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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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?

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.
There are times when employers are just better off settling an employment lawsuit. Prolonged litigation is costly ... cut your losses and move on. But it’s always wise for such settlements to include a confidentiality clause. And, as this new ruling shows, your old confidentiality clause may need a new social-media facelift …
Have you ever offered an employee the option to resign or get fired? Maybe you believed you were helping the employee to graciously exit the workplace without the embarrassment of a termination. However, doing so today just may fall under the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished category. As this new court ruling this month shows, such ultimatums might ultimately give you ulcers in court under the “ultimatum theory” of liability …
When it comes to stopping employees from harassing each other, you can probably think of a lot of actions to take. On one end of the spectrum is termination (“You’re fired!”). At the other end is a verbal reprimand (“Stop it!”). But will a judge think a verbal reprimand is enough? One court recently did … and it saved the employer $510,000. You don’t say?

We all know by now that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows qualified employees to request “reasonable accommodations” to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Employer and employee must engage in an “informal, interactive process” to identify what is a reasonable accommodation. But, what if an employee gives you a laundry list of accommodations to consider? Do you have to go back and forth about every single one? When does the employer get to draw the line? One court recently warned employers that if the “ADA request ball” is in your court…you had better lob it back to the employee.

When employees suffer temporary disabilities, good employers make good-faith efforts to accommodate. Sometimes that includes placing the employee on a light-duty assignment and temporarily cutting out an essential function of her job. But can that employee legally demand that the light-duty job remain permanently? A new ruling this week offers a good lesson – and some extra words to add to your organization’s job descriptions …
Federal law requires your organization to grant “reasonable” accommodations for employees’ religious practices. Where’s the line between reasonable and unreasonable? God only knows. But this important new ruling sheds light on when you can say “no” to religious requests …
Anyway you slice it, employers these days should never deny an employee’s religious accommodation request without first checking with a lawyer. It’s just all very complicated with so many religions and their different rules on grooming, clothing and attendance. But can you draw the line when a religion requires followers to wear a sword—even in the workplace?

Before your organization disciplines an employee, it's always important to ask these questions: Have other employees violated the same policy? If so, what action did we take against that other employee? How similar are those two situations? One court recently said employers shouldn't search for “identical” situations—“similar” is good enough. In fact, if you don’t discipline “similarly” you might end up with double trouble, as this employer did …



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