As 2012 draws to a close, we can’t help but notice how we keep seeing the same topics coming up over and over again: pay issues, medical leave issues, harassment issues, issues of requiring flu shots… Well, maybe not that last one. Regardless, let’s see this year out properly, with a review of the major employment law cases.
It goes without saying that companies carefully track the time of workers who are eligible for overtime pay. But what about employees who track their own hours working at home and try to claim them as overtime? A Circuit Court of Appeals found that employees need to track their time working from home just as carefully, rather than saying something like, “I worked 80 hours over the past 4 months at home” with no records of when the hours were worked or what work was done. And no, their spouse isn’t considered an impartial witness to those working hours. Takeaway? If your employees sometimes work from home, remind them to track their time when they do so.
It’s not every day that an HR manager testifies that their company did, in their opinion, take retaliatory action against an employee who had taken FMLA leave. Of course, the company in question did leave some unanswered questions when they fired a worker who had just come back from FMLA leave. They explained that she had been laid off… but they had called her a week before she came back, asking her to come back early. Takeaway? Be very aware of how a termination’s timing can look. And maybe ask Human Resources for their input.
The holidays and winter’s early sunsets can bring on some depression, but is depression ever a disability? Most people who’ve suffered major depression will tell you it is, and so will the EEOC. When an employee of a care facility had a depressive episode that led to her hospitalization, the employee’s husband called the facility to request a leave of absence for his wife. Although the employee had informed her supervisor of her history of depression, the facility refused to grant her leave and fired her. The EEOC came down on the facility pretty hard, resulting in a $50,000 restitution to the employee and a required review of ADA policies by facility management. Takeaway? Anything that requires hospitalization is likely to be a legitimate cause for medical leave.
And while we’re talking medical stuff, a healthcare company in Cincinnati has required its workers to get flu shots. Out of 10,800 workers at TriHealth, 150 were given written warnings to get the shot. The company reports that all but 9 of the workers have gotten the shot, provided valid reasons not to get the shot or been identified as temporary workers whose actual employer is the staffing firm that provided them. However, 9 workers are quite enough to start a class action lawsuit, and the company’s flu-shot requirement seems unusual, to say the least. We’ll keep an eye on how this story develops. Takeaway? Offering or recommending a health intervention is cool, but requiring it of workers could leave you vulnerable to much worse things than the flu.
Now, not all takeaways are as thought-intensive as the previous ones. Some are head-smackingly obvious. Yes, it’s our monthly “They did what?!” review.
Takeaway: If an employee complains about sexual harassment, investigate it. If more than one employee complains about the same person or issue, definitely investigate it. Don’t wait until it’s snowballed into a class action suit with 22 plaintiffs and a $1 million judgment against you.
Takeaway: When terminating an older employee, don’t say, “Younger people are the future.” Even better, don’t write off older employees as excess baggage!
Takeaway: Don’t invite the people you supervise to go to a hotel with you, and don’t watch porn on your computer when you know they can see you.
Now, we like to think that last item should go without saying, but as we see month after month, not every manager, supervisor or employee has a satisfactory level of common sense or manners. So we’re looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings. Happy New Year, everyone!