Elf: one too many Christmas spirits

December 19, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

With Christmas just around the corner, my family and I have begun our yearly ritual of re-watching our favorite holiday films. At the top of the list is a relatively newer addition, Elf.  The comedy stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who crawls into Santa’s sack and ends up being raised by Papa Elf at the North Pole. After learning that he is actually human rather than an elf, Buddy decides to travel to New York to find his biological father, who works at a children’s book company and happens to be on the Naughty List. Much of the film’s comedy and charm comes from Buddy’s child-like innocence and genuine holiday cheer as he tries to navigate the cynical world of New York City. shutterstock_236981068At his father’s office, this same innocence leads Buddy to mistake a mail room worker’s whiskey for delicious maple syrup. As you can imagine, a six-foot tall elf can cause quite a ruckus in the workplace after having too many spirits.

Employers are well aware that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse can be costly in the workplace. Drug-free workplace programs can be powerful tools in spreading prevention messages and intervening early with those who have already begun to use drugs. For many individuals, especially those who may deny that their use of drugs is problematic, workplace-based programs can be a critical step along the road to treatment and recovery. Every workplace is different, and drug-free workplace programs should be tailored to match a company’s individual needs. Here are some general recommendations for such programs: read more…

Workingjay

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

Inspired by The Hunger Games trilogy, some employers may feel the urge to pile the employees onto a bus, head off site, and pit coworker against coworker in some form of physical competition under the guise of “team building.” Savvy employers are always looking for new and better ways to motivate the troops, solidify relationships, and build some esprit de corps. What better way than to take the workforce on a high-action field trip?

But they better be mindful of employment laws, particularly OSHA regulations, state tort law, and state workers’ compensation laws. shutterstock_196000976 In February 2009 OSHA published a letter of interpretation stating that employee injuries suffered at off-site teambuilding events are recordable in OSHA logs. The letter was requested after an employee was injured in a go-kart accident during an office retreat.

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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.

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Learning from tragedy–depression and mental health in the workplace

August 17, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 2 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past week, the entertainment world lost one of its best and brightest to an apparent suicide. Robin Williams, who brought laughter to so many for so long, took his own life at the age of 63. So much has been written about his talent over the past week that it’s difficult to understand or accept how such a thing could have happeneshutterstock_198363611d. But, Robin Williams’ tragic death is a reminder to all of us of the very real and very serious presence of anxiety and depression in our daily lives regardless of whether we ourselves or a close friend or family member suffers from these afflictions.

Just as much as depression can affect our home and family lives, it also has a serious impact at work. In 1995, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that as many as 1 in 20 employees was suffering from depression. So, count how many employees work for your company and do the math. If you are a company of any size, it’s likely that at least one or more of your employees may be dealing with his or her own depression or that of a family member.

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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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Beating the Heat

June 09, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

Last week, basketball royalty and media-superstar LeBron James was forced to make an early exit from Game 1 of the NBA Finals due to severe leg cramps. The King’s cramps were due in large part to the malfunctioning air-conditioning system at the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs. Combined with the Texas summer outside, the system failure caused indoor temperatures during the game to soar to as high as 90 degrees. The high temps wreaked havoc on LeBron, resulting in muscle spasms that forced him to the bench late in the fourth quarter. Without James, the Miami Heat (ironically) fared poorly in the sweltering conditions, losing the game 105-90.  TooHot

As we enter the summer, the King’s struggles with the rising temperatures indoors highlights a concern for many employers whose employees work outside or in extreme temperatures on a daily basis. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” Courts have interpreted OSHA’s general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. This includes heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.

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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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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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Offensive personal foul

November 06, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Suspended Miami Dolphins offensive lineman and last-guy-to-realize-people-save-voice-mails-and-texts Richie Incognito is 6’3″ and weighs 319 pounds. He is (was) a member of the Dolphins’ players leadership council, and he was a 2012 Pro Bowler. Incognito, however, may finally be facing an insurmountable opponent: the corporate employment lawyer. The Dolphins put Incognito on indefinite suspension after reportedly hearing a voice mail he left for teammate Jonathan Martin in April 2013. According to reports, the voice mail said:

“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

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