The leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping and our Communications Director is slurping down one Pumpkin Spice Latte after another. Time for an autumnal recap of legal news!
The EEOC’s guidance on background checks has been the subject of a lot of discussion in employment circles. Here’s one more contribution: a California state agency that didn’t conduct a background check on an applicant who had previously worked for the state got a bit of a nasty surprise when they discovered that she had been imprisoned for embezzlement from her previous employer. Because she had resigned before she could be fired for embezzlement, the crime didn’t show up on her employee file, which was all the state consulted. The lesson? Apply the EEOC’s guidance on the results of background checks… but conduct them!
On the horizon in employment law, there could be a new protected class: the homeless. Already, two states have instituted laws prohibiting discrimination in employment based on an applicant’s homelessness. If you’re concerned about drug use or lack of hygiene, ask about those specific issues in everyone’s job interview, and test everyone for drug use.
With the holiday season approaching, it might be wise to determine the rules and policies for your office holiday party, if you’re having one. One policy that should be easy to follow: don’t let a manager sneak a bottle of scotch into a party where the bar is only serving beer and wine. Someone could get catastrophically drunk, and it could end in tragedy.
Another guideline that’s pretty simple is: don’t hire illegal aliens. And if you do hire them, don’t think that the fact that they’re here illegally doesn’t mean that US laws don’t protect them. Even illegal aliens are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Merrill Lynch has made the news recently, but not for forecasting or rating investments. No, the company made headlines for having the largest race bias settlement in US history levied against it. Merrill Lynch was ordered to pay $160 million to a large class of African-American employees for discrimination, including lack of promotions and internal opportunities. Then, less than 2 weeks later, the company was ordered to pay out $39 million in a gender discrimination lawsuit. The lesson here? When hiring or promoting, be aware of the unfortunate human tendency to favor people who are like us in terms of gender, race, etc., and use that awareness to evaluate your choices.
Here’s an easy choice to make: it’s totally okay to fire an employee who makes death threats to his managers (especially if it’s the third time he’s done it!). And rest assured, that employee is not entitled to unemployment compensation.
It’s also totally okay to fire an employee who emails porn from his company email address. But according to a Minnesota judge, it’s debatable whether or not it’s okay to cut off that employee’s retirement benefits.
What is officially not okay, according to a circuit court of appeals, is firing an employee because he or she “like”d a candidate on Facebook. The court ruled that “Like”ing is considered protected speech, similar to placing a campaign sign on your lawn at home.
What a month! We hope you’re enjoying fall wherever you are. (And we hope to see you later this week at Staffing World!)