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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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Last week, Hurricane-turned-superstorm Sandy impacted thousands of employers and cut power to millions of homes. East Coast workplaces may experience another impact nine months from now, when pregnancy rates are expected to spike. Pregnancies rose after New York City’s famous blackout in November 1965, and the same is expected on the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy. This serves as another incentive to brush up on the risks of pregnancy discrimination.
You know the old expression, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” That’s a good guiding principle to create clear communication between people. Well, one court recently scratched that slogan altogether when it ruled that an employee doesn’t have to directly complain about race discrimination in order to hold an employer liable for it. How can that be? Read on …
Don’t you have enough to worry about with employees sexually harassing each other? But wait. There’s more. As a new ruling shows, employers can also be held liable for the behavior of third-party independent contractors in the workplace—even though they are NOT employees. Now, do we need an extra set of eyes and ears? Yes, indeedy it seems we do!
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a final list of what the courts say are “reasonable” accommodations under the disability laws? Employers are truly confused about how far they must legally go to accommodate disabled employees. Well, grab your pencil and the list. One court recently added a new one. And it’s a shocker …
The cost of health insurance is a hot button for most employers and employees today. But, one court recently warned, be careful what you say to employees about their impact on the company’s insurance premiums. Just a few wrong words could push the worker’s “I’m-going-to-sue-you” button ...
With employees protected by so many federal and state privacy laws these days, organizations are justifiably concerned about installing surveillance cameras in the workplace to identify employee misbehavior. A new court ruling last week addressed this tension between modern-day technology, privacy rights and your duty to expose the truth …
Say you’re a manager sitting with employees at lunch and one of them casually mentions her parents are aging and in poor health. You note your folks aren’t getting any younger either. Chit-chat-chit-chat. Time to wrap it up and go back to work. But wait: Does that informal chatter officially put your company on notice that the employee’s leave to visit her sick parent is protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? As one court ruled, the devil is in the details ...
Document! Document!! Document!!! Isn’t that what we are always screaming at managers to do? Where’s your documentation? It’s the number one HR question asked when a manager expresses a desire to fire an employee. In many cases, that documenation involves a performance improvement plan, or PIP. As this new court ruling shows, be careful that your PIP isn't set up to make the employee fail ... or you could be setting yourself up for a discrimination lawsuit.
Are you joshing me? Employees post on their Facebook pages everything from photos of themselves drunk while wearing grass skirts to doing handstands in miniskirts. At last count, the 901 million Facebook users have more than 125 billion “friends.”

But, who is really your friend on Facebook? If a manager strong-arms a co-worker to get access to an employee’s Facebook page, is that an invasion of your privacy? One court recently held it certainly might be. Read on to see how this case is helping us to better define the social media boundaries and avoid the cyber landmines …

You must allow employees to take job-protected FMLA leave for certain medical treatments. But what counts as “treatment”? Do you have to grant time off for workers to refill their prescriptions? While the employee is doing so, maybe they can pick up a donut, cup of coffee and a magazine. Is that all covered, too? Stop! One court recently ruled that the act of getting a prescription refill is not covered by the FMLA … but be careful.
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