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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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We’ve all picked up the phone and been asked to give a reference about a former employee. For some, you’re glad they are out of your hair and it’s too late for them to sue you. So you’re honest about the person. But be careful. As a new case shows, it may never be too late for an ex-employee to take you to court …

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?

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.

Personal voice mail messages are in the news this month. 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 ...

What’s the difference between a friendly glance between co-workers 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 …

Job postings go up … they come down. They go up … they come down. It all seems quite normal. That is, unless you pull down a job posting to avoid a specific type of candidate. As this new case shows, you can’t delist a job or try to “hide” the position when you don’t like who applies. Peek-a-Boo, the court will catch you!

What if a management consultant suggests that you find “young, energetic” people to take over? A court ruling last week sends a clear warning: Be careful who you listen to for advice … and where you write it down.

It’s getting dark out sooner. And with the darker season comes 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”…

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

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place for almost 20 years and was expanded this year to create even broader protections. If employees know their rights, and courts know them too, why don’t employers? Let’s see how a talk show ended up in the middle of a big courtroom drama …

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