All you need is employment law

August 04, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 1 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

Our blog seems to have focused quite a bit recently on stories from the world of sports, and given the number of professional athletes behaving badly lately, that comes as no surprise. So for this week, we’ll take a break from litigious punters, abusive running backs, and egotistical power forwards to focus on another area of entertainment. Our diversion is well-timed, because I was fortunate enough to attend Paul McCartney’s concert last weekend at Target Field in Minneapolis, where the hapless Minnesota Twins are usually the athletes playing badly, if not behaving badly.  Beatles

What do Paul McCartney and the Beatles have to do with employment law? Well, plenty as it turns out. In fact, with a little creativity, we can conjure up an employment-law subtext to many of the top hits by Sir Paul and his bandmates.

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Lactation intolerance

Kristin Starnes Gray

When Karlesha Thurman got ready for her college graduation ceremony, she probably had no idea that she would be picking up international news coverage along with her accounting degree. Thurman’s three-month-old daughter became hungry during the festivities and Thurman did what countless other mothers have done–she nursed her hungry baby. A friend snapped a photograph of the moment and Thurman later posted it to Facebook in an effort to show that breastfeeding is “natural, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it.” Thereafter, the photograph went viral and added further fuel to the widespread debate on public breastfeeding with supporters pointing out that it’s natural and healthy for babies and critics arguing that it should be kept behind closed doors. shutterstock_161446934

The public breastfeeding debate has even inspired a new form of civil disobedience–the nurse-in. If you’re not familiar with the term, participants band together to nurse in public in a particular location at a particular time to show their solidarity. Some nurse-ins also include participants handing out pamphlets and other educational information about breastfeeding. Despite public health organizations and others trumpeting the health benefits (for both mothers and children) of breastfeeding, public breastfeeding remains a source of controversy and disagreement.

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X-Men playing catch-up on genetics–the real-life wave of the present

May 27, 2014 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

Remember when the study of genetic information was deemed to be the purview of those in the medical field or reserved for films and television shows that were classified as “futuristic science fiction”? Not anymore. Today we live in a world where everyone is fully aware that their own genetic code and family history could be easily obtained, analyzed, and dissected, along with the sheer paranoia that comes with that knowledge.

This awareness is the result of extreme technological and medical advances and their dissemination, and accompanying commentary, through articles, blogs, and anything else that resides on the Internet. If that’s not enough, just turn on the TV or go to the movies and you’ll be inundated with characters being persecuted because of their genetic makeup.

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Donald Sterling: SMH

May 06, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I learned something last week. If you read a youngster’s text messages, you’ll notice shutterstock_104818202a complicated system of abbreviations, symbols, and symaphores that, when translated with your 7-year-old’s assistance, become more-or-less coherent English sentences. Anyway, I learned “SMH” means “shaking my head,” which is exactly what I do these days when I hear the words “Donald Sterling.”

Sterling made himself cannon fodder for anyone in sight, and our own Josh Sudbury ably tackled the issue last week. So why go back to the well? Quite simply, Mr. Sterling is the ol’ gift that keeps on giving.

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Clip[pers] his tongue!

April 28, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past week the biggest story in the NBA was not the excitement of the first round of the playoffs, but the comments L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly made to his girlfriend. In an audiotape released Friday by TMZ, a man (allegedly Sterling) is heard chastising his girlfriend for associating with black people and bringing them to his team’s games.  ThatsRacist Several authors and bloggers have already written about the deplorable worldview espoused by the man in the tape alleged to be Sterling so I won’t rehash the obvious. Indeed, the audio reveals personal views one might expect to be held by resisters of the civil rights movement, but not by that of the owner of an NBA franchise 50 years after the passage of Title VII. But a different lesson about our times can be learned from the incident, which concerns the prevalence of audio and video records in today’s world. In our technology-laden society, every smart phone doubles as a camera, tape recorder, video camera, word processor, etc. You name it, and your phone—and your employees’ phones—can probably do it, including secretly recording conversations between themselves and supervisors. On top of that, it takes almost zero technical savvy for someone to make a recording and post it to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or any number of social media sites instantaneously. The majority of states permit the secret recording of conversations so long as at least one party to the conversation consents to the recording. In those states, such an audio recording could wind up as evidence against the company in court or before a government agency. In the Clippers’ case, it’s the owner himself who is alleged to have made the statements. So, it’s obvious that his statements reflect directly on the organization. But would the result be any better if one of your mid-level supervisors was caught on tape making an off-color joke or sexually charged comment about another employee? The answer is simply no. In addition to the potential liability that may arise from such statements in a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, the company almost certainly would lose the verdict in the court of public opinion. All hope is not lost, however. Employers can minimize the potential for such occurrences by committing to provide anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for their managers on at least an annual basis. You should also remain in contact with your workforce and get to know your managers. Many times, when a manager is caught on tape making these kinds of statements, it isn’t the first time. Being present in the workplace will help you identify potential bad apples as well as remind your employees to be on guard because their words and actions are being noticed. Finally, employers can adopt and enforce policies prohibiting employees from making secret records in the workplace. Such policies help foster open communications in the workplace and protect confidential or trade secret information. Employers, however, would be wise to consult with outside counsel before implementing or enforcing such a policy to ensure it doesn’t encroach on employee rights. In the hopefully unlikely event you have an employee who sympathizes with Mr. Sterling’s alleged views, nothing short of a muzzle may be appropriate.

