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Case In Point

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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In Memoriam

by on November 3, 2015 4:00pm
in Case In Point

EDITOR'S NOTE: We regret to inform readers that the long-time author of the Case in Point blog, Mindy Chapman, passed away on Oct. 28, 2015 after a 16-month battle with brain cancer. Mindy has been combining her classic wit and deep wisdom of employment law to create Case in Point blog postings and columns in the HR Specialist Employment Law newsletter since 2007. Here is more about Mindy, her life and the people she touched ...

Nobody ever said complying with federal employment laws would be easy or inexpensive. It also isn't optional. As this case shows, ignoring your legal obligations—or trying to find creative ways around them—can be even more costly. And allowing one person to make arbitrary decisions about who gets leave and who doesn't is never a good idea ...

One definition of a serious health condition that would qualify an employee for FMLA leave is “any period of incapacity or treatment connected with inpatient care (i.e., an overnight stay) in a hospital.” But what counts as an overnight stay? Must the person arrive before midnight? Stay until sunrise? Read on …

As more people are identifying themselves as transgender, the issue of which restroom they should use in the workplace has become controversial and confusing. Until now. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found, in a case of first impression, that the Department of the Army violated federal sex discrimination law when it prohibited a male-to-female transgender civilian employee from using the women’s restroom at work. The rules have just changed. Read up to catch up ...

In too many cases, managers (and HR) are slow to document employee performance, yet fast to discipline and terminate. As the following case shows, if you plan to fire an employee for misconduct and insubordination, a court won’t look kindly on that gaping hole in the employee’s personnel file. No documentation can quickly look like discrimination. Read on …

While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says you must offer a “reasonable accommodation” to disabled employees, how obvious must the person’s disability be before you fall under that requirement? And what is the employee’s duty to alert you and request the accommodation? As this case shows, employees have a responsibility to explain their conditions and request an accommodation ...

Complaint-reporting procedures are key to your harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy. But does your policy specify exactly to whom employees should bring their complaints? As this case shows, it’s important that employees voice their complaints to the correct supervisor cited in that policy. Read on…

Alcoholism has always been a tricky diagnosis under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can discipline employees if their drinking affects the job. But you must offer ADA accommodations for treatment (including time off).  

However, one court recently made things more complicated. It ruled that an employee returning from treatment was properly fired even though he passed a fitness-for-duty test. Does this ruling sound a little tipsy? Read on …

When it comes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), courts always pull out their stopwatches and calendars to see how closely the employee’s protected activity (requesting or taking FMLA leave) coincides with the adverse action (discipline or firing). As this new court ruling shows, the smaller the time, the bigger your risk of liability …
In this month of Hanukkah and Christmas, your employees may be taking time off work to attend religious services, as federal law allows them to do. But what if, as in this case, an employee wants to go to the church not for a religious service, but for a holiday sing-along or other church event. Can you legally say “no” -- or would that be discrimination? As this case shows, the devil is in the details …
The American workplace … land of revenge. These days, the most popular employee charge filed with the EEOC has been retaliation—employees complaining that they suffered some sort of “adverse action” because they complained about discrimination. But as the EEOC has said, “adverse actions do not include petty slights and annoyances.” Consider this recent case—a real-life portrayal of Milton's dilemma in the cult-classic Office Space.
When people file discrimination lawsuits (age, race, sex, etc.) based on a hiring decision, they are typically people who have applied and been officially rejected for a job. But what if someone simply hears that the employer is favoring one gender over another for a certain job; can that person still fire off a failure-to-hire sex discrimination lawsuit?

Providing limited information in job announcements can lead a higher number of unqualified applicants. And when applicants have to speculate at the reasons they’ve been rejected, they’re more likely to sue. That’s why your job announcements should include specific information about minimum requirements of the job. Case in Point ...

You may think that what employees do in the breakroom or at a post-work happy hour is their own business. That could be an expensive mistake. As this new case shows, company culture and employees’ off-duty comments can be used as evidence of race discrimination unless you do something about it. An anti-discrimination policy isn’t enough. Instead, get proactive. Don’t just integrate the shop floor. Inte­­grate the lunchroom, too …
What if an employee has a fear of entering a burning building … and that person is employed as firefighter? Is such a fear considered an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-protected disability that must be accommodated?
Employers often must be fully staffed to function efficiently. But, what’s an employer to do if it is already short staffed and an employee requests leave for a last-minute medical appointment? Just how much scheduling chaos must an employer tolerate before saying “no?” As this new court ruling shows, employers will be rolling the liability dice if they try use staffing problems as a reason to deny leave ...
There is only one boss. The customer. But what if the customer or another outsider is harassing one of your employees? Can your organization be held liable? One court recently warned employers against adopting the “hear no evil, see no evil” strategy.
We all understand that granting reasonable accommodations under the ADA may include providing employees with a new chair or granting more flexible breaks. But a new case this month says employers may have to allow a worker to steal their own merchandise as a reasonable accommodation. Really? What’s reasonable about that? Grab a bag of chips and read on ...

You read that right. Soon you will recall the good ol’days when employee handbooks could prohibit employees from having a “discourteous or inappropriate attitude or behavior.” But last week the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that such language was too broad and could possibly deter employees from discussing their pay or working conditions with colleagues. The NLRB strikes again. How could this be?

Now, this is a good idea. Let’s say you have an employee who is returning from an injury. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires you to offer her a “reasonable” accommodation, but you want to make sure the accommodation is safe. So  you decide to have the employee demonstrate that accommodation to see for yourself. That’s a smart move … just make sure you follow through on the demonstration.
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