Over 30 states and the District of Columbia have legislation providing citizens access to marijuana. Some states have “de-criminalized” the substance while others have legalized it for medicinal or even recreational purposes. No matter the form, these laws contradict the federal Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”) under which marijuana is categorized as an illegal controlled substance. The conflict between states’ laws and federal law regarding marijuana presents a confusing crossroad for employers.
Employers defend harassment claims not involving a loss of tangible employment benefits (i.e., hiring/firing, promotion, reassignment, changes in benefits) with a two-prong defense. First, they show that they exercised reasonable care to avoid such conduct and eliminate it if it occurs (an effective policy and prompt corrective action). Second, employers show that the complaining employee failed to act with reasonable care to take advantage of the policy. Employers are successful in obtaining summary judgments in such scenarios where the employee flounders on the second prong by either totally failing to use the policy or doing so belatedly – even as short as two to four months after the incident occurred. Complaining employees try to keep their claims alive, often by claiming that their failure to promptly invoke the harassment policy was not unreasonable. A generalized fear of retaliation, unsupported by specific evidence, has not carried the day for employees, and employers have successfully disposed of such cases on summary judgment.
It’s not uncommon to make a job offer conditional on the results of a pre-employment background check. But, how often do you deny an otherwise good job applicant a job because something unexpected came back in the background check? How do you go about informing this applicant—who you told had the job (subject to the results of the background check)—that he or she is now not going to be considered for employment?
On June 8, 2018, the Business Liability Protection Act (a.k.a “the Parking Lot Gun Bill”) goes into effect and creates a series of new standards which prohibit employers from maintaining or establishing “no firearms” policies in vehicles on company-owned parking lots and property where vehicles are parked.
Personnel policies are designed to inform employees of the types of conduct that are acceptable or unacceptable. They, obviously, can only give a general overview and are subject to interpretation and application by the employer on a case-by-case basis. A recent decision arising out of a Tweet by a Vice President of Human Resources shows that such policies will be strictly construed against employers in Pennsylvania.
I was recently asked if an employer may require an employee who was taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to return to work after the employee was seen working his second job—refereeing school basketball games—while on leave. In this particular case, the employee was taking FMLA leave to care for his daughter, who had a serious health condition.
Like it or not, winter is upon us as the calendar rolls into February, and Jack Frost is constantly lurking around the corner. In this space, we’ve talked about pay issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) when employees can’t make it to work or the business must close. On the flip side, however, some businesses, such as healthcare entities, provide critical services and often have no choice but to remain open to the best of their ability when winter strikes.
Towards the end of 2017, the National Labor Relations Board issued a flurry of important decisions that established more employer-friendly standards. Significantly, the Board overturned a decision that was used to strike down many employment policies the Board found unlawfully interfered with employees’ rights to organize. Under a standard set forth in Lafayette Park Hotel (1998) and later clarified in Martin Luther Home d/b/a/ Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia (2004), a policy could be deemed unlawful if it could be “reasonably construed” by an employee to prohibit or chill employees’ exercise of their right to self-organize for collective bargaining or mutual aid.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer in a case involving an allegation of a racially hostile work environment, which was supported by shocking evidence, including racial slurs, a noose, and even a KKK-style hood. Read on to learn how this employer has – so far* – escaped liability in the face of such egregious evidence.