The naked truth about nude celebrities in your workplace

November 17, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 2 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

Celebrities lately seem to be having a hard time keeping their clothes on.

Whether it’s one of the Kardashian sisters baring her bottom or Keira Knightley baring her bosom, you can hardly look at any social media site these days without being assaulted by celebrities in various degrees of naked-idity, as Radar O’Reilly once called it. While the exhibitionism has recently arisen mainly among the ranks of female celebrities, there has been no shortage of male body parts on display in recent years, what with NFL quarterbacks, New York politicians, and others seemingly unable to resist the urge to use their smart phones to do dumb things.  NSFW

All of which raises an interesting employment law issue: How does a company’s policy against sexual harassment deal with conversations that employees might have about current events, when those events can at times be sexually charged? If an employee forwards the Kardashian photo to a co-worker, is he violating the policy? What if he merely references the photo as further proof (as if we needed it) that nothing Kardashian-related has any redeeming social value? What if several coworkers engage in a spirited intellectual debate about the statement of female empowerment that Knightley claims she was making with her revealing photo?

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A scar is born

November 11, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the other night, the host and Matthew McConaughey competed to see who could throw the most footballs at the other guy’s face. Not his physical face, of course, but glass plates printed with each guy’s face. Toward the end, McConaughey steps in front of Fallon as he is about to throw, and I immediately start thinking, “What if he hits the actor square in the nose with a football?”shutterstock_183450509

As an employment lawyer, I wasn’t so concerned about McConaughey’s career. Did you see him as modern day Rust Cohle? Dude can pull off ugly just fine. No, my concern was whether he could be compensated for his injuries. Would it be covered by workers’ comp?  Could he sue The Tonight Show or Fallon? Turns out, Hollywood has had to deal with these kinds of safety issues in the past. Here are two cases worth noting.

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The Abominable Boss Man

October 31, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In honor of Halloween, this post will address some of the many potential workplace issues in the Pixar film, Monsters, Inc.  If you’ve been living under a rock and have managed to not see this film (or its recent sequel), here’s a quick recap. A city called Monstropolis is inhabited by monsters and is powered by the screams of children in the human world. shutterstock_98138216At Monsters, Inc., employees (or “Scarers”) have the job of scaring human children and collecting their screams to power the city. The company, however, is facing a serious dilemma and potential energy crisis, as human children are become harder to frighten. Through a series of amusing misadventures, the top Scarer, Sulley, and his best friend, Mike, end up caring for a little girl they dub “Boo.” In trying to return Boo safely to the human world, Mike and Sulley discover that one of the Scarers, Randall, plans to kidnap children (particularly Boo) and use a torture machine on company property to extract their screams. Randall tries to use the torture machine on Mike, but Sulley saves the day. Sulley reports Randall and his torture device to the company chairman, who responds by promptly exiling Mike and Sulley to the Himalayas. I won’t spoil the ending for the two or three of you who have not yet seen the movie. Thankfully, in the human world, your boss can’t respond to a workplace complaint by  shipping you off to the Abominable Snowman (though this banished yeti happens to be much friendlier than expected). Indeed, a number of state and federal laws prohibit discrimination and retaliation against employees for reporting certain workplace issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is intended to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions . . . .” OSHA contains a nondiscrimination provision, which prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee filed a safety or health complaint or otherwise engaged in protected activity under the Act. The monster equivalent of OSHA might have saved Mike and Sulley a trip to the Himalayas, but then it would have been a rather short movie. Plus, the Abominable Snowman would still be sorting mail at Monsters, Inc., rather than  serving up some delicious snow cones. Don’t worry–the yellow ones are lemon-flavored. Happy Halloween!

Halloween tips to avoid a total nightmare

October 27, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 2 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

It’s that time of year again. Time for Halloween and all the candy, cheesy ghost stories, and inappropriate costumes that come with it. While Halloween can be fun and exciting, the fallout for employers can be all fright.

Office Parties. Halloween falls on a Friday this year, which may make more employers inclined to allow employees to wear costumes to work. While workplace costume parties can lighten the mood in the office, employers should be proactive in dealing with the potential issues that can arise.

shutterstock_157867430First and foremost, employers should communicate simple and clear rules or guidelines to their employees in advance of any party. Employees should be reminded that professionalism is still expected of them at work, both in their conduct and their costumes. This is especially important if your employees will interact with customers during the workday, as an offensive or inappropriate costume could cause more than just internal employee relations issues. Employers should give their employees examples of what is potentially inappropriate, so that there is no guesswork involved for the employee.

Inappropriate costumes can include those costumes that reveal too much skin or, depending the type of workplace you operate, those that have the potential to compromise safety. This category can also include costumes that touch on hot-button political or social topics, such as an employee lampooning a high-profile political figure or dressing as a nun or priest. While some employees may be unaffected by these costumes, employers must be sensitive to how all their employees may deal with the notions raised by such costumes. read more…

Gone Lawsuit

October 20, 2014 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

[Note: Major spoilers ahead. If you have not seen/read Gone Girl, and wish to do so, please do NOT continue.]

