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The Case in Point Yearbook:
Real-Life Employment Law Advice
... from Mindy Chapman's Case in Point blog

Sign up for Mindy Chapman's biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook...

Case in Point Yearbook Cover
Sign up for Mindy Chapman's biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook with 16 pivotal case studies on:
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Age discrimination cases
  • ADA guidelines
  • EEOC cases
  • FMLA requirements
  • And much more ...

 

We value your privacy.

Mindy Chapman, Esq., has been providing sound employment law advice in her Case in Point blog since 2007. In her trademark entertaining style, Mindy dissects an important employment law court ruling and provides essential employment law advice via three "Lessons Learned."

The Case in Point Yearbook gives you a sampling of Mindy's take on the most important employment law cases of 2009 and 2010. Topics include:

Mindy Chapman is a contributing editor to the HR Specialist: Employment Law newsletter — where her Case in Point column runs each month — and she is the co-author of the American Bar Association's best-selling book, Case Dismissed! Taking Your Harassment Prevention Training to Trial.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has recognized Mindy as one of its top 10 speakers nationally.

Sign up now to receive Mindy's FREE biweekly Case in Point employment law advice. When you do, you'll receive a sampling of past court cases in your complimentary copy of the Case in Point Yearbook: Real-Life Employment Law Advice ... from Mindy Chapman's Case in Point blog.

Below you'll find just 4 of the 16 court cases that Mindy analyzes in her new FREE report...

Case in Point Yearbook Cover
Sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook with 16 pivotal case studies on:
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Age discrimination cases
  • ADA guidelines
  • EEOC cases
  • FMLA requirements
  • And much more...

 

We value your privacy.

Mindy Chapman's Employment Law Advice: ADA Guidelines

Case in Point #1: Hold it! Must You Allow Unlimited Bathroom Breaks?

You’re required to offer job accommodations to employees with qualifying disabilities. But if an employee has a medical condition that requires frequent bathroom breaks, does that count as a “disability”? The answer is a clear “yes," especially this year ...


Case in Point: Reginald Green was hired as a chauffeur and office assistant for a university president. Green underwent a pre-hiring medical exam in which he disclosed that he took medication for a bowel condition. He explained that the condition caused him to experience urgent needs to use the restroom. Nevertheless, he had no work restrictions.

Before he began the job, Green’s supervisor reviewed with him his responsibilities to be a safe driver. The supervisor also allegedly told Green it was best to minimize bathroom stops on long driving trips, stating that one stop was “acceptable” but “zero is preferable.”

The trouble occurred when the university president took a business trip from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. Prior to leaving, Green asked his supervisor if he could stop during the drive to use the restroom. The request was approved.

However, on the return ride home, the president didn’t want Green to make any stops. Green warned the president that he would “have an accident in the car” if he wasn’t allowed to stop. The president ignored his plea. Regardless, Green drove to a rest stop and used the facilities. When Green returned to the car, the president mumbled something under his breath and refused to talk to Green the rest of the drive. The next day, Green was fired.

He sued the university for discriminating in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires “reasonable accommodations” for people with qualifying disabilities. The school countered by saying Green was fired for a legitimate business reason (poor performance) and not because of his disability. Plus, it argued that Green wasn’t technically disabled because he never missed a day of work due to the medical condition. (Green v. American Univ., D.D.C., 8/21/09)

What happened next and what lessons can be learned ... without going to court?

Find out when you sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE Case in Point employment law e-newsletter ...

When you do, you'll also get the legal lowdown on the following cases on ADA guidelines:

Case in Point #2: Distracted or Disabled: When Does ADHD Count as a Protected 'Disability'?

Do you have employees who are easily distracted, restless, disorganized and forgetful? Maybe that’s just who they are—or maybe they’ve been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s pretty common. About 8 million American adults suffer from it. It’s an “invisible” disability, but one court recently said employers shouldn’t be so fast to discount it. A disability is a disability … whether you can see it or not.

Case in Point #3: Can 'I Want a Window Office' be an ADA Request?

As the winter approaches, it gets dark earlier and the sun comes up later. With the darker season come struggles for employees who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression in which a decrease of natural light triggers a mood disorder. So does that mean you may have to offer SAD sufferers a workspace near sunlight? Quite possibly, as a recent court ruled that “Natural light may be a medical necessity”…

Case in Point #4: Road Worrier: Can You Stop an Employee on Painkillers from Driving?

Do you have employees who are required to drive as part of their duties? What should you do if they start taking prescription painkillers? Do you have to still let them get behind the wheel in order to avoid an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim? Or can you fire them for not being able to perform the essential functions of the job?

Case in Point Yearbook Cover
Sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook with 16 pivotal case studies on:
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Age discrimination cases
  • ADA guidelines
  • EEOC cases
  • FMLA requirements
  • And much more...

 

We value your privacy.