Men don’t [take] leave

April 14, 2014 - by: David Kim 3 COMMENTS
David Kim

At least that’s what former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason and radio talk show host Mike Francesa believe. Their critical shutterstock_88182934comments of New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, particularly those made by Esiason, recently created a storm of controversy that extended beyond just the sports world. Murphy missed the first two games of the 2014 regular season to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. In fact, Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the Players Union provides that players can take up to three days for paternity leave. This provision was put into the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) back in 2011, a sign that the players lobbied and negotiated for such leave. Despite this, and despite the fact that Murphy played 161 out of 162 games last year, Esiason and Francesa ripped into Murphy. read more…

I believe you have my stapler

March 04, 2014 - by: David Kim 2 COMMENTS
David Kim

shutterstock_44644189Ever flip through the channels on a lazy Saturday afternoon and come across an oldie but goodie? This happened to me recently with the movie Office Space, a workplace classic. While I can’t imagine a world where everyone hasn’t seen Office Space, here is a quick plot summary.

Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston, pictured here) generally has no motivation in life. He hates his job as a programmer at Initech, and hates his boss Bill Lumbergh, a smarmy coffee-mug-holding you know what who makes Peter work weekends and constantly bugs him about the status of his “TPS reports.” Convinced to attend an occupational hypnotherapy session where the therapist dies of a heart attack after hypnotizing Peter, he wakes up relaxed and with a new take on life.  He ignores Lumbergh’s calls and, instead of heading into work over the weekend, goes to Chotchkie’s (a T.G.I. Friday’s parody) and asks out Joanna, a waitress played by Jennifer Aniston, whom Peter seemingly has had a crush on for a while.

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From Gattaca to GINA: Use of genetic information in workplace is problematic

February 03, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

If there is one thing that is universal about the entertainment world, it’s that it makes us all feel inadequate. Yes, with the airbrushed photos and the digital editing techniques, the stars and starlets who grace the covers of magazines and show up on the big screen all seem to have something (or multiple things) that we regular folk just don’t. I’d even bet most of the beautiful people look better rolling out of bed in the morning than I do on my best day.   GeneticEngineering

It’s true that in certain ways we are not all created equal. Each of us has our own genetic make-up, which is little more than the pooling of the genes—both good and bad—from our parents, and their parents, and so on. The combination of these genes determines things like our height, athletic ability, and our predisposition to certain medical conditions such as cancer. read more…

Rah rah ree! Pay our salary!

January 24, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

If your Google search for “California cheerleaders illegal” led you here, our apologies for your initial disappointment. But, please, stay a while, because the recently filed class action lawsuit by the Raiderette cheerleaders against the NFL’s Oakland Raiders is instructive as to the types of issues that can lead to wage-and-hour litigation.  Do we have your rapt attention now?  Good, let’s delve.

According to the complaint filed this week in Alameda County, California, the Raiders are in violation of numerous California Labor Code provisions dealing with employer wage-and-hour requirements. The problems appear to originate in the Raiderette Agreement that the football club requires its cheerleaders to sign. According to the agreement, which states that each Raiderette is an at-will employee of the Raiders, a cheerleader earns $125 for every home game. That money allegedly isn’t paid, however, until January when the Raiders’ season is over. This is potentially problematic  for a number of reasons (not least of which is  that the Raiders’ season is generally de facto over in November). read more…

Work hard, play hard work harder

November 11, 2013 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

As discussed in our previous blog post, the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin scandal has dominated the sports and national headlines. Lost somewhat in the midst of an Incognito-Martin-centric sports news cycle were the recent health scares of Denver Broncos coach John Fox and Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak during week 9 of the NFL season. Fox, whose Broncos were on a bye week, experienced symptoms, including feeling light-headed, while golfing, and ended up having an aortic heart valve replacement procedure just days later. Kubiak, during the halftime of the Texans’ Sunday Night Football matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, collapsed on the field and was taken to a nearby hospital due to what doctors have described as a mini-stroke.

On the heels of these events, which occurred within 48 hours of each other, the health and work ethics of NFL coaches have come under scrutiny. Journalists, NFL analysts, and former players and coaches have discussed the need for the NFL to implement programs or procedures to create a healthier work environment for coaches. One former NFL player, Cris Collinsworth, has suggested the NFL implement a “7 to 7” rule, stating that teams should be forced to open its office doors at 7:00 a.m. and close them before 7:00 p.m. Others, including former head coach and NFL media analyst Brian Billick, state that the hours and pressure come with a job where you are judged on your performance week in and week out and that “we [coaches] do this to ourselves.”

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