If you think your employees can be an odd bunch, rest assured they’re probably not the weirdest of the weird. The working world is a strange and wondrous place, thanks to the colorful characters that inhabit it.
It’s a judgment call
Three Los Angeles elementary school teachers were suspended for the odd choices they offered students as "role models" for a Black History Month Celebration. Who did they select? Retired hoops oddball Dennis Rodman, disgraced former football star O.J. Simpson and drag queen RuPaul.
Not everyone thought this was out of line. One parent defended the teachers, pointing out that "Simpson and Rodman were once great athletes" and RuPaul "simply has an alternative lifestyle."
Is that a disability?
A woman sued her former employer, Walmart, after being fired following the chain's discovery that she was a registered sex offender. The woman claimed her firing violated the ADA because her status as sex offender impaired her "significant life activity" of working.
The court didn't buy her argument, holding that being a registered sex offender is not a disability. It granted Walmart's motion for summary judgment.
Working hard for the money
A former employee of a Utah motivational coaching company sued because he was allegedly subjected to a rather unorthodox motivational practice: He was waterboarded during a sales team exercise. The company's explanation? The supervisor wanted to demonstrate to his sales team that they should work as hard on sales as the employee was working to breathe.
Do as I say …And just to show that it’s not always employees who come down on the weird side of the law, here’s a case where an employer’s behavior was a little murky.
An arbitrator issued an adverse decision against an employer for failure to pay overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, having been found to have "willfully violated" the law. Who was the employer? The EEOC.
The arbitrator found that the EEOC's practice of offering compensatory time off to its employees rather than overtime pay was essentially "forced volunteering."
Stories like these will be highlighted in "The Most Bizarre Employment Law Cases of 2010," a session at the upcoming Labor and Employment Law Advanced Practices Symposium, March 30 - April 1 in Las Vegas.