On Thursday, June 26, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in NLRB v. Noel Canning, a case where a soda bottler and distributor challenged an NLRB enforcement Order and claimed that the Board did not have a requisite quorum of members to issue the Order because three of its members, at the time, had been unconstitutionally appointed. After the District of Columbia Circuit Court sided with Noel Canning, the Supreme Court affirmed, and ruled on the Board’s appeal that the three recess appointments President Obama made to the NLRB in January 2012 were indeed unconstitutional.
Employers often are leery of retaliation claims, and rightfullly so, since they are among the most dangerous to defend in court. Typically, however, employers confront allegations of retaliation only from current or just-made-former employees. Now, in a recent decision issued by the Fourth Circuit, even applicants can go the retaliation route in the right circumstances.
Vacations and weddings and Daisy Dukes, Oh My! The challenges facing HR in the summer are unique compared to other times of the year. As we just hit the official start of the warm weather season, here are a few things HR should be considering as the heat index rises.
Vacations and Leave
The kiddies are home from school. Adventure awaits everyone. For some, perhaps batteries simply need recharging. Either way, summer months are packed with reasons employees need time off. Still, work needs to get done, so review those vacation, leave, and sick policies to make sure they are clear and comprehensive. Do your policies address how vacation is requested, how much notice is required, and what criteria will be used for approving vacations – particularly where more than one employee is requesting the same set of dates? If employees have already burned up their vacation time before summer, does your company allow for unpaid vacation leave? If an employee wants to stretch their vacation, by covering a holiday or by using sick leave, how do your policies address those efforts? By having clear policies and enforcing them, you can avoid a lot of headaches in scheduling while still ensuring that your employees get requested time off.
Office Picnics and Other Outings
Summer also is a great time to gather your employees together for some outdoor fellowship. If you plan or hold these events, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, if alcohol is served, you need to be sure your underage employees are not being served. Designated drivers should be arranged. And, having someone keep an eye on the conduct of those consuming alcohol can avoid problems with inappropriate behavior. Additionally, because your office picnic is still a workplace event, appropriate attire should be worn. Finally, bear in mind that injuries at these types of events may raise workers’ compensation issues.
When the temperature rises, employees may be more inclined to wear tank tops, shorter skirts, sandals or flip flops, or even shorts to work. If your workplace is conducive to these types of clothing, more power to you. If your organization is like most, however, you need to be concerned about whether your company policies address appropriate attire during the summer months. Be specific about what is and is not permitted. Also, in considering your policy, think about the safety issues that may be implicated by clothing choice.
If you have employees who work outside, the summer heat can be a threat to their health and well-being. If you log onto OSHA.gov right now, you will see a vibrant red notice entitled “Preventing Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers.” Click here to get important and helpful information for protecting your outdoor workers during these warm summer months.
In my view, it’s best to think about these issues before they become issues. A little advanced planning can go a long way towards fixing your summertime HR blues.
Many employers understandably want to perform a criminal background check on potential employees. It is possible for employers to lawfully ask about criminal convictions on applications or to administer a criminal background check. However, it is not “open season” on criminal background checks, and you need to be careful when conducting this kind of inquiry.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently ruled in Socko v. Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc., that non-compete agreements signed during employment are not enforceable unless the employer provides its employee additional consideration in exchange for signing.
In the past decade, it has become increasingly common to see employers devise new and innovative ways to reinforce the importance of safe workplaces to their employees. In an effort to achieve greater workplace safety, employers have frequently looked to implementing safety incentive programs (“SIPs”) to reward employees with cash, prizes, awards, or other recognition when the total number of injuries and near misses falls below the level specified by management. For example, an individual employee or department could be rewarded with anything from free t-shirts to a chance to win a new pickup truck in a company raffle if the injury tally falls below the threshold the employer establishes. Some employers have even used cash incentives or additional vacation time as rewards to encourage workers to be more safety conscious.