Employment Law

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Public employees retain free speech rights under the First Amendment and can’t be punished for speaking out if they do so as citizens and not in their role as a government employee.
An employee at Fresenius Manu-facturing in Chester, N.Y., was fired for writing comments on union newsletters and then lying about doing so during a company investigation.
A new online resource from the Seyfarth Shaw law firm offers a state-by-state description of established and new laws designed to protect employees’ privacy rights on social media.
Unions no longer need to collect employees’ handwritten signatures on authorization cards before they file an election petition.

The Fair Labor Standards Act protects employees and former employees against retaliation for complaining about wage-and-hour violations, including filing lawsuits. For example, an employer can’t try to punish a former employee by providing false negative references or otherwise interfering with someone’s job prospects. Basically, retaliation is anything that would dissuade a reasonable person from making the complaint in the first place. Fortunately, simply asking the former employee if he wants to settle a lawsuit isn’t enough, even if the effort is persistent and makes for an uncomfortable confrontation.

A controversial bill to increase California’s minimum wage recently failed to pass in the state Legislature. The bill would have phased in a $3 per hour increase to the minimum wage rate and also would have imposed annual cost of living increases.

Texas law requires public employees who are fired by their employing agency to pursue internal appeals of that decision. Otherwise, they can’t sue in state court over alleged wrongful discharge for whistle-blowing. Government employers should make sure they raise that defense if they don’t have any record of the worker making an internal appeal.

A new rule issued by the Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs explicitly gives employees of federal contractors and subcontractors the right to discuss how much they are paid.

Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, commonly known as SOX, employees who report alleged accounting irregularities internally and to OSHA are protected from retaliation if their employer punishes the activity. Making simple statements that aren’t very specific can be enough to meet the employee’s reporting requirement under the law. It’s enough that the employee reasonably believes that he is reporting wrongdoing. He doesn’t have to know the details, just that it probably violates the law.

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Dresser-Rand Co., located near Corning, N.Y., violated the National Labor Relations Act when it reinstated workers who crossed the picket line before it hired back those who stayed on strike during labor unrest at the plant.