Mindy Chapman's Employment Law Advice: Age Discrimination Cases

Case in Point #5: Can Notes on a Napkin Leave an Age Discrimination Paper Trail?

Say you have an older employee who’s resisting change. What if a management consultant suggests that you find “young, energetic” people to take over? A recent court ruling sends a clear warning: Be careful who you listen to for advice … and where you write it down.


Case in Point: Dean Inman was a 58-year-old VP of technology at a Virginia manufacturing company. Inman had worked for 17 years but he butted heads with the new company president. He failed to adopt the president’s approach or support some of his decisions. The president gave Inman a negative review.

At one point, the president and another executive met with a management consultant for a strategic review. The consultant suggested the company enlist young, energetic “future people.” The president noted the phrase “young, energ[etic]” on a paper napkin.

Soon after that meeting, the president fired Inman, telling him that he didn’t meet the desired “profile” of a technical leader, and that the company needed a “more energetic person” to lead Inman's department. A 45-year-old employee who had been the vice president of operations replaced Inman.

Inman sued for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). As evidence that age bias was the true firing reason, Inman pointed to his bonuses and the high praise he received at a company meeting just a few weeks before the termination.

The company stuck to its claim that Inman was fired for poor performance. And it argued that the president’s napkin note was meaningless because it only reflected the views of the consultant, who was discussing general personnel matters and had no role in Inman’s termination. (Inman v. Klockner Pentaplast of Am. Inc., 4th Cir., 10/22/09)

Find out what happened next and what lessons can be learned without going to court when you sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE Case in Point employment law advice e-newsletter ...

When you do, you'll also get Mindy's take on these age discrimination cases:

Case in Point #6: Bending Your Policies: Flexible or Fatal?

Do you sometimes let employees bend company policy … just a little? It’s really no big deal, right? A new court ruling warns that if you start bending a policy for one, you’d better be ready to bend it for all. Being flexible can sometimes be fatal.

Case in Point #7: Check Your Glass Ceilings for $19 Million Cracks

Take a (mental) picture of your workforce. What do you see? How many women hold management jobs? Are females prevented by some invisible force from entering executive ranks? The EEOC is extremely aggressive these days and a recent $19 million settlement shows how the agency is targeting gender bias. As EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart Ishimaru warned employers, “There are still too many glass ceilings left to shatter in workplaces throughout corporate America.”

Case in Point #8: Press ‘Send’ for Liability: A Case Study in Misdirected E-mail

Have you ever felt that punch-to-the-stomach feeling of clicking “Send” and realizing you sent an e-mail to the wrong person? That usually causes only mild embarrassment. But as the CEO in the case below learned, one misguided e-mail mixed with some poor judgment can stir up a potent legal stew ...

Case in Point Yearbook Cover
Sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook with 16 pivotal case studies on:
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Age discrimination cases
  • ADA guidelines
  • EEOC cases
  • FMLA requirements
  • And much more...

 

We value your privacy.

Mindy Chapman's Employment Law Advice: Sexual Harassment Laws

Case in Point #9: Stare Masters: Can Co-Worker Ogling Spark a Harassment Claim?

What’s the difference between a friendly glance and a sexual stare? A recent court ruling shows that sexual harassment is in the eye of the beholder — and managers better not roll their eyes if they witness it …


Case in Point: Odessa Babbitt was hired as a room service attendant at a Westin hotel in Rhode Island. The collective-bargaining agreement said employees served a 90-day probationary period before joining the union.

Babbitt claimed that from day one she was subjected to constant staring and ogling from male co-workers. She said those men would linger around her work area for the sole purpose of staring at her. Babbitt said the behavior sometimes escalated to whistling and vulgar comments about her body. It got so bad that she feared riding in the elevator with them.

Babbitt claimed the behavior even occurred in front of her supervisor, who responded by merely “rolling her eyes” and doing nothing.

For the first 89 days, Babbitt didn’t report the harassment. The reason: Babbitt feared she’d be fired if she complained during her probationary period. An HR manager had told her she could be fired for any reason until she was officially in the union.

Meanwhile, supervisors were building a file on Babbitt. In her first six weeks, she’d been disciplined three times—twice for tardiness and once for failing to follow a manager’s instructions. As a result, managers discussed termination.

On her 90th day, Babbitt broke her silence. She allegedly complained to her supervisor about harassment. A few hours later, she was called into her boss’s office and terminated. Her boss allegedly said, “We have to let you go. We can't have, like, this harassment stuff going on here.”

Babbitt sued for sexual harassment and retaliation, saying the treatment was severe and pervasive enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment. Westin denied any misconduct, claiming she was fired strictly for performance reasons. Plus, it argued that Babbitt presented evidence of only isolated instances of “intersexual flirtation.” (Babbitt v. PRI XVII LP, D. R.I., 10/26/09).

What happened next and what lessons can be learned ... without going to court?

Find out when you sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE Case in Point employment law e-newsletter ...

