This month’s legal news covers a pretty expansive range, from agency announcements, to lawsuits over discrimination and pay, to the usual Facebook-motivated cases we’ve become so familiar with, to a stabbing at a Chuck E. Cheese, to “hostile flatulence.” Oh yeah, it’s been one hell of a month. Let’s review:
In slightly dull but useful news, the Department of Labor released guidance on applying Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to care for adult children. FMLA leave can be used to care for a child over 18 if the child has a mental or physical disability that prevents them from caring for themselves. So: leave to care for your 20-year-old whose home health aide had to take a sick day? Kosher. Leave to care for your 20-year-old who’s got a touch of stomach flu? Not so much.
Slightly more interesting is the recent ruling by a federal appeals court that the recent appointments President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) during the holidays were unconstitutional. Expect this one to go to the Supreme Court.
Another recent case involves the ever-shifting nature of a claim of religious discrimination, this time to include veganism. A federal court recently gave the go-ahead to an employee who was fired for refusing a flu shot to claim religious discrimination, based on the moral and philosophical underpinnings of most vegans. (Let’s be honest: nobody goes vegan for the food.)
Meanwhile, a settlement was reached in the class-action suit against The Charlie Rose Show for unpaid interns who were worked like paid employees. The show settled for back wages of $110 a week for every intern who worked for the show from 2006 to 2012, up to a total of $250,000 (which is probably a drop in the bucket compared to the attorneys’ fees!)
On to social media, which continues to trip up the unwary. Even if they’re in the right, morally speaking, employees have to abide by a company’s social media policy, as a manager at a Sam’s Club found when she scolded co-workers for calling in sick on July 4 – then posting pictures of themselves at a party. She posted these scoldings on Facebook, in violation of the company’s social media policy, and was fired as a result.
Of course, you can also be fired for posting when you’re not in the right or even anywhere near the right, morally speaking. For instance, if you’re a first-grade teacher and you make posts on Facebook about how the children you teach are future criminals who are in need of being “scared straight,” that’s a firing offense.
And on that unsettling note, let’s move into the “They did what?!” section of the month’s news:
Not all teachers who don’t like their students publish nasty things about them on social media. Some simply claim to be morbidly terrified of them, as in the case of the teacher who claimed a phobia of her new students after being moved from high school teaching to middle school teaching. (Honestly, we can kinda see where she’s coming from; middle schoolers are scary!)
One case that made headlines recently was of the software developer who outsourced his own job to China. Instead of hailing him as a hero of outsourcing, his employers fired him. Well, part of the problem might be that he moonlighted for other firms in the area—and outsourced that labor, too!
Perhaps he should be glad that they only fired him rather than shooting him; a manager at a medical center told a co-worker that the offensive remarks he had just made to her were “the kind of joke that can get someone shot.” She was immediately fired, a decision a circuit court recently upheld.
What kind of request can get someone not shot, but certainly threatened with a beatdown? Requesting ketchup on a sandwich at Subway. A fracas ensued when a customer made just such a request, infuriating a “sandwich artist,” who kicked over a chair and yelled, “Fight me like a man!” over the notion of putting ketchup on a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. You know, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
We have two examples of people who didn’t draw the line anywhere near soon enough: a waitress at a Chuck E. Cheese threw a napkin dispenser at a customer who was allegedly trying to use a salad bar plate without paying for the salad bar. From there, it escalated to the waitress stabbing a member of the offending party three times. In a totally unrelated occurrence, an appraiser at a real estate firm admitted that the pornographic images he emailed to the director of HR pornographic pictures were “personal mistakes.”
And we close out the month with news of the withdrawal of one of the greatest government memos ever viewed: a formal reprimand from a manager at the Social Security Administration to an employee for excessive flatulence. The full reprimand is a glorious combination of bureaucratic language and the “stinky smells” speech we all got in first grade, and includes a chart of the dates and times of the gas attacks. The next time your co-workers annoy you, consider the possible alternatives.
Happy February, everybody!