This past weekend my wife and I got to see David Fincher’s latest film Gone Girl. While I am a fan of Fincher’s work, I had not read the novel Gone Girl and had successfully avoided any spoilers related to the movie or book’s ending. And while I enjoyed the movie very much, I’m not sure if I agree with some of the television advertisements promoting the film as the “perfect date movie.”Plan Ahead

Let’s just say that Rosamund Pike’s character Amy is all sorts of crazy. Just one guy’s opinion. Afterwards, my wife stated that yeah, Amy “is absolutely nuts but he did cheat on her,” the “he” referring to Ben Affleck’s character Nick, Amy’s husband. I laughed at first, being so appreciative of having a great marriage with a wonderful wife. Then I dissected her comment in my head. Did she think he deserved that? Why did she smirk when she said the word “but”? Later on, paranoia set in. Why did she ask me what time the Patriots are playing? Did we have plans I forgot about? Why is she telling me now about certain plot holes in the movie? Why is she saying Amy should have done this or that instead? Why are we having chicken for dinner? What is going on?

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Did I say that?

October 13, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Satya Nadella’s job was tough enough from the start. He followed Microsoft lifer Steve Ballmer and founder Bill Gates into the CEO role at a time when the company is looking to keep its businesses rolling in the face of a changing industry, slower PC sales, and serious pressure on its bread-and-butter Windows and Office products. Overall, the consensus is that he has done well. shutterstock_194661920 (1)

A misplayed comment last week, however, earned him some derision and led to a quick retraction. During the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Nadella suggested that women in the tech industry shouldn’t ask for pay raises and trust that their contributions would be rewarded in the long run. The audience didn’t exactly receive the advice well, and he quickly retracted the comment.

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Breaking Bad: Disciplining employees for off-duty conduct

October 06, 2014 - by: Marilyn Moran 1 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

You can hardly get through your morning coffee these days without seeing another story about some athlete, model, or actor who abused his wife, trashed her Beverly Hills hotel room, or went all shutterstock_180348752Archie Bunker in a racist Twitter rampage. Usually, high-profile celebrities are bound by employment contracts that require strict adherence to an impeccable standard of personal conduct. But what can the average employer do if Walter White, the usually quiet and docile chemist with a spotless work history, decides to break bad over the weekend, uses his RV for a meth lab, and has his mug shot splashed all over the news? Like so many legal questions, the answer is “it depends.”

Generally, under the at-will doctrine, employees can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as the reason is not illegal. Unfortunately, deciphering whether a reason is “legal” or “illegal”  is not as clear as Walter’s blue crystal. Obviously, it is illegal to discipline or terminate an employee based on the employee’s race, religion, or sex, but most off-duty conduct lies somewhere in the gray area. Until recently, most employers did not give a second thought before disciplining an employee for off-duty criminal conduct, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has loudly condemned the practice. According to the EEOC, some racial minorities are disproportionately more likely to be arrested or convicted of criminal offenses than others, so the agency is critical of employment policies that universally disadvantage applicants or employees based on past criminal conduct.  As a result, the safest bet for disciplining employees for off-duty conduct is to focus on the job-related consequences of the behavior, rather than the behavior itself.

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Labor Board gets an F for its treatment of A-List

September 29, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Celebrities … they’re just like us. Which is to say that they now have a reason to be ticked off at the National Labor Relations Board too. A recent decision by an NLRB administrative law judge tells Hollywood’s A-listers they get no special treatment under the labor laws.

shutterstock_157705382 (2)The MUSE School, founded by Titanic director James Cameron, is an elementary school in Calabasas, California, a wealthy town north of Los Angeles. Some of the students at MUSE are children of celebrities. Given the school’s notoriety, all MUSE School employees are required to sign an extensive confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment.

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A blooper of historic proportions

September 22, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Downton Abbey recently made headlines with what some are calling “the water bottle seen around the world.” In an uncropped version of a publicity photo, Lord Grantham and Lady Edith are seen standing in front of a stately mantel upon which a bottled water is perched looking hilariously out of place. shutterstock_58173862Turning an amusing blooper into a positive,  the show posted to its Instagram account a photograph of the cast holding water bottles on set along with a link to the website for WaterAid, an international organization dedicated to providing clean water to underserved communities.  The cast and crew decided they wanted to turn some of the attention toward a water issue that truly matters.

The water bottle blooper was particularly noteworthy, given the amount of time and effort that clearly goes into making the show look and feel authentic to viewers. In fact, Sophie McShera (who plays the cook’s assistant, Daisy) revealed that, for the sake of preserving their historic look, there is a no-wash policy when it comes to the costumes, which makes for one smelly cast. According to McShera, there are patches in the costumes’ armpits that are washed separately, but “we do stink.”

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Some extra points about fantasy football and your workplace

September 15, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 2 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

Although the actual games have been overshadowed lately by the off-the-field misbehavior of some of the players, the NFL season opened last week. And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear HR managers and small business owners across the country yelling at their employees, “Get off your fantasy football website and get back to work!”shutterstock_134095112

Like college basketball’s March Madness, fantasy football’s massive popularity arises in large part from the fact that it gives zealots and non-enthusiasts alike a chance to “get in on the action,” and not just enjoy a sporting event but also win bragging rights over all of their friends. Indeed, anyone who has ever participated in either endeavor is sure to have bitter memories of losing the NCAA pool to someone who picked teams based on uniform colors or mascot cuteness, or losing a fantasy football championship to someone who couldn’t pronounce Tim Biakabatuka’s name if his life depended on it. Let’s just say, there is a certain amount of luck involved (except when I win).

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