Perhaps in response to the flurry of courtroom activity we saw in January, things have been relatively quiet on the legal front this month. Let’s look at some of the major developments:
The Department of Labor proposed some major changes to the Family Medical Leave Act. Among them are a reinstatement of the smallest-increment-possible method of recording FMLA leave, a tightening of the rules surrounding reinstatement delays and expanding the guidelines for military family leave.
A federal appeals court ruled that even informal, interpersonal complaints about possible violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act are protected from retaliation, as long as the complaints are “sufficiently clear … for a reasonable employer to understand it … as an assertion of rights under the statute.”
A Pennsylvania court offered more guidance in answering the eternal question of “Is that worker an employee or a contractor?” Basically, if an employer dictates a worker’s workload and schedule, gives them business cards and expects them to collect business cards from others and enforces a dress code on the worker? That right there is an employee. (The IRS guidelines on the issue can be found here.)
Meanwhile, the Southern District Court of Texas ruled that firing a worker due to lactation-related issues (breast-feeding or -pumping at work) is not sex discrimination. Expect this ruling to be challenged and likely overturned. A conference on pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace held the next day didn’t mention the case, but lots of other opinions on similar matters were put forth.
The National Labor Relations Board hasn’t been shy about putting forth its opinions on various social media matters lately. This is a great write-up of recent rulings from the NLRB on social media in and out of the workplace.
And speaking of social media in and out of the workplace, we close with our jaw-dropping ruling of the month: A New York state court reinstated a teacher who had been fired for posting gleeful fantasies on Facebook about her 5th-grade students drowning while on a field trip… the day after a student from another school drowned while on a field trip.
Yes, this is what passes for a quiet month in the world of employment law. See you in March!