Welcome back for another month’s review of news, rulings and cases from the world of employment law. This month, we look at background checks—yes, again—FMLA abuses—yes, again—and Facebook follies—yes, again…. well, you can see where this is going.
At the beginning of the month, the governor of Illinois signed an executive order stating that questions about an applicant’s criminal background can no longer be part of the process of applying for a state job. This “ban the box” order is part of a growing trend across the country.
The first week of October also marked the start of the year’s term of the Supreme Court of the United States. One of the questions they’ll be pondering this term is whether severance pay is taxable.
Then the government shut down for a couple of weeks.
After things started back up federally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement resumed its “silent raids” on 1,000 companies. The raids targeted mostly fast-food and high-tech manufacturing companies, and sought to uncover not only undocumented workers but fraud and errors in documentation.
Also, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor recovered more than $165,000 in owed wages from a Texas company. Among the company’s violations were keeping a second set of pay records and requiring kickbacks from employees.
And the EEOC filed a suit against a disability services provider for … wait for it … disability discrimination. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, a sordid tale of major FMLA abuse was brought to light when Wisconsin Bell sued one of its employees for taking FMLA leave to, among other things, travel to a vacation home and attend a weekly class at her church. The cherry on top? The fact that her own pastor corroborated her employer’s story. That’s gotta hurt.
At the municipal level, a New York district court ruled that unpaid interns could not sue for sexual harassment under New York City municipal laws because they aren’t paid. According to the court, this somehow makes them non-employees as far as NYC is considered. We see an appeal in this ruling’s future.
And then there’s Facebook. There’s always Facebook in these wrap-ups, and for good reason. In one case, an employee’s complaint about a co-worker on her Facebook page resulted in an investigation which also resulted in her being unable to post for promotions. A circuit court said that was probably for the best.
In other Facebook news, an employee was disciplined when one of her Facebook friends (also a co-worker) reported her critical postings to their employer. In fact the “friend” took screenshots and printed or emailed them to the employee’s manager. When the employee was disciplined for a particularly obnoxious post, she sued. However, a federal district court held that the information given to her manager was admissible as reason for the disciplining. They made a point of noting, though, that if the employer had sought out information on the Facebook posts, that would not be kosher. It’s kinda complicated; you can read all about it here.
See, even with the federal government out of commission for half the month, it was still pretty eventful. See you next month!