend to fit a familiar mold:  If an employee suffers an adverse employment action (e.g., termination, unpaid suspension) that is causally connected to a request for FMLA leave or other FMLA-protected activity, the employee may have a claim for FMLA retaliation.

Many—if not most—employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuits involve a company’s decision (a) to terminate or otherwise discipline an employee or (b) not to hire a particular applicant. And the reason why the company made its decision is quite possibly the most important fact in the majority—if not all—of these cases.

Last week, the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit in Georgia against an employer that did not allow an employee with a medical condition to work from home.  Employers should carefully consider the circumstances at issue in this lawsuit when evaluating work-from-home accommodation requests as we anticipate litigation of this sort will arise more frequently in the coming months.

The employee at issue (“Moncrief”) worked as a Health Safety & Environmental Quality Manager at a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.  She has a number of physical impairments, including chronic ...

“This” is a no-call/no-show policy, the terms of which are generally something like:  “An employee who is absent from work for three consecutive days without giving proper notice to the Company will be considered to have voluntarily abandoned their position and resigned from employment with the Company.”  

A recent Michigan state appellate court decision illustrates one reason why employers should have a no-call/no-show policy disseminated to all employees. In that case, an employee who was terminated after being absent for three consecutive days without calling-in to ...

On May 28, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance regarding employers offering incentives for employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The updated guidance also clarifies issues related to whether employers can mandate that employees be vaccinated before entering the workplace.

Interestingly, the EEOC’s guidance on vaccine incentives is broken into two parts: (1) incentives for employees voluntarily providing proof that they received a vaccination on their own, and (2) incentives for employees who voluntarily receive a ...

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced three new categories of individuals eligible to collect federally-funded unemployment benefits as the COVID-19 Pandemic continues.  They are:

  • Individuals who refuse to return to work that is unsafe or to accept an offer of new work that is unsafe;
  • Certain individuals providing services to educational institutions or educational services agencies; and
  • Individuals experiencing a reduction of hours or a temporary or permanent lay-off.

These changes are expected to take effect in late March, but could take longer to ...

Layoffs have become a reality for many businesses and employees in recent months, and this unfortunate trend seems likely to continue as we head toward the fall and winter months. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County highlights additional considerations—beyond simply protecting LGBT employees—that businesses must factor into decisions regarding which employees to layoff, and which to retain.

As we previously wrote, the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision essentially held that the anti-discrimination protections of Title ...

On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued an update to its “Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers” to address, among other things, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provisions that allow employers of “health care providers” and “emergency responders” to exclude such employees from the FFCRA’s emergency sick leave and expanded FMLA provisions. The specific questions that address the provisions for health care providers and emergency responders shown in this article can be found on the DOL ...

On January 7th, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued its first Opinion Letter of 2020, and the Letter serves as a reminder to businesses that retroactive overtime payments may be necessary if non-discretionary bonuses are paid to non-exempt (hourly-paid) employees.

The scenario at issue in the Letter is that an employer had an announced policy through which employees were paid a $3,000 bonus after they completed ten weeks of training.  A particular employee worked 40 hours per week in eight of those ten weeks. But in the fifth week he worked 47 hours, and in the ...

In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument that the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) prohibits mandatory arbitration agreements that contain class and collective action waivers.  But that has not stopped the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that enforces the Act, from weighing-in and declaring other arbitration agreement provisions unlawful.

As a string of recent NLRB decisions makes clear—the newest of which is Beena Beauty Holding, Inc., 368 NLRB No. 91 (2019)—mandatory arbitration provisions, even in non-union ...

The recent decision in Dyer v. Ventra Sandusky, LLC, issued by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee), should motivate employers to take another look at whether their attendance policies run afoul of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

There are plenty of gray areas in the law, but it is generally clear that employees are not to be disciplined because they are absent for FMLA-covered reasons. That also means that employees should not accumulate attendance “points,” e.g., under a no-fault attendance ...

