You might have thought that 2011 was an action-packed year in employment law, but if January is any indication of the year to come, 2012 is going to knock all our socks off (and then file an injunction ordering us to put them back on again).
Early in the month, President Obama made three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This might not have been a big deal… had he done it when Congress was in session. But he didn’t, and a couple of business groups have already sued. The NLRB wasted no time in issuing a ruling that will probably also engender challenges from business groups: that employers cannot require employees to go through arbitration instead of the courts for workplace claims.
While the NLRB might be unpredictable, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) wants you to have some idea of what it’s planning for the next few years. So it’s posted a draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2012-2016. Happy reading! While the draft plan doesn’t mention background checks, the EEOC is continuing to monitor their use. Pepsi recently agreed to pay $3.13 million after the EEOC charged the company with discriminating against job applicants by checking their background arrest records rather than just conviction records.
Another area the EEOC is focusing on is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), having filed at least two ADA-related lawsuits in the past few weeks. Perhaps anticipating more scrutiny from the EEOC, the U.S. Department of Education issued an advisory letter and FAQ to primary and secondary schools on compliance with the ADA. Recent cases have dealt with the specifics of the law, including whether or not obesity and migraines are covered by the ADA.
And while we’re on the subject of weight gain and pain, a recent ruling in a case about a pregnant employee who applied for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave before she was eligible, but for a future leave during which she would be eligible, had her employment not been terminated. It’s very confusing. Good luck.
Another source of confusion continues to be Facebook (FB), and how much access employers can have to their employees’ social media activities. A United States District Court recently ruled that employers cannot “rummage at will” (great phrase!) through employees social media information if that information has been limited from public view.
And finally, we conclude with two tales of legal woe, proving that even icons can fall afoul of employment law. Chuck E. Cheese (CEC) was recently fined more than $28,000 for violating various labor regulations, including child-labor laws, in California. Meanwhile, across the country, Lady Gaga has been sued by her former assistant for working 7,168 hours of unpaid overtime… in just 13 months.
So, it’s certainly shaping up to be an interesting year, legally. Have an opinion to share on these rulings, declarations, lawsuits or challenges? Let us know in the comments!