Last month was pretty busy, what with plans from the EEOC, the usual social media cases, some fine-tuning on the ADA and the inevitable head-scratching firings and suits. Let’s dive in!
Early in the month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its draft strategic plan. Based on what the document describes as “emerging issues,” you’d do well to review: your ADA compliance and any reasons you’ve offered not to honor an ADA request; your policies regarding gay, lesbian and transgender workers; and your policies regarding pregnancy.
Making accommodations for ADA requests has been in the news lately. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals made an interesting about-face on a ruling and now declares that an employer must offer a disabled employee an equivalent, vacant position if the disabled employee meets the minimum qualifications for the position, even if a more qualified person has applied for the position.
The EEOC’s also been busy looking into possible rights infractions caused by confidential internal investigations. While your instinct as an employer might be to say, “Everything discussed in this investigation is confidential,” that approach is now viewed as a potential violation of employees’ rights to discuss their working conditions. Of course, there are still some clear cases where confidentiality is required, such as to protect a witness or evidence that could be harmed.
Speaking of internal investigations, if you’re going to conduct one, actually conduct it. Don’t just go through the motions as Chrysler did when an employee was the target of racially-motivated harassment, vandalism and death threats. The company was fined $3.5 million in punitive damages for interviewing some people, notifying a couple of folks and… that’s about it. Harassment is serious enough to warrant a full investigation, let alone death threats. Hopefully Chrysler will do better in the future.
While the Chrysler story deals with enemies, sometimes it’s your friends (well, your Facebook friends, anyway) who can get you in trouble. Two attorneys in a New Jersey law firm face ethics charges after one of the firm’s paralegals friended a plaintiff the firm was representing. The plaintiff complained that the firm used personal information gleaned from the Facebook friendship, while the firm’s partners claim that they didn’t know how Facebook’s privacy settings worked. That defense might have worked in 2009, but they’ll probably have a tough time selling it now.
In other Facebook news, an NFL referee was pulled from a New Orleans Saints game after declaring himself a Saints fan on Facebook, and receiving comments asking him to make calls in the Saints’ favor. Of course, compared to the performance we saw from referees later last month, that doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect.
And finally, we turn to pants. Specifically, women who refuse to wear them. Not one but two recent cases involve female employees whose religion forbids them from wearing pants but whose employers insisted that they do so. The case in Kentucky was settled out of court for $5,000, while the case in North Texas is going to trial.
No matter who wears the pants in your company, we hope you had a great September. We’ll check in again in a month or so.
Thoughts on any of these cases? Let us know in the comments!