Case In Point

Mindy Chapman Esq. is the founder of the nationally acclaimed “Workplace
Training that Clicks & Sticks™” and co-author of the American Bar
Association’s best seller and authority on civil rights training, “Case
Dismissed! Taking Your Harassment Prevention Training to Trial.” Case In Point is an entertaining look at the employment law cases impacting you today, plus practical ways to protect yourself and your company.

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We’ve all tussled with fitness-for-duty exams. When are they the right decision? When do they create liability? As a court warned last week, when you need assurance, it’s best to let the doctor make the right call …

Remember what a stamp was? You’d slap it on an envelope, and the letter inside remained private. But technology has changed—and so has privacy expectations of work communications. When employees send text messages on employer-provided phones, are those texts as private as a message in a bottle … or a message in the sky? The U.S. Supreme Court penned a long-awaited warning last week: For now, employees shouldn’t expect text messages at work to be private.

Look, I keep warning you about the “new” EEOC and how it’s getting more and more aggressive. It’s keeping more cases, rather than issuing “right to sue” letters. It’s securing more smaller settlements, but in greater volume. And it’s creating more burdensome terms to settle consent decrees and conciliation agreements. Now, a new court ruling just gave the EEOC even more powerful ammunition to use against your company if it's accused of discrimination …

When an office romance is in full bloom, it’s a tough secret to keep from the perceptive masses. But how’s an employer supposed to respond when an affair causes turmoil in the workplace? This court decision offers a good warning: Don’t discipline one partner but not the other …
As you may have heard by now, the new health reform law includes a provision to protect nursing mothers who choose to pump breast milk at work. But it’s important to realize that 24 states still have their own laws on this topic. And you must follow whichever law—fed or state—gives the greatest protection to the employee.
Awe c’mon. An employee is obviously pregnant but you can’t even say the “p” word? Does the mere use of the adjective translate into legal liability? One court recently said “relax;” it’s okay to say a woman is pregnant. Just don’t make any employment decisions based on it or comment negatively. Still, it’s a bit tricky, as this case shows …

Listen up! Breaking news! It doesn’t really matter whom you label as a supervisor any more. As a way to hold a company liable for sexually harassing conduct by a “supervisor,” one court recently relabeled a co-worker as a “supervisor,” even though this person had absolutely no power to hire, fire, promote, demote or otherwise affect the harassed employee’s job status. The court, with the support of the EEOC, ruled that just being the “highest ranking employee on site” with the ability to set schedules and dole out discipline makes for a supervisor as a matter of law.

Having a written anti-harassment policy and clear reporting procedure can help you defend a harassment claim. But those aren’t silver bullets. As a new ruling says, your efforts must “be effective to prevent harassment.” In the following case, a manager’s failure to pass along complaints about the actions of a repeat offender were clearly not “effective” …
Suicide ranks as the 11th leading cause of death in the United States and it peaks around this time of year. So what do you do if you learn one of your employees brandished a gun and threatened suicide, but a doctor released him back to work in a week? Shouldn’t you be concerned about safety? One court warned, “a doctor’s note… is a doctor’s note” and terminating that worker could spark an ADA claim …

Who likes confrontation at work? Yet that fear of confrontation can drive a manager to write a glowing evaluation for an average or poor-performing employee—just to avoid conflict and hurt feelings. One court recently warned managers to get over the fear and document accurately … or you’ll lose key legal defenses needed to win discrimination lawsuits.

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