The HR Specialist: Michigan Employment Law

Poor communications with employees isn’t just bad for business. It also creates a work environment that’s ripe for legal trouble. Stay out of the courtroom by taking time to explain your actions and make the workplace seem rational to employees. Here’s how.

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The Michigan Court of Appeals has decided Wayne County Community College violated state law when it eliminated the traditional Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan from the list of plans available to college employees.

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The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has given the go-ahead to a RICO lawsuit brought by six truckers against their employer. Traditionally, prosecutors use RICO to combat organized crime. But the truckers allege their employer, Cassens Transport Co., conspired with its claims adjuster and doctors to illegally deny them workers’ compensation benefits.

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When Stephen Alasin returned from duty in Iraq, he expected to go back to his former job at Ecolab. When the company failed to rehire him, he filed a complaint … Ecolab agreed to enter into a settlement agreement that will pay Alasin $88,000 in back pay and $30,000 in damages.

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Employers that use an employee’s long-ago military service against him may be liable under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USERRA isn’t just for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Poor attitudes among managers and supervisors can infect the rest of an organization, and courts are becoming more aware of the adverse effects of such so-called “poisoned wells.” As the following case shows, when higher-ups in the organizational hierarchy display signs of discrimination, those lower down may act on those signs.

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A jury recently awarded a fired employee more than $10 million in punitive damages for age discrimination after what may seem like fairly insignificant ageist talk. Although the court has said the award should be lowered, the employee will still collect more than $6 million in compensatory damages.

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Back in days of yore when Delphi was set free from General Motors, it kept a promise GM had made to salaried white-collar workers: They would have free life and health insurance for the rest of their days. Then the now-bankrupt Delphi moved to discontinue the promised benefits …

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If you haven’t heard anything lately from a former employee who griped about discrimination, don’t breathe easy yet. Michigan employees have up to three years to bring claims under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.

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If your organization uses progressive discipline to enforce your attendance policy, caution supervisors against making exceptions for some employees unless it’s clear the absence shouldn’t have been counted against them (for example, the absence was an FMLA-related reason or part of an approved ADA accommodation).

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