ADA defense: Disabled worker poses direct threat to health or safety

by Steven T. Collis

You know you can’t discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. But what if you are convinced the person’s disability would create a significant risk of harm to him or others if he’s allowed to perform the intended job? The “direct threat” defense may help you avoid liability for a disability discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Safety Always

Direct threat defense defined

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A story with legs: Fox News’ $20 million settlement provides warnings for employers

by Mark I. Schickman

Fox News understands the life of a news story. It knew that former anchor Gretchen Carlson’s claims of sexual harassment against its former CEO and chairman Roger Ailes would draw headlines for months, as would the ultimate resolution of the claims. In news parlance, Carlson’s claims had “legs.” So, too, would reports of a major settlement of the action. On September 6, Fox News compressed the story of Carlson’s suit with news of the $20 million settlement of her claims—hoping both stories would rise and fall over Labor Day and become a dim memory long before election night.  Sexual harassment

Fox News acted quickly to jettison Ailes, the actor prominently named in Carlson’s lawsuit. It also announced new sexual harassment policies and now touts a culture that no longer tolerates the type of blatant harassment reported by numerous women after Carlson’s story broke. It issued a public apology “that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and the rest of our colleagues deserve.”

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Don’t leave older workers out of retention plans

August 14, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Employers nowadays may feel bombarded with advice on how to retain millennial employees. Those younger workers have the reputation of moving from job to job, so employers wanting to get the most from the investment they make in their youngest employees put a lot of energy into encouraging them to stay. But what about older employeesthose who are weighing the pros and cons of retirement, maybe wondering if they’re still appreciated? Are those workers also worth special retention efforts? And, if so, what should employers do?  Elderly business man with gears and ideas

“There is no substitute for experience,” Susan G. Fentin, an attorney with the Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. law firm in Springfield, Massachusetts, says “Employees with a long record of experience with a company will undoubtedly have contacts in the industry that are invaluable. Any type of knowledge that is built up over time is generally hard to replace, so keeping employees on staff after what might otherwise be retirement age would work to the company’s advantage.”

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Don’t let Confederate flags lead to interoffice civil war

by Connor Beatty

While enjoying a scenic drive along the Maine coast recently, I was startled to come across a giant Confederate flag prominently displayed in a house’s front yard. Less than a week later, a client contacted our firm to ask for advice in responding to an employee’s claim that a vehicle with a Confederate flag bumper sticker in the parking lot made her uncomfortable. While the timing of the occurrences may have been a coincidence, the events are a reminder that the Southern symbol can appear at any workplace, including workplaces in one of the northernmost states in the country. For many, the Confederate flag is an offensive image, and addressing the symbol at work can be tricky. Employers in other states have been sued for ordering employees to remove Confederate flags, while other employers have been taken to court for failing to order workers to remove the flags.  Confederate flag flying

No right to display Confederate flags at work

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Premier teamwork: Soccer champs’ victory offers lessons for HR pros

by Peter Lowe

They were a rag-tag group of has-beens, rejects, and journeymen. They were hired at low wages and with even lower expectations. A recently fired 64-year-old Italian was hired to manage them. They enjoyed a 138-year history, yet no history of success. The odds of the team winning the championship were 5,000 to 1. Yet in May, the team—Leicester City—defied the odds and was crowned champion of the English Premier League. The story of how lowly Leicester City became the champion of one of the world’s richest, most competitive, and far-reaching sports leagues provides valuable tips for HR professionals. LeicesterCity celebrates Championship of English Premiere League in Thailand


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Preventing discrimination against Muslim and Middle Eastern workers

by Anna C. Lukeman

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has warned employers to be proactive and take measures against discrimination aimed at those who are or are perceived to be either Muslim or Middle Eastern.  Middle eastern people having a business meeting at office

In her statement to address this issue, EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said, “America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. As a nation, we must continue to seek the fair treatment of all, even as we grapple with the concerns raised by the recent terrorist attacks. When people come to work and are unfairly harassed or otherwise targeted based on their religion or national origin, it undermines our shared and longstanding values of tolerance and equality for all.”

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Employers may be required to accommodate unhygienic employees

by Deanna L. Forbush

Most employers have several policies explaining their expectations for employee appearance and hygiene. The policies generally include topics such as appearance, dress, disruption of the workplace, health and safety, and interaction with other employees. Appearance and hygiene policies are generally published in an employer’s personnel handbook.   Portrait of a young woman  disgusting with bad smell

Many employers require employees to meet high grooming and hygiene standards as a condition of continued employment, and employers generally retain sole discretion to determine whether an employee’s hygiene and grooming meet their sometimes subjective standards. Employers that do not have hygiene and grooming policies are advised to implement standards as soon as possible because the appearance of employees—especially those who work in the service sector—can have a huge effect on a company’s overall image.

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‘Man up’: Sex discrimination claim goes to trial based on supervisor’s comments

by Stephen W. Jones

The 8th Circuit recently reversed an Arkansas federal district court’s decision to dismiss a store manager’s sex discrimination claims. The appellate court indicated that a trial must be held to determine whether a district manager who allegedly made certain sexist comments to the store manager was a decision maker and, if so, whether the district manager’s comments could be direct evidence of discriminatory animus.  Big boss yelling to her employee with megaphone on fire


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U.S. Supreme Court puts transgender bathroom case on hold

by Rachael L. Loughlin

The case of the Gloucester County, Virginia, transgender high-school student fighting to use the restroom that matches his gender identity has been making its way through the federal court system for more than a year. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the matter, adding yet another twist to the high-profile case.  Transgender Sign

A recap of the lawsuit

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Understanding strengths, weaknesses of bipolar employees

July 17, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 1 COMMENTS

Disabilities of all types pose challenges for employers and employees alike. As employers struggle to find ways to help employees with disabilities do their jobs, they also must fulfill obligations created by laws designed to prevent discrimination and violate privacy. Like other disabilities, bipolar disorder presents its own unique challengesconcerns that will be explored in a Business and Legal Resources webinar set for July 28 titled “Employees with Bipolar Disorder: HR’s Roadmap for ADA Accommodations and Practical Issues.”  Human Emotion

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive disorder, causes people to experience varying highs and lows as well as changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. A bipolar employee may be wildly creative and productive sometimes and disruptive and nonproductive at other times, meaning employers see great strengths and frustrating weaknesses all wrapped up in the same employee.

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