Coworkers Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani are dating! What could possibly go wrong?

November 09, 2015 - by: Marilyn Moran 2 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Last week, the Internet was abuzz with the news that Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, who work together as judges on The Voice, have begun dating. Workplace relationships, though fraught with hazard for HR professionals, are incredibly common, with 80 percent of employees reporting that they have been involved in, or have heard of, coworkers dating at their place of business. Of course, employee hookups can be distracting to their coworkers and cause a lot of talk around the proverbial watercooler.  More important to HR, the end of workplace relationships can result in sexual harassment claims if one party to the relationship decides to break things off while the jilted employee continues to express romantic feelings or lashes out in anger toward the ex.  Get Your Flirt On (or Not)

To avoid this drama, some employers enact anti-fraternization policies to prevent employees from dating one another altogether, while others adopt dating policies to ensure that cubicle-crossed lovers leave the PDA at home and remain professional and productive at work. The large majority of employers, however, recognize and accept that their employees may want to date one another, and simply rely on their sexual harassment policies to govern the parameters of employee relationships.

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Tricks and treats and trial briefs

October 26, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Remember NBC’s The Office? I think some lawyers used to blog about it. Anyhow, one of my favorite episodes was “Costume Contest” where the Scranton employees threw a Halloween party at the branch office. The costumes in the episode were mostly tame, ranging from Justin Bieber (Ryan) to Lady Gaga (Gabe). Late in the episode Angela dressed up as “sexy nurse.” The employment lawyer in me was not amused.  Devils Not in Disguise

Halloween is a few days away, and many employers will be holding costume-themed events. Unless HR steps in with some firm rules about costumes and conduct, some of those parties will invariably end up as reported Title VII cases. Consider just a few examples: read more…

Mad Men ends: What have we learned?

May 19, 2015 - by: Josh Sudbury 1 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

The seven-season-long nonstop drink-and-smoke-a-thon that was Mad Men has come to a close. Were you entertained? Were you satisfied? Better yet, did you learn anything?800px-Mad_Men_(logo).svg I will spare you my personal thoughts on the merits of the ending as there are countless commentaries available on the Web. (Really, it’s amazing how many there are.) Suffice it to say that the “ending” appeared to bring more new beginnings than closure: Roger Sterling’s (third) marriage to Marie Calvet; Joan’s new production company; Pete Campbell’s new job at Lear Jet; Ken Cosgrove at Dow Chemical; Peggy and Stan finally admitting they loved each other (though no one makes falling in love more awkward than Peggy Olson); and, last but not least, Don/Dick Draper/Whitman with his back to the California coast dreaming of the most iconic Coca-Cola ad of the 20th Century.

From the perspective of an employment lawyer, one of the most notable developments that occurred in the last few episodes, however, was not one of the evolution (or devolution) of the individual characters, but the constant upheaval at the advertising behemoth, McCann Erickson. The second half of the final season begins with the revelation that McCann’s acquisition of Sterling Cooper was not a partnership but, rather, Jim Hobart’s mastermind plan to fold the old competitor into McCann’s ever-increasing portfolio–even at the expense of several expensive conflicts-of-interest. But, the Titanic of the ad world can’t hold on to it all. And, companies of all sizes and industries can take a few lessons.

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Fire Harry Crane

April 16, 2015 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Mad Men can be tough to watch for an employment lawyer. I was thinking of this while watching the show’s most recent episode, “New Business.” In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Harry Crane propositions Megan under the pretense that he can help get her acting career back on track. Harry is a buffoon and a jackass, and I wondered if he was exposing the firm to potential liability. iStock_000051863008_XXXLarge

There is precedent for the theory that an employee who harasses a third party can expose his employer to vicarious liability. Twenty-five years ago, a New York trial court  famously found that a model was sexually harassed by Penthouse Enterprises, which, among other things, required her to engage in sexual activities for the benefit of the company’s business. In that case the model was quasi-employed by Penthouse, but the court pointed out that the conduct constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as sexual harassment.

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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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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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What HR pros can learn from Casey Kasem

June 23, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 1 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

If you were a teenager in ’70s or ’80s who loved pop music, you undoubtedly recall huddling next to your AM transistor radio, maybe with your cassette recorder on standby so you could hit “record” at the just the right time, listening to “American Top 40” with its mellifluous host Casey Kasem. Each week, Casey would count down and play the current top 40 songs, as determined by Billboard magazine, over the course of his three-hour syndicated radio broadcast. In addition to the songs, Casey would sprinkle in trivia about the recording artists, dig back into the “AT40 Archives” for a few “golden oldies,” and bring a tear to our eyes with the “long-distance dedication” of a special song from a star-crossed lover to his or her far-away soul mate.
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Those of us who grew up with Casey were saddened this week upon the news that he had passed away at age 82. Although many of the recent headlines followed his family’s unseemly bickering over his care in his final days, most observers were able to ignore that side-show and remember the legacy of the man who not only popularized the idea of the “top [fill in the number]” countdown list, but also provided the voice of Shaggy in 40 years’ worth of Scooby-Doo cartoons.

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If Bill Cosby is wearing a garish sweater, this must be 1980s TV!

March 27, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 0 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

A few weeks ago, I saw a news story about how the last of the baby boomers are turning 50 in 2014. “Wow, that’s old,” I thought, until I realized that I’m 53. Then, as if I needed any further reminders of my elder statesmanship, one of the legal assistants in our office, a 20-something, accused me of “making up” the fact that there used to be a popular singer named Bing. Sigh. (And for the record, he was popular way before my time.)  CosbySweater

That’s it, I decided. Time for a blog post about popular culture from an era that none of those rascally whippersnappers will even remember: the 1980s.  That’ll teach ‘em not to be so darn … er, young. So charge up your brick-sized cellular phone, press “play” and “record” simultaneously on your 150-pound manually-operated VCR, and run your comb through that mullet: We’re going to take a spin through “Employment Law in1980s TV-Land.”

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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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Save the white males!

December 05, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 6 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

For decades the most heated gender-related dispute in the world of Archie Comics wasshutterstock_91545035 whether Archie was more into Betty or Veronica. But a recent lawsuit by five white male executives of Archie Comics against the company’s female co-CEO is enough to whiten Reggie Mantle’s hair.

The five men (and one woman) allege that Nancy Silberkleit engaged in a lengthy pattern of harassing, bullying, and demeaning conduct, including referring to each male employee simply as “penis.” For example, the complaint alleged that Silberkleit once interrupted a meeting, pointed at each of the four men present, and said “penis, penis, penis, penis.”  The complaint, filed in the Supreme Court of Westchester County, New York, alleges gender discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law and asserts various state law causes of action.

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