Legal-RoundupIt was a pretty busy month in employment law (the short ones always are!), so let’s get right into—oh, what’s that? There’s a staffing-specific story this month?

A California staffing firm was ruled not to have been liable for the actions of one of its employees: the poisoning of another employee. That’s one of the worst nightmares of a staffing company: being found liable for the actions of an employee who was clearly not following the directions of the staffing firm. So it’s a good sign that a California court ruled that the staffing firm wasn’t responsible. Whew!

If you lived pretty much anywhere in the U.S., you were likely affected by some major winter storms last month. If they didn’t hit your area, they still probably affected your supply chain. If you had to close because of the weather, how do you figure out whether or not to pay your employees? This is a great guide to how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies during winter storms.

Also, President Obama announced a new, higher minimum wage level for federal contractors; this rate will take affect on January 1, 2015.

Another news story that made the rounds here in HR-land was the less-than-discreet mention of two “distressed babies” and the expense of their care by AOL’s CEO. The high costs and number of babies made it fairly easy for AOL staffers to figure out who the babies’ parents were (in fact, the mom of one of the babies posted a first-person essay about the cost of her child’s care). And that’s basically a violation of HIPAA privacy regulations, as well as something of a PR boondoggle for the company.

Now, on to something more substantive: NFL cheerleaders. No, really; the lawsuit recently filed by one of the Oakland Raiderettes provides a great deal of insight into how a contractor can differ from an employee. There are some good lessons here, and no NSFW photos.

Another company policy that ran afoul of a court recently was an Oregon company’s requirement that each FMLA absence require recertification by a doctor, even if it’s an intermittent absence, which is by definition connected to other intermittent absences by the same medical condition. A U.S. district court soundly disagreed.

While we’re talking about ongoing medical conditions, an appeals court is currently reviewing the case of an employee who was suspended for behavior caused by side effects of a medication she was taking. The company’s HR department recommended that she file for certification under the Americans with Disabilities Act—and that she be fired. The initial court ruling held that because the company knew about the employee’s medical condition before certification, the firing wasn’t kosher.

Background checks come up a lot in these legal roundups, and there’s a good reason: they can be quite controversial. For instance, a class action lawsuit was recently filed against Whole Foods for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by ordering background checks before the person being checked had given official consent.

And as we so often do, let’s finish up with some “They Did What?!” items. These 2 cases of wage-and-hour settlements provide a great opportunity for some facepalming. We’re sure you don’t need any reminding of the lessons of these cases: don’t pay one sex less than the other, and don’t take 60% of your employees’ pooled tips, especially if their base wage is only $2.13 an hour, which you’re not even paying them. Yeah, it’s bad.

Also, if you run a job bank, don’t respond to a LinkedIn invite with a really nasty diatribe, even if you’re sick of receiving such invites from job-seekers. For one thing, it’s not nice. For another thing, you can bet that your diatribe will be posted all over the internet. Do unto others, my friends.

See you next month!

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