There were some major headlines in employment law this month, including the newest required labor poster and the continuing saga of health care reform, but there were some other, smaller stories that fall under the “They did what?!” heading. Rest assured, they’re covered here. As a bonus, here are some ways to use a lawsuit brought by a group of exotic dancers against their club as a handy guide to determining who’s a contractor and who’s an employee.
The big news is the new poster: The National Labor Relations Board has released the poster it’s requiring employers to display on employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The poster must be displayed starting on November 14 (and interestingly, it must be displayed at 11 x 17 inches, which makes it larger than most workplace posters.) Not surprisingly, several business groups have sued to stop the posting requirement. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes.
Also, you’ve probably heard that earlier this month, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the constitutionality of health care reform can’t be judged until it takes effect in 2014. It seems inevitable that the U.S. Supreme Court will be involved, and the Obama Administration apparently agrees: just yesterday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review health care reform legislation this term—i.e., by next summer, during a presidential election.
Now, onto the “They did what?!” cases:
You’ve probably heard about the case a woman brought after her supervisor made her remove photos and mementos of her deceased daughter from her cubicle, and that the case was rejected by a New Jersey judge. In this fantastic article, John Gallagher explains why the decision was legally correct (even if the supervisor’s behavior is totally cringe-inducing), and offers an excellent primer on hostile work environments, protected classes and retaliation.
Speaking of retaliation, Bank of America was ordered by the Department of Labor to pay $930,000 in damages to a whistleblower who had been fired in retaliation for uncovering potential mortgage fraud. (The whistleblower uncovered the fraud at Countrywide Financial Corp., and was fired after Bank of America purchased Countrywide.)
One case that did show a very, very clear hostile work environment was the case brought by a car salesman against his sales manager, who made a number of horrifying comments about the man’s age and religion and actually threatened the salesman with violence. Please promise us—and your legal counsel—that you’d never allow anything like that at your workplace.
And we think this story speaks for itself: “A [California] civil rights agency has ordered an electrical supply company to pay a record $846,000 for firing its Novato-based regional sales manager on the pretext that he wasn’t spending enough time traveling to meet customers – at the same time he was recovering from cancer surgery.” If you must fire someone, wait until they’ve recovered from cancer surgery.
Finally, the story you’ve been waiting for: what we can learn from a suit brought by exotic dancers. This article summarizes the points made by the dancers and shows whether they’re pertinent to a worker’s employee/contractor status. There are some great takeaways here for any business.
What a month! Let’s hope for a calmer October, shall we?