The state of California recently passed legislation that amends the definition of race under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the California State statute that prohibits employment discrimination, among other things) to include “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”  The legislation defines “protective hairstyles” to include, without limitation, hairstyles such as “braids, locks, and twists.”  In passing this legislation, California’s Legislature made clear that ...

As we previously noted in our February 12, 2019 blog, increases to the minimum wage in Illinois are on their way. And as we also noted, drastic increases in the damages for which Illinois employers may be liable in cases of minimum wage and overtime violations are now in effect. 

That said, there are a number of steps employers can take to minimize the risks of wage and hour lawsuits and liability, and they include the following:

  • Train front line supervisors not to allow any off-the-clock work. Along with this training, employers must also make clear to all employees that they cannot work ...

With the dust mostly settled after election night, we can now look at the impact the election will have on employment laws in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, and at the federal level.

Illinois: The major story in Illinois is the election of J.B. Pritzker as governor.  In short, his election is likely to usher in greater infrastructure spending—including an increase in prevailing wage jobs—and more aggressive enforcement efforts by state agencies charged with regulating employers and protecting employees. Beyond that, minimum wage increases, expansions to ...

With the dust settling on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the validity of class and collective action waivers in employee arbitration agreements, there is no better time to double-check that employee arbitration agreements are in proper form. A recent decision from the Seventh Circuit highlights one particular area for review: the employer’s name.

In Goplin v. WeConnect, Inc., the employee, Goplin, worked for WeConnect, and he signed an arbitration agreement at the beginning of his employment. Unfortunately for WeConnect, the arbitration agreement ...

When it comes to employee bonuses, employers often prefer “discretionary” bonus policies—as opposed to more rigid and definite policies and procedures that answer the questions of “who” is eligible to receive bonuses, “when” bonuses will be paid, and “how much” the bonuses will be.

A problem can arise, however, when the underlying method the employer uses to award bonuses remains consistent from year to year.  Under Illinois law, for example, past practice—even in a non-union setting—can give rise to a legally-enforceable expectation that a given ...

In a recent decision with a nation-wide effect, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down certain provisions of the EEOC’s Wellness Program regulations.

As we have previously discussed, workplace wellness programs generally provide certain incentives to employees as part of programs intended to prevent illness and encourage healthier lifestyles.  But these programs can run afoul of various federal and state anti-discrimination laws, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ...

During the past several weeks, it seems that every day has featured new allegations of sexual harassment involving celebrities, politicians, and others in positions of power.

These allegations invite a question to employers: Do you want to be in the news for all the wrong reasons? No? Good, because this moment in time should impress upon all businesses the importance of vigilant enforcement of anti-harassment policies.

The first step in enforcement is ensuring that anti-harassment policies are properly communicated to all employees—from entry-level to C-Suite.  All ...

Addressing an employment issue of interest in an increasingly digital world, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over lower federal courts in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin­­) recently upheld a prior ruling that the City of Chicago was not liable for paying wages for certain employees’ off-duty work time.

In the case of Allen v. City of Chicago, employees who alleged they were not compensated for off-duty work performed on their mobile devices were not entitled to recovery for that unscheduled, overtime work. Agreeing with the trial court’s ...

As part of what is certain to be an evolving area of the law, the Staff of the Cook County Commission on Human Rights has issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to the new Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance (effective 7/1/17).  These FAQs (which may be updated from time to time), as well as the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Rules (“Rules”), are available for download from the Cook County Website.

In reviewing the Cook County FAQs, it is important to note their opening disclaimer, which essentially states that the FAQs are not legal advice, do not have the force of ...

On June 27, 2017, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it is reinstating the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division opinion letter process, which was in existence for more than 70 years prior to a change in procedure in 2010.

DOL opinion letters allow employers (and employees) to submit questions to the DOL regarding whether particular employment practices comply with the laws the DOL enforces. The DOL then has the discretion to respond, publicly, with appropriate guidance. Opinion letter guidance can be presented to courts and investigators—by the employer that ...

