Friday, November 18, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Not a day after I commented upon the difference between talking diversity and doing diversity, I read in the Philadelphia Business Journal this article pointing out that the hiring of women at big law firms has declined, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
[T]he point of that study is that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. So as a man gets more powerful and more successful, everyone — men and women like him more. And as a woman gets more powerful and successful, everyone, including women like them less.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I wanted to post a few resources I was not able to get to during our presentation this morning. Frankly, I enjoyed a broader panel experience (and abbreviated remarks) to provide a better variety of viewpoints on addressing the issue of domestic violence. I know that TCN will have contact information for the panel posted, so I won't repost that here.
However, here are some resources I mentioned (and a few which I did not):
1. This pamphlet, entitled "Be Safe Sensible Prepared" is a joint product of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence and the ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section. In addition, links to the two ABA groups are hyperlinked to their names above.
2. The Philadelphia Ordinance (Bill No. 090660-A) providing for leave for victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse may be found here. There's nothing in Federal or Pennsylvania law which would preclude individual municipalities from passing equivalent ordinances (except perhaps strident objections from local chambers of commerce.)
3. Information about two pieces of Federal legislation recently introduced can be found here ("Balancing Act of 2011") and here ("Healthy Families Act"). Since watching legislation made is like watching sausage being made (as Otto von Bismarck allegedly suggested), I cannot prognosticate the future for either bill.
4. In my research I also discovered this excellent piece called "Top 10 Things Employers Can Do About Domestic Violence" from the Crisis Connection, an organization located in Southern Indiana.
Finally, to restate my basic points:
1. Employers cannot ignore the problem of domestic violence, regardless of how "difficult" it is to address (as we heard this morning), liability is lurking around every corner;
2. Employers should have a policy and should plan for dealing with domestic violence (as more than one speaker suggested); and
3. There's lots of help available if you take the initiative.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
A thanks to Jennifer Ellis, Esquire, whose blog "Jennifer Ellis, JD" is a must read for any techno-lawyer.
I know I said something along the lines of "how much trouble can you get in 140 characters."
As many know, a heap of trouble is the answer ---- but not if you are careful (and have at least half a brain.)
I will return to my discussion of retaliation claims shortly, as well as be discussing how workplaces need to handle domestic violence, and a review of the U.S. Supreme Court's past and upcoming terms.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Retaliation claims result from an employer taking an adverse action against an employee who has a ‘good faith’ belief that they have been discriminated against. That doesn’t require the employee to be right, only to have a good faith belief that he or she is right. If there is such a good faith belief, and if the employer punishes them for that belief, the employee can bring a retaliation claim and may even prevail.
2. Juries are much more likely to find in favor of the Plaintiff on a retaliation claim than the underlying discrimination claim.
Jurors do not like to use labels such as “bigot,” “sexist” or “liar.” On the other hand, jurors do have a deep sense of fair play, and even where they are unwilling to find discrimination, they will find retaliation if they believe that the employer has not played fair with the employee claiming discrimination.
3. Everyone connected with the investigation is protected from retaliation.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that protection from retaliation even extends to employees who participate in internal investigations, even where those investigations don’t arise from the participant’s own complaints, and even where somebody other than the complainant is retaliated against!
4. An employer doesn't have to fire an employee to cause that employee to suffer an adverse employment action.
All kinds of consequences constitute “adverse employment actions” in the employment discrimination arena. Unpaid suspensions; demotions; discrimination in job assignments; shift changes; name-calling; use of certain discriminatory props (e.g. nooses) all can be interpreted as adverse employment actions, and thereby trigger retaliation claims. Any action which "may well dissuade" an individual from bringing a good faith claim of discrimination may constitute unlawful retaliation.
5. Employers can eliminate most claims with proper internal policies and procedures.
Where an employer has an internal procedure for addressing discrimination complaints and the employee does not utilize that procedure, the employer may be able to avoid liability altogether. In addition, prompt remedial measures and a competent investigation can reduce the likelihood of a retaliation claim.
I will explore further each of these points in upcoming posts.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I happened to have a client ask me this very question this morning, so here’s my “official” response, and an unofficial one.
According to a letter advisory from the United States Department of Labor:
The Department of Labor considers an absence due to adverse weather conditions, such as when transportation difficulties experienced during a snow emergency cause an employee to choose not to report for work for the day even though the employer is open for business, an absence for personal reasons. Such an absence does not constitute an absence due to sickness or disability. Thus, under the policy you described above, an employer that remains open for business during a weather emergency may lawfully deduct one full-day’s absence from the salary of an exempt employee who does not report for work for the day due to the adverse weather conditions. Such a deduction will not violate the salary basis rule or otherwise affect the employee’s exempt status. Please note, however, that deductions from salary for less than a full-day’s absence are not permitted for such reasons under the regulations. If an exempt employee is absent for one and a half days due to adverse weather conditions, the employer may deduct only for the one full-day absence, and the employee must receive a full-day’s pay for the partial day worked, in order for the employer to meet the “salary basis” rule. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.602(b)(1).A simplified approach to this is as follows:
- Office closed: Salaried (i.e. exempt) employees' pay unaffected; Hourly employees may be docked.
- Office open: Salaried employees' pay unaffected, leave time may be debited; Hourly employees may be docked.
- Regardless of whether open or closed: Hourly employees can be docked for partial days; Salaried employees cannot.
Of note is the following language:
Since employers are not required under the FLSA to provide any vacation time to employees, there is no prohibition on an employer giving vacation time and later requiring that such vacation time be taken on a specific day(s). Therefore, a private employer may direct exempt staff to take vacation or debit their leave bank account in the situation presented above, whether for a full or partial day’s absence, provided the employees receive in payment an amount equal to their guaranteed salary. In the same scenario, an exempt employee who has no accrued benefits in the leave bank account or has a negative balance in the leave bank account still must receive the employee’s guaranteed salary for any absence(s) occasioned by the employer or the operating requirements of the business.A few thoughts, though, about how an employer approaches the issue:
1. Is there inclement weather where you are? (If there isn't ever inclement weather where you are, leave a comment about where you are so I can take a look at real estate nearby....) Every employer ought to have an inclement weather policy. Does your employer bother to at least post a list of “holidays” each year? (Most do). Just add a sentence or two about inclement weather.
2. Employers whose staff likes coming to work generally fare better in the marketplace. Ever heard of Zappos? Google? Employers should make a decision whether to be "open" or "closed," and not force employees to trudge to work through dangerous conditions or face a short paycheck. Employers will nearly always make more money with happy, productive employees than with employees who feel they are victimized.
3. Employers should consider setting a limit like school districts do. 3 days a year? 5 days a year? Make it part of employees' personal days if you like (since, as quoted above, Federal law does not require that an employer provide: (1) personal days; (2) sick days or (3) vacation days. (Note, we're Pennsylvania based here. Check your local jurisdiction to see whether your state or local law requires a mandatory offering of personal, sick and/or vacation days.)
And as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say on Hill Street Blues, "Let’s be careful out there…."