When you do, you'll also discover how the courts are weighing in on sexual harassment laws like these:

Case in Point #10: How One Missing Poster Doomed an Atlantic City Hotel

Have you checked your company’s bulletin boards lately? Do they show the correct, updated federal- and state-law posters? As a new court ruling shows, poster mistakes can actually breathe new life into supposedly dead employment lawsuits ...

Case in Point #11: Do Your 'Team Leaders' Have the Same Harassment-Reporting Duties as Your Supervisors?

Supervisors and managers MUST report harassment to higher-ups. But what are the reporting obligations of “team leaders” or “leads”? These are people who have more responsibilities than employees but less than full-fledged members of management. Leads live in that “gray zone” somewhere in between. So what are their obligations? One court recently clarified it: Train them like managers to report suspected harassment. Staying silent will create liability.

Case in Point #12: Tiger Drives Home a Lesson: Be Careful with Voice Mails

Personal voice mail messages have been in the news recently. They can come back to haunt you, as Tiger Woods found out when he left evidence of his infidelity on voice mail. But what about leaving a voice mail message for a co-worker or subordinate? One court said, “Beware!” They can be smoking guns aimed directly at the employer’s wallet ...

Case in Point Yearbook Cover
Sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook with 16 pivotal case studies on:
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Age discrimination cases
  • ADA guidelines
  • EEOC cases
  • FMLA requirements
  • And much more...

 

We value your privacy.

Mindy Chapman's Employment Law Advice: FMLA Requirements

Case in Point #13: FMLA? What's FMLA? ... Do Your Leaders Know their Employment Law Basics?

Sure, at one time or another, we’ve all worked for some great bosses and some bad bosses. But nothing can be more debilitating than working for someone who is ignorant of the laws. In the following case, a company president walked right into an FMLA lawsuit because he had never even heard of the Family and Medical Leave Act. He knows about it now ...


Case in Point: Nydia DeFreitas, a residential property manager for a Utah real estate firm, was successful at her job. So successful that when she tried to resign, the company’s president, James Terry, lured her back with a substantial raise and promotion to regional vice president.

DeFreitas was then tasked with managing one of the company’s most challenging properties. She continued to receive lavish praise, including an e-mail that said she was “doing a dynamite job.”

But the trouble started when DeFreitas had to undergo a hysterectomy. She informed Terry that she needed to take leave. Terry never mentioned the FMLA or her rights to take job-protected, unpaid leave under the law.

DeFreitas was given time off for the surgery. But about three weeks into her leave DeFreitas informed Terry that she would need an additional six weeks to recover. The next day she received an unexpected e-mail from Terry telling her that she was fired. His reasoning: DeFreitas had poor interpersonal skills and several management problems had occurred at her properties. (However, when a prospective employer for DeFreitas later contacted the company, Terry indicated her reason for leaving was “illness.”)

DeFreitas sued, citing interference with her FMLA rights. The company countered that she was fired for business reasons. And anyway, the company argued, how could Terry have denied her FMLA leave since he had “never heard about that law”? Can you be punished for violating a law that you’d never heard of? (DeFreitas v. Horizon Investment Mgmt. Corp., 10th Circuit, 8/14/09)

Find out what happened next and what lessons can be learned without going to court when you sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE Case in Point employment law advice e-newsletter ...

When you do, you'll also learn more about the nitty gritty of FMLA requirements via these court cases:

Case in Point #14: Catch Fishy FMLA Requests With the 3 R's

Have you ever been suspicious about an employee’s request for FMLA leave? Employees have learned to play the FMLA game quite well in the 17 years since the law was passed. In this new case, an "attendance-challenged" employee was denied extra vacation leave for her wedding, so she then submitted an FMLA leave request for those same dates. Hmmmm ... smell fishy?

Case in Point #15: Firing After FMLA Leave: How Soon is 'Too Soon'?

Do employees who return from job-protected leave become “untouchable,” even if they perform poorly? Can holding their feet to the performance fire look like retaliation? In this new case, an employer fired a worker just six weeks after her FMLA leave. Six weeks is like a nanosecond on the retaliation stopwatch. But the court still dismissed the case. Why?

Case in Point #16:Must you offer FMLA leave for ‘possibility’ of a serious condition?

Employees request time off for doctors' appointments all the time. But, do you have to grant them? Could the request trigger FMLA rights, even if the employee was not previously incapacitated or ill for three or more calendar days? A new court ruling says that if an employee simply thinks she has a serious condition, she may be able to take FMLA leave to have it checked out. Bottom line: Don’t be so quick to pull out the “request denied” stamp ...

Case in Point Yearbook Cover
Sign up for Mindy Chapman's FREE biweekly Case in Point employment law advice now and receive a FREE copy of the Case in Point Yearbook with 16 pivotal case studies on:
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Age discrimination cases
  • ADA guidelines
  • EEOC cases
  • FMLA requirements
  • And much more...

 

We value your privacy.



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