The Supreme Court’s recent McLane Company v. EEOC decision addresses the constraints placed on appellate review of actions to enforce or quash broadly written Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) subpoenas. The case arose from a supply chain company’s requirement that employees in certain physically demanding positions pass a physical examination prior to returning to work from medical leave. The company terminated an employee who failed the exam three times while attempting to return to work after taking maternity leave.

The employee filed a ...

The settlement of a recent pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against RTG Furniture Corp., provides a valuable reminder to employers that even well-intentioned limitations placed on pregnant employees are likely to violate Title VII and, where applicable, state laws that prohibit pregnancy discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s allegations in the lawsuit, within days of being hired, a new employee informed RTG that she was pregnant, but that she had no work restrictions and could perform all aspects of the job ...

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a recent decision that made several pronouncements regarding Illinois vacation pay—many of which seem straightforward—but they were pursued to a final decision by a federal appellate court, so a brief refresher course appears to be in order.

First, as the decision makes clear, the law does not require employers in Illinois to provide paid vacation benefits to employees.  However, when an employer in Illinois provides paid vacation benefits to employees, Illinois law requires the employer to pay an employee the value of ...

The NLRB has, once again, struck down work rules the Board deemed overly broad. This time, the employer is Whole Foods Market, and the rules at issue essentially barred employees from photographing or making audio or video recordings during working hours—that is, when employees were being paid to do their assigned work. These rules did not apply while employees were on break.

Readers may remember that the NLRB’s rationale for striking down various employer policies in recent years has hinged on protecting employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act to engage in ...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the laws of many states generally require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to certain employees with disabilities. This requires the employer and employee to participate in an interactive process aimed at finding job changes that allow the employee to continue working. For many employers, that requirement raises many questions for which there are no simple, definitive answers—which forces employers to make accommodation decisions amid considerable uncertainty.

But the recent decision in Dillard v ...

One of the most recent illustrations of the need for written anti-discrimination policies and training comes from a case out of a federal trial court in Michigan. In the case, McCrary v. Oakwood Healthcare, Inc., No. 14-14053 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 16, 2016), a hospital patient stated that he did not want to be treated by African-American hospital employees.

Cutting to the chase: such a request is unacceptable; the customer (or patient, in this instance) is not always right. Nevertheless, the patient’s request was noted in his chart—and the hospital did not immediately reject the ...

A recent consent judgment entered against Grisham Farm Products, in a lawsuit brought by the EEOC, Case No. 6:16-cv-03105 (W.D. Mo.) (June 8, 2016), provides an important reminder to employers that job application questions directed at medical histories are generally off-limits.

The case arose from an EEOC Charge filed by a man who did not even submit a job application. Instead, after seeing the application’s medical history questions, he headed to the EEOC and filed a Charge of Discrimination alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (“ADA” ...

A recent decision from a NLRB Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) serves as yet another reminder that most private sector employers must allow employees some leeway to make work-related complaints, especially on social media. The employer in the case, Chipotle Services LLC, operates Chipotle restaurants nationwide. As readers likely are aware, Chipotle has received a great deal of negative press in recent months, but this recent decision was unrelated to food safety or illness issues.

Instead, this case arose after Chipotle management confronted an employee who used the ...

On March 1, 2016, the EEOC announced that it had filed its first two sex discrimination lawsuits based on sexual orientation. One of these cases, filed in the federal district court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, is based on allegations that a gay male employee was subject to anti-gay epithets and other offensive comments about his sexuality and sex life that eventually drove the employee to resign. The other case, filed in the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, is based on allegations that a lesbian employee’s supervisor made comments regarding the employee’s ...

Readers of this blog know that we counsel our employer clients to immediately investigate the facts as soon as an employee who is subject to a restrictive covenant engages in conduct that might violate it. This is because the right to obtain an emergency injunction blocking any prohibited conduct can depend on the promptness of the employer’s efforts at enforcement.

This point was underscored by a recent unpublished decision of the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District (Cook County). Although this is an Illinois case, the lesson applies to employers in any state.

