Mindy Chapman, Esq., Mindy Chapman & Associates

On the opening day of the NFL season, we pause today to recognize the football-related expressions that have seeped into the workplace. We ask employees to “quarterback” a project. We develop a “game plan” for the big meeting. We praise workers who are “on the ball.” But as a new court ruling shows, supervisors who misuse sports analogies at work could find themselves benched in a federal courtroom …

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Your waitress says, “We don’t have Diet Coke. We have Diet Pepsi. Will that be okay?” Both will wash down your burger and both have zero calories. But are they otherwise equivalent enough to be substitutes? When an employee returns from absences that are covered under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), he or she is entitled to “the same or an equivalent position” (see box below). But what counts as “equivalent”? As this new court ruling shows, it goes beyond simple pay, benefits and working conditions …

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Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has recently defined who is a “supervisor,” can employers finally relax and cut down on their employment liability insurance? Nope. Not so fast. One court recently ruled that even a manager who can’t “hire, fire or discipline” can still hold a company responsible for Title VII harassment liability if he or she fails to send an employee’s complaint to the correct links on the corporate chain.

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Nike had it just right. When an employee has a known medical condition and requests a reasonable accommodation, JUST DO IT! Too often, accommodating an employee’s disability becomes a power struggle between the employee and the company. But, next time the decision is in your court, just remember this: Employees always have the greatest power of all because they can drag your company’s wallet and reputation into court.

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Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling that defines a “suprervisor” in discrimination cases as someone who has the power to hire, fire, demote, transfer or discipline other workers are not “supervisors.” This narrow definition of supervisor is a win for employers, but what does it all mean to your life in HR?

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Leaving certain words out of your disciplinary policy can be just as legally dangerous as putting the wrong words in. In this case, the employer’s discipline policy essentially allowed employees to engage in one act of sexual harassment without being terminated. The employer was quick to find out it had better give everyone that “freebie” or be sued for discrimination if it deviated from the policy …

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When an employee requests a medical leave, employers can rightfully ask for supportive documents from a doctor. But, what happens when the person requests a schedule change for religious reasons? You can’t exactly ask for a note from the employee’s higher power. One court recently ruled that as long as you properly dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s,” you can discipline employees for not showing up as scheduled … even if they claim it’s for religious reasons.

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Employers typically require workers to undergo fitness for duty exams (FFDEs) when employees return after an injury. But can you also require an FFDE for employees who have shown mental instability? And can you demand an FFDE from employees who work at home? A court recent ruling last week in favor of Coca-Cola says you can if safety issues are the real thing …

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When was the last time you took a red pen to your employee handbook? Would you rather memorize all of your employee’s social security numbers backwards than open that Pandora’s box? One court recently warned you had better fix the problems or it might just be held against you as ‘Exhibit A’—as in this case below …

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We all have our days when we show up to work with a little red eye, in a bad mood and maybe even a bit “word challenged.” But when do those signs signal that an employee should be sent for a drug test? And how do you prevent claims of discrimination for singling that employee out? A court ruling last week gave some great insights. Plus, you can download a free sample policy on drug use and drug testing ..

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