After a month of major legal activity in June, July has been pretty quiet. How quiet? Our lead story involves Segways. That quiet.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Walt Disney World’s refusal to allow an employee with muscular dystrophy to use a Segway violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disney had held that Segways violated their ban on two-wheeled vehicles, and that could have just used a wheelchair. The judge writing the opinion shot down Disney’s claim in the most thorough terms; we recommend you visit the link and read it.
From Walt Disney World to the twisted circus that is magazine publishing, a federal judge has conditionally ruled that a case brought by a former intern against the Hearst Corporation may be a collective action, which is an FLSA version of a class action suit. This is pretty major, because the magazine world depends on the work of unpaid interns. If interns received pay for the work they do, which is necessary for the operation of the magazines (the main standard for being considered employees), the entire industry could change.
We now jump from magazines, the frying pan of dodgy FLSA conditions, straight into the rock n’ roll fire. A former assistant to Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee has sued the metalhead. The assistant claims that not only did Lee not pay overtime, dock pay for petty reasons and not reimburse the costs of purchases made for Lee, he tarnished the assistant’s name in the rock community so he couldn’t even get a job with Godsmack. The case was settled out of court, but there’s still a lot to be learned from this case for all employers, and the article at the link does a great job of explaining it. (A similar suit has been filed against Courtney Love by her former assistant. It’s almost like there’s a current of unprofessionalism in the music industry…)
And while we’re on the subject of wage & hour lawsuits, the city of Scranton, Penn., was facing not one but two lawsuits after its mayor cut all city workers’ pay… to minimum wage. From July 6 to this past weekend, all city employees, including the mayor himself, had to live on $7.25 an hour while performing jobs crucial to the city’s functioning. Fortunately, the city qualified for state aid and was able to reimburse its employees for the lost wages, with interest, but the mayor isn’t sure the city is out of the woods yet.
Of course, not all lawsuits filed against an employer are as clear-cut as these examples. In one example, a New Jersey state court ruled against a plaintiff despite major racial slurs being slung at her by a co-worker who was of the same race. The reason? The plaintiff had also used racial slurs against the co-worker, and the two had been on-again, off-again friends for years. Despite the ruling, it’s a good idea to nip any racial insults in the bud at work, even if they’re being used by members of the same race.
In a similar vein, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against an employee who claimed that he had been demoted due to age discrimination … and not because he had slept on the job. And this wasn’t one of those can’t-keep-your-eyes-open-in-a-2:30-meeting kinds of sleep, either. The plaintiff’s job was to monitor the equipment in the boiler room of a VA facility overnight, and he was found sleeping on the floor of his office with blankets, pillows and an alarm clock. Pretty blatant stuff there.
What’s more blatant? Posting a picture of yourself violating company policy, putting customers in danger and just plain being a jackass. This Rhodes scholar took a picture of himself from the knees down standing in the lettuce bins at a Burger King in Ohio, then posted the picture to a web site with the caption “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.” Folks on the site were able to determine the location of the BK from the photo’s geo-location tags and notified the restaurant. Needless to say, the employee was fired.
Even more blatant? How about setting a fire on a submarine so you could leave work? No? How about setting two separate fires on a nuclear-powered submarine so you could leave work? That’s just what a civilian worker in New Hampshire did, causing an estimated $400 million in damages. He was arrested for two counts of arson and as of yesterday, was ordered to remain in jail until his trial. So at least July has been interesting in some parts of the country.