Welcome to another year of employment law shenanigans! January’s main cases and rulings centered around the family: pregnancy bias, caring for a family member in Vegas and refusing to hire someone’s kids. Let’s dive in!
A Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling from another court and let a pregnancy-bias case go to trial. A nursing home asked a pregnant employee to get a doctor’s certification that she didn’t need any restrictions. Not surprisingly, her doctor gave her a lifting restriction of 50 pounds. The employee offered to do light duty, but the company only gave light duty accommodations to employees whose injuries were work-related. When she showed up for work the day after asking for light duty, she was informed that she had “resigned.” It will be interesting to see what a jury decides in this case.
In a way, pregnancy can be considered a temporary disability, and increasingly, courts are ruling that temporary disabilities should have the protection of the ADA. An employee sustained a major leg injury while visiting a client’s office; he was informed that his recovery would take 7 months. He suggested a graduated plan to his employer to take short-term disability, then start working from home and finally returning to work completely when he was fully recovered. And his company terminated him. The court ruled that even though the injury was temporary, it was severe enough to affect his ability to work, and therefore counted as a disability.
And now, the answer to the question that’s been at the top of our minds for months now: What, exactly, is “clothes”? According to the US Supreme Court, “clothes” includes protective gear that employees change into and out of before and after their shifts. Because that gear is “clothes,” the time spent changing in and out of it is not considered part of time on the job. So now we know.
Back to families: You might remember that back in October 2012, a district court ruled that time spent on vacation with a family member can still count for FMLA time, as long as the employee is the primary caretaker of the family member, and that care is administered during the vacation. An appeals court has reaffirmed that ruling, basically saying that as long as care is administered, it doesn’t really matter where it’s administered.
Another family-centric case concerns a WalMart in New Mexico that refused to hire the two children of a woman who had filed a sex discrimination suit against the company, even at entry-level positions. The EEOC is charging that the woman is a victim of retaliation. This one should get interesting.
And we finish with a textbook case of how not to handle a sexual harassment complaint. Start by not having a proper investigator, then question both parties in front of each other and finish by not interviewing anyone else. Great job! Only not.
See you next month, and here’s to a harassment-free Valentine’s Day!