Employment Law

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In recent rulings, the Supreme Court clearly signaled its unwillingness to tolerate even the appearance of circumventing the nation’s anti-discrimination laws. Employers must have investigative procedures in place to help guide decision-making when an employee could be disciplined or terminated.

Some employees think that once they are approved for FMLA leave, they don’t have to follow the same rules as other employees when they’re away from work. That’s not necessarily true. In fact, employers are free to create call-in policies that require employees who are going to be absent to phone daily—and they can include employees on FMLA leave in that policy.

The EEOC has determined that the Houston Fire Department subjected firefighter Jane Draycott to a hostile work environment when it failed to address her complaints of sex discrimination and retaliation. That finding could prove costly to the city of Houston, since Draycott is suing the department.

Some employees are so angry about perceived supervisor discrimination and harassment that they want the offending boss to suffer personally. They’ll often try to sue their supervisors directly. Fortunately, that doesn’t work for Title VII discrimination lawsuits.

Employers are obligated to make sure their employees don’t discriminate. However, unions have no similar duty to investigate and expose bias.

Employers have an obligation to prevent sexual harassment and to end it when it does occur. But many times, what a thin-skinned employee considers harassment isn’t actually serious enough to rise to that level. When that happens, smart employers exercise patience. They understand the very real danger of winning a sexual harassment case but losing the retaliation case that follows.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that airport security screeners are not covered by the federal Rehabilitation Act. That means that the TSA doesn’t have to consider disabled applicants or accommodate those who may become disabled while working for the agency as security screeners.
A disclaimer that clearly states an employee has no employment contract may be enough to kill a tortuous interference-with-contract claim.
Courts don’t expect employers to set up the equivalent of a judicial system for disciplining employees. They just want to see a reasonable effort to ferret out the truth.

It’s a fact of life: Unhappy applicants, employees and former employees tend to sue. There’s not much you can do about that. However, you can be prepared to react quickly as soon as you learn of a lawsuit. The key is having complete documentation of all employment decisions.