Employment Law

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OSHA has ordered AirTran, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, to pay $1 million in damages after it found the airline retaliated against a pilot who reported safety problems.

The EEOC is supposed to engage in a conciliation process before suing employers for alleged employment violations. But sometimes the agency comes out with guns blazing, demanding a huge payment to settle a complaint. Some employers naturally respond negatively—and they may even walk away without further discussions. One employer recently did just that, and then tried to get a federal court to dismiss the EEOC lawsuit.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board held that class-action waivers violate em­­ployees’ rights to engage in concerted activity. In D.R. Horton, the NLRB said that employers may not compel employees to waive their NLRA rights to collectively pursue litigation of employment claims in all forums, arbitral and judicial. What does that mean for employers?
There’s whistle-blowing and then there’s setting up one’s employer for a lawsuit. Genuine whistle-blowers are protected from retaliation. Those looking to make a quick buck are not.
Q. We are aware that the Illinois Civil Union Act is in effect. Could you please tell us more about it?
Q. We recently hired a deaf employee who communicates exclusively by written notes. We are finding that this process is time-consuming and harms productivity. May we require the deaf worker and his supervisor to learn sign language? Can we terminate them if they refuse?

In January, the National Labor Relations Board held that employers may not require employees to sign arbitration agreements that waive their rights to bring class or collective actions. The D.R. Horton decision will probably be appealed. In the meantime, however, the ruling holds important implications for employers.

Q. How does the Illinois Religious Freedom Pro­­tec­­tion and Civil Union Act affect health benefits?
Printing company SpeQtrum Pre­­press Production Services faces 14 serious safety and health violations and one other-than-serious violation following an OSHA inspection of its facility in Euless. Proposed penalties add up to $44,800.
Mount Carroll-based Haasbach LLC has resolved 25 OSHA citations stemming from the deaths of two young workers at its grain bin facility.
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