Last month, in Porter v. Houma Terrebonne Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (“HTHA”), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a former employee’s claim of unlawful retaliation based on complaints of sexual harassment should proceed to trial.

Such a ruling is not necessarily unusual, but what makes this one unique is  the court held that an employer’s refusal to let an employee rescind her resignation can be an “adverse employment action”—one of the three prima facie elements of a claim for unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil ...

On December 1, 2015, in conjunction with World AIDS Day, the EEOC issued two new guidance documents addressing the legal rights available to employees with HIV/AIDS under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

While these documents specifically reference HIV and AIDS, the reality is that this new guidance has tremendous value to human resources professionals and other management decision-makers who may be faced with accommodation requests based on virtually any medical condition. Moreover, although the guidance is not specifically directed to employers, again the ...

On the final day of September, the EEOC filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Mobile, Alabama. The EEOC frequently files lawsuits, but this lawsuit had an additional claim not often seen, which may be a wake-up call to many employers.

That claim was based on the bottling company’s alleged failure to preserve employment records—specifically, employment applications.

Federal regulations require the retention of employment applications “for a period of one year from the date of the making of the record or the personnel action involved ...

On Monday, President Obama signed an Executive Order outlining the paid sick leave benefits that many federal contractors will be required to provide as early as January 1, 2017.

A wide range of federal contracts entered into on or after January 1, 2017, and any subcontracts entered into thereunder, will be required to include language under which employees will earn no less than one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked under covered contracts.

That leave may be used by an employee for absences due to any of the following:

(i) Physical or mental illness, injury, or medical ...

In the opening sentence of its recent decision, Southern New England Telephone Co. v. NLRB, the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals stated: “Common sense sometimes matters in resolving legal disputes.” If only that were always true in labor disputes.

The legal dispute in this matter centered on the fact that the company prohibited publicly visible employees—those who had direct contact with customers or the public—from wearing union t-shirts that said “Inmate” on the front and “Prisoner of AT$T” on the back. These shirts were part of a campaign by the union ...

The Seventh Circuit recently affirmed summary judgment for the employer in Miller v. St. Joseph County, a race discrimination case, and in doing so applied what may prove to be a streamlined standard for determining whether employment discrimination plaintiffs can survive summary judgment.

The plaintiff in Miller was a long-time employee of the county’s police department who sought several promotions which he did not receive. He alleged, among other things, that the promotion denials, a temporary assignment he disliked (but which did not change his compensation ...

On July 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Administrator’s Interpretation addressing the distinction between employees and independent contractors in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The DOL has aggressively pursued potential misclassifications of employees as independent contractors in recent years. Indicative of that aggressive approach, the interpretation states that most workers are employees under the FLSA. While that statement is walked-back somewhat in other parts of the interpretation, businesses that rely heavily on independent ...

On June 1, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., ruling that it was unlawful for an Abercrombie clothing store to reject an otherwise qualified applicant because, as a practicing Muslim, she wore a headscarf.

That rejection arose from Abercrombie’s unfortunate application of the company’s “Look Policy,” which prohibited employees from wearing “caps”—a term that the Look Policy did not specifically define.  Abercrombie believed—but was not certain, as there was no discussion of the issue with the applicant—that the ...

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (board) filed a legal brief in an ongoing federal lawsuit over the viability of a multi-part right-to-work law implemented through a county-wide ordinance in Hardin County, Kentucky.  Among other things, the ordinance at issue prohibits the use of union-security provisions in collective bargaining agreements, and also regulates hiring halls, dues check-off, anti-coercion and discrimination provisions, and the penalties for violations of Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act.  The board’s central argument is that ...

Not exactly—but it is quite useful, nonetheless.

Recently, the Office of the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board issued a report on lawful and unlawful employee handbook rules.  And while the information provided in the report does not have the force of law, the guidance is quite detailed and it provides insight into what, for the moment, is the board’s approach to enforcement on employee handbooks.

What the report makes clear is that context is key to determining whether an employee handbook provision will be considered lawful or not.  For instance, it is ...

