Firing rioters, accommodating lawmakers during COVID-19, drones in condo & homeowner associations, and more in Our Social Media Posts This Week, Jan. 17-23, 2021.

Below is a review of the posts (on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week. You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

can participation in The january 6, 2021 riot at the us capitol lead to employment termiantion?

The post on Sunday 1/17/21 asked: Can companies fire pro-Trump rioters? The answer was: it’s complicated. Or, it depends. On federal, state and any local laws, along with any contracts that may be in place. Things the employer should consider include whether the employee broke the law, if the employee is a safety risk to him/herself or others,  and more noted in the post. Employers should ensure they have a valid basis to terminate the employee or face a possible wrongful termination or retaliation claim/suit.

TAKEAWAY: Before taking adverse action against an employee who was part of the January 6th riot at the US Capitol, talk to an employment lawyer to make sue your proposed action is legal.

are legislators entitled to accommodation during covid-19? [photo credit James Dawson/Boise State Public Radio]

The post on Monday 1/18/21 went to the flip side: we saw that lawmakers sued, saying returning to the state capitol amid COVID-19 violates the ADA. So, what happened? 2 legislators sued the House Speaker for violating the ADA by not permitting them to participate remotely during the pandemic. They asked for that accommodation due to their health conditions (noted in the post). What would be required for their remote participation is also noted in the post. Why the House Speaker has done nothing is also noted in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Don’t forget that other laws, like the ADA, still apply during the pandemic – make sure you know the law and your obligations.

storming the us capitol: what employment repercussions can legally follow?

The post on Tuesday 1/19/21 stayed on theme and noted that rioters who stormed the US Capitol now face a backlash at work and with businesses. The embedded VID lets you experience first-hand what it was like at one point. Some who participated in the riot have been arrested and charged; more will be in the future. Also, some – even at least one CEO – have been terminated by their employers. Why some employers have taken that step is in the post. Others who participated have resigned their employment. As for the legality of employment termination, see our post from 1/17/2021. A mere sampling of how the riot has affected participants is in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Individuals do have First Amendment rights, but they do not always trump employers’ rights or expectations; know each party’s rights and obligations.

drones and condo or homeowner associations: happily ever after?

The post on Wednesday 1/20/21 was about drones and asked: What rules does your Association have in place? There are many types of drones out there, some used by law enforcement and others not. But two examples are the “dehogifier” drones with heat sensors that tell when wild hogs are destroying crops and the Spotify Party Drone (described in the post). Drones can even be disguised (see the post). The author came up with ideas for new drones and what they might do; one is titled the Karen Camera. How it might work in a condo or homeowner association is noted in the post.  

TAKEAWAY: Technology is advancing at warp speed; condo and homeowner association governing documents must be amended periodically to keep up. Consult a community association lawyer relative to your association.

covid-19 protocols at meatpacking plants, essential employees, and lawsuits. [photo credit MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ]

In the post on Thursday 1/21/21 we learned that the COVID-19 death of Original Philly Cheesesteak supervisor triggers a lawsuit against a meatpacking giant. First, some background. On April 2, Brian barker’s supervisors at the Original Philly Cheesesteak plant gave him a thermometer to scan his fellow employees when they arrived. The next day, the plant was temporarily closed by its owner, Tyson Foods, due to COVID-19. On April 7, Barker was diagnosed as COVID-19 positive. On April 23, he died from COVID-19. Tyson did not tell his teammates of Barker’s death until … see the post. Barker’s widow has now filed suit against Tyson for an alleged failure to take safety precautions in light of COVID-19. Some of the possible defenses to the suit are noted in the post, including the essential nature of meatpacking plants (according to Homeland Security last April). Background about the Barker suit is in the post; some may work to bolster the claim, some may not.

TAKEAWAY: Follow proper protocols. Lessen any potential liability you might have. It’s both the legal and right thing to do.

employer failure to attempt to accommodate = eeoc suit

The post on Friday 1/22/21 showed us that Treehouse Foods was sued by the EEOC for disability discrimination. Treehouse is a food products manufacturer. A 19-year employee requested intermittent unpaid leave for hospitalization and treatment of COPD and other medical conditions noted in the post. So, what did Treehouse (not) do? The EEOC alleges that it did not engage in the interactive accommodation process required under the ADA. Treehouse assessed penalty points against her under its attendance policy. And there’s more (yes, groan).  See the post for what else Treehouse did. The EEOC’s suit seeks back and front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.  

TAKEAWAY: Know your obligations as an employer under the ADA and consult an employment lawyer to be sure.

redux: can employers fire rioters?

        Finally, in the post yesterday 1/23/21, we returned to theme and asked: Can employers fire rioters? (aka Employers’ rights in policing employee off-duty conduct and employment law consequences of the capitol riots.) You should already know the answer to this from our posts 1/17/2021 and 1/19/2021: it depends. Or, Maybe. One of the most egregious cases was that of an employee on video storming the Capitol while wearing his employee badge around his neck (yes he was subsequently discharged). What about those employees who stayed legal on January 6th, but then took to social and other media to discuss their opinions in support of or in opposition to the riot? Again, it depends. As noted in the post, the First Amendment is limited in what it protects. How that affects what employers can and cannot do in this type of situation is noted in the post. Other things again discussed in this post are whether employees can be discharged for off-duty conduct or having participated in the riot.

TAKEAWAY: Employees and employers must know their rights when it comes to personal opinions and the affect in or on the workplace. Get advice from a competent employment lawyer.

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