Mindy Chapman, Esq., Mindy Chapman & Associates

The American workplace … land of revenge. These days, the most popular employee charge filed with the EEOC has been retaliation—employees complaining that they suffered some sort of “adverse action” because they complained about discrimination. But as the EEOC has said, “adverse actions do not include petty slights and annoyances.” Consider this recent case—a real-life portrayal of Milton’s dilemma in the cult-classic Office Space.

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When people file discrimination lawsuits (age, race, sex, etc.) based on a hiring decision, they are typically people who have applied and been officially rejected for a job. But what if someone simply hears that the employer is favoring one gender over another for a certain job; can that person still fire off a failure-to-hire sex discrimination lawsuit?

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Providing limited information in job announcements can lead a higher number of unqualified applicants. And when applicants have to speculate at the reasons they’ve been rejected, they’re more likely to sue. That’s why your job announcements should include specific information about minimum requirements of the job. Case in Point …

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You may think that what employees do in the breakroom or at a post-work happy hour is their own business. That could be an expensive mistake. As this new case shows, company culture and employees’ off-duty comments can be used as evidence of race discrimination unless you do something about it. An anti-discrimination policy isn’t enough. Instead, get proactive. Don’t just integrate the shop floor. Inte­­grate the lunchroom, too …

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What if an employee has a fear of entering a burning building … and that person is employed as firefighter? Is such a fear considered an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-protected disability that must be accommodated?

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Employers often must be fully staffed to function efficiently. But, what’s an employer to do if it is already short staffed and an employee requests leave for a last-minute medical appointment? Just how much scheduling chaos must an employer tolerate before saying “no?” As this new court ruling shows, employers will be rolling the liability dice if they try use staffing problems as a reason to deny leave …

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There is only one boss. The customer. But what if the customer or another outsider is harassing one of your employees? Can your organization be held liable? One court recently warned employers against adopting the “hear no evil, see no evil” strategy.

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We all understand that granting reasonable accommodations under the ADA may include providing employees with a new chair or granting more flexible breaks. But a new case this month says employers may have to allow a worker to steal their own merchandise as a reasonable accommodation. Really? What’s reasonable about that? Grab a bag of chips and read on …

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You read that right. Soon you will recall the good ol’days when employee handbooks could prohibit employees from having a “discourteous or inappropriate attitude or behavior.” But last week the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that such language was too broad and could possibly deter employees from discussing their pay or working conditions with colleagues. The NLRB strikes again. How could this be?

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Now, this is a good idea. Let’s say you have an employee who is returning from an injury. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires you to offer her a “reasonable” accommodation, but you want to make sure the accommodation is safe. So  you decide to have the employee demonstrate that accommodation to see for yourself. That’s a smart move … just make sure you follow through on the demonstration.

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