In the post on Sunday 2/7/21 we learned the EEOC finalized Guidance on workplace religious protections (one of their priority areas). It has been 13 years since the last update, so it was time. There is a link to the Guidance in the post so you can read the entire thing for yourself. However, there are a few key changes that include US Supreme Court and other federal court decisions issued since the last update; all of which interpret workplace protections based on religion under Title VII, including those related to reasonable accommodations and harassment. The topics covered include the religious organization exemption, the ministerial exemption, common methods of accommodation in the workplace, and more as noted in the post. The post also cites to some cases for the source of the Guidance. While some organizations were in favor of the updates, others were not, suggesting that there will be consequences for religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and others. The EEOC’s vote is noted in the post (with the reasoning behind it).
TAKEAWAY: Employers have a duty to accommodate sincerely-held religious beliefs – know what the EEOC’s position is, and what is legally allowable or required, to avoid charges and litigation.
The post on Monday 2/8/21 suggested use Zoom, lose trade secrets. There is more to it than that, but it makes one think, carefully (which is the point). A recent case out of Delaware teaches us to be cautious and why. The plaintiffs (Smash) operate a mobile trash compaction business and sell franchises. The core business involves using a truck-mounted mobile rash compactor to smash trash in the customer’s dumpster (how that it helpful is noted in the post). The defendant, Todd Perri, faked interest in becoming a franchisee. Details are noted in the post. Perri and a friend then formed a competing business. They compared their service and its results to that of Smash. What else they did (which is kind of smart) is in the post. Smash filed suit most of the relief they requested depended on showing that the defendants obtained and used highly confidential and valuable information from Smash. The judge ruled that Smash was not entitled to injunctive relief at this early stage. Why? The facts. Which start with Smash posting on YouTube videos how is compactor works and the benefits to customers. And continues as noted in the post. Only at a certain point in the process (as noted in the post) would a potential franchisee sign a non-disclosure agreement. Along with being given the NDA to sign, and pursuant to federal law, Smash gave Perri certain other documents and information noted in the post. Which information and documents Smash considered to be confidential is delineated in the post. Perri signed the NDA to continue in the franchise process. He obtained a Zoom meeting ID for the next meeting. How Smash handled its Zoom invites is in the post (and is key, so read it). Perri obtained information form franchisees in the Zoom session he attended. At the same time, he continued down the road to a franchise, he and his friend were working on opening their own competing business. What Perri and his friend did is in the post. Perri continued to gain information about Smash and its service as noted in the post, sometimes being less than truthful. At one point during the run-up for their own business, they identified information about Smash’s business. How many interactions Perri had with Smash, how many other people took part, and of those how many signed NDAs and how many did not, along with protective measures taken by Smash, are all noted in the post (and are another key). After Perri’s competitive business opened, Smash filed suit. The court spent most of its time analyzing whether Smash had a reasonable probability of succeeding on the merits of this case in determining whether a preliminary injunction should be issued. To do that, it went through the 8 counts of the complaint, in detail, including whether Perri received confidential information (see the analysis and how it turned out in the post). The court then analyzed the other 7 claims, with the details appearing in the post. The bit of relief the court granted to Smash is also noted.
TAKEAWAY: Lying is not advocated, but whether is adversely affects a competitor and leads to a legally compensable injury is based on actual facts. Consult an attorney for legal assistance for your position.
The post on Tuesday 2/9/21 was about a condo board suing a woman over feeding a stray cat. We asked you to think about what your Association would do in this situation. The Association alleged that Joan is attracting feeding stray animals, a violation of the rules. Joan said it is only one cat that was fixed years ago and she has named Cleo. What she does for Cleo is in the post. The association’s position differs; the history of the matter is in the post (let’s just say this is not Joan’s first run-in over strays). Stay tuned.
TAKEAWAY: Whether or not owners agree with Association rules, they must be followed; when they are not, the Association is within its rights to, and indeed per its obligations must, enforce the rules. Contact a community association lawyer for assistance.
From the post on Wednesday 2/10/21 we learned more about the Association Board suing for feeding the stray cat. In addition to a violation of the rules, the suit is based on the fact that stray cats may induce unwanted health issues and cause unwarranted damage to the common elements. That may be a separate violation – see the post.
TAKEAWAY: Know the provisions of the Governing Documents before you purchase a home in a planned community – and keep up with any amendments after that. Know your legal rights and obligations.
In the post on Thursday 2/11/21 it was suggested that employers should encourage, not mandate, getting the COVID vaccine. It’s a tough question. We know that the EEOC has said that employers can mandate vaccines in some circumstances (but how that might work is noted in the post). Mandatory vaccinations also may depend on the industry and workplace involved as differentiated in the post. Encouraging vaccination, however, can be easier with an incentive for employees. Things an employer must consider are the reasons an employee might NOT want or be able to get a vaccination, including disability religious beliefs, and more as noted in the post. Encouraging vaccinations can take two different tracks, both of which are explained I the post.
TAKEAWAY: Mandatory versus preferred COVID vaccination is something to discuss with your employment lawyer; do it now.
The post on Friday 2/12/21 was about your website and ADA compliance (with a note that yes, your bottom line could be affected). Not only are a website’s look, responsiveness and SEO important, but so too are its accessibility and ADA compliance. Included with the latter are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design which are incorporated into the ADA. (A link to the standards is in the post.) The standards deal with various types of disabilities, including visual, neurological and motor, cognitive, and auditory impairments, all of which are elaborated on in the post. Some examples of how a website can meet all of those types of impairments are in the post. And why do you care? Because there are statistics showing that 25% of adults in the US has a disability, especially in those 65 and older – the class that has the most disposable income, some of which could be spent on your good or service.
TAKEAWAY: There is as yet no court case binding on us in PA that says the ADA applies to websites, but why wait, especially if not complying could be costing you money?
Finally, in the post yesterday 2/13/21, we learned that there was no ADA violation: the employee was fired for failing a test, not his disability. This case comes from the Third Circuit and, as such, is binding on us in PA. So, what happened? Chase Frost worked as a firefighter; he was injured on the job. He then expressed an interest in becoming a paramedic. He was denied the first time he applied. Thereafter, a physical therapist examined him and cleared him to participate in the training class. Frost then failed a patient protocol test not once, but twice. The municipal employer fired him and he sued for disability discrimination. The basis for his suit is noted in the post. How the court analyzed it, and the reasoning behind finding the termination not to be discriminatory, are in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Not every adverse action is illegal – but it is a good idea to consult an employment lawyer ahead of time to make sure you are in legal compliance.