On February 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule modifying the definition of “spouse” under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

This final rule, which will take effect on March 27, 2015, is a shift from the current language of 29 C.F.R. §§ 825.102 and 825.122(b), which defines “spouse” to mean “a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides, including common law marriage in States where it is recognized.”

As of March 27, the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA ...

Effective January 1, 2015, employers that have fewer than 15 employees and either maintain a business facility within Chicago’s city limits or are subject to any of the license requirements of Title 4 of the Chicago Municipal Code (or both), are prohibited from pre-screening applicants for employment based on criminal history.  Essentially, Chicago has taken the Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (otherwise known as the Illinois Ban-the-Box law), and applied it to the employers doing business in Chicago who are too small to be covered by the statewide ...

Back in July, we told you that President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, which directed the Department of Labor to expand the Equal Employment Opportunity requirements for certain federal contracts so as to prohibit discrimination by contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Taking the cue from that Executive Order, on December 3, 2014, the Department of Labor issued its Final Rule implementing the Executive Order.  The Final Rule will take effect on April 8, 2015.

A central component of the Final Rule is its directive that covered contracts and ...

The Seventh Circuit Appellate Court’s decision last week in Kauffman v. Petersen Health Care VII, LLC, makes clear that the time an employee spends on a given job duty is critically important when it comes to reasonable accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The Kauffman case also reinforces an important lesson on a reasonable accommodation pitfall that employers must absolutely avoid.

The employee, Debra Kauffman, was a hairdresser at a nursing home, and one of her duties in that role was to push wheelchair-bound residents to and from the ...

If not, it should be.  An open door policy, (essentially a policy through which the employer makes clear to employees that they can and should bring concerns and complaints to human resources or other appropriate managers) may be the difference between substantial legal liability and a relatively prompt resolution of an employee’s lawsuit.  Certain laws, including federal wage and hour and anti-harassment statutes, provide employers at least a partial defense to claims made by employees who refuse to use internal complaint procedures before filing a lawsuit.  Even in the ...

In what was disappointing news to employers in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December 2013 that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) failure to engage in good-faith conciliation efforts with an employer prior to filing a lawsuit alleging the employer engaged in unlawful discrimination or harassment is not a viable affirmative defense requiring the dismissal of such a lawsuit.

According to the employer’s petition to the Supreme Court, the Mach Mining case began with a single EEOC charge from one ...

On May 1, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (“board”) issued a news release regarding the board’s decision in Purple Communications, Inc., to invite briefs on the issue of overruling existing board precedent on employees’ use of company e-mail systems.

Current precedent allows employers to restrict employee use of an employer’s e-mail system to business purposes only.  One consequence of a properly enforced business-purposes-only rule is that employees have no right to use their employer’s e-mail system for union organizing efforts or other ...

On March 3, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., in which the Ninth Circuit held that time spent in (and waiting for) post-shift security screenings is compensable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The employees in Busk, who worked in a warehouse filling Amazon.com orders, were screened only at the end of their workdays for the purpose of preventing the theft of Amazon merchandise.  Accounting for time spent waiting to be screened, the screening process took approximately 25 minutes for ...

Recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reiterates that the DOL will allow telemedicine visits—generally speaking, health care appointments held via video conference—to qualify as in-person visits to a health care provider under certain circumstances.

As our readers know, the FMLA provides certain employees up to 12 workweeks of leave for, among other things, a “serious health condition.”  An employee can show the existence of a serious health condition by several methods that include establishing that the employee has an illness or injury that involves ...

Back in October, we discussed Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, a case pending at that time in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The issue in Mulhall was whether a union neutrality agreement could be a “thing of value” paid, lent, or delivered to a union in violation of Section 302 of the Labor-Management Relations Act (“LMRA”).

The misnomer is that neutrality agreements have little to do with neutrality.  Instead, they are a way for a particular union to virtually guarantee that it will acquire control over employees who may have no interest at all in being unionized.

In December, the ...

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