ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Dec. 8 – 14, 2019

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.

In the post on Sunday 12/8/19 we saw that Walmart settled a disability discrimination suit. The employee at issue worked in a Maine location. She developed a spine and bone issue and sought reassignment to an open greeter or fitting room position. No such positions were available, so she waited. How long? See the post. She then offered to move to other stores in those positions. What happened after that is in the post – and may or may not surprise you. Eventually the EEOC filed suit on her behalf and now that suit has settled. What will she get? See the post. Walmart also must do other things as part of the settlement – again, see the post. It’s the right outcome.

            TAKEAWAY: Employers must know what they are required to do when presented with a disability. There are no excuses.

The post on Monday 12/9/19 kept the same theme and told us that the EEOC says Goodwill has settled a disability discrimination suit for $65,000. Ok, so you know that Goodwill Industries provides job opportunities to people with disabilities, right? So, this should strike you as ironic. Here, an employee worked in a janitorial program and met some difficulties due to his cognitive disability. He needed additional training or job coaching. What did he get instead? See the post. He kept having the same problems and eventually was fired. So, the EEOC sued. The suit alleges that part of Goodwill’s obligations was to provide an accommodation which could include the things noted in the post. Suit was filed earlier this year when conciliation failed. And now it has settled upon the terms in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Yep, what we said above. Employers must know what they are required to do when presented with a disability. They should consult an employment lawyer to be sure.

The post on Tuesday 12/10/19 was about a Texas-Based sales and marketing company which will settle a disability suit for $2.65M. Yes, MILLION (a Texas-sized settlement). The employer provides food demonstrators to retailers and warehouse stores. (Sounds tasty, but it may not be what you think …). So, what went wrong? The employer limited the amount of time employees could sit on stools and how often they could do that – see the post – regardless of medical condition or restrictions. Ugh. And to make it worse, that was not always the case. The post explains how and when it changed. Over 100 employees were affected by this suit and settlement which not only pays them hard dollars but requires other things of the employer as noted in the post.

TAKEAWAY: The need for accommodation is all around – know what rights employees have and what obligations employers must fulfill.

The post on Wednesday 12/11/19 asked: What should you do if rumors crop up on your planned community (HOA or condo) message board? Social media is a problem in planned communities, especially when it is owned by someone other than the Association but purports to be otherwise. An analogy in the post is both comic and spot on. Most of the posts are by angry owners and are filled with untruths or things that are not fully (or at all?) factually correct. But others then see the posts and things can get out of hand. So, what should be done? Well, first, decide if anything needs to be done. See the post as to possible options. Then act as decided upon. Ideas on how to possibly prevent this in the future are also in the post.   

            TAKEAWAY: Associations are no different than other businesses – they have detractors who want to be heard. The key is to demobilize without escalating – get a community association lawyer to help.

In the post on Thursday 12/12/19 we learned how to differentiate legitimate debt collectors from a scammer (and noted that the CFPB video educates consumers on spotting the differences). This is for all readers and everyone you know, so pass along the link! Yes, the telephone is still used to reach people about past-due bills. That means that the debtors (those who owe the money) must know whether it is a legitimate call. There is a federal law that applies, and some of the things that legitimate debt collectors must do (as opposed to those scammers out there) are listed in the post. A big no-no that is often the first flag for a consumer is also noted in the post. What else is covered? The type of information a legitimate debt collector would request as opposed to scammers (see the post).   

TAKEAWAY: Every day many people lose money because they respond to scams – know how to identify them so you don’t get caught in their net.

The first post on Friday 12/13/19 showed us that an employer wellness program is illegal (or so a lawsuit contends). This comes out of Yale University. Employees field a class action suit related to the incentive to participate in the wellness program, alleging that it violates the ADA and GINA (remember that law?!?). What the incentive is is noted in the post. How the employees see it is also in the post and forms the basis of their suit. The threshold question is whether the incentive interferes with the employee’s autonomy, i.e., when does it cross the line and become coercive? More things a court will look at are noted in the post.

            TAKEAWAY:  Nobody thinks wellness is a bad idea, but what can be bad is when a wellness program is deemed to be forced on employees instead of them having a choice. Make sure your program is legal.

            As a treat, there was a second post on Friday 12/13/19. It was about service and emotional support animals – do you know the legal difference? This is a topic that affects many of us or our communities or places of employment. This post was actually a link to a video that aired on ABC27 news. It’s short so watch and learn.

            TAKEAWAY: There is a big legal difference between pets, service animals, and emotional support animals. And that difference affects people every day. For questions and answers, contact a lawyer who understands the difference.

            Finally, in the post yesterday 12/14/19 we learned that a former county chief sheriff’s deputy sues for discrimination. This is close to home as it arises in Westmoreland County, near Pittsburgh. Patricia sued, alleging age, sex and political affiliation discrimination, as well as retaliation. She was hired as a deputy in 2010; her rise is noted in the post. Once she attained her last position, what happened is what underlies her suit – see the post. The things she did to improve the office – including trying to make things more efficient – did not go over well. And the County Commissioners did not help by what they refused to do – again, see the post. And then to pile on, Patricia alleges that she had a meeting with the Assistant Solicitor who tried to “force her retirement or resignation”. And then more nasty things happened (in the post and she was fired in Fall 2018. She sued in November 2019.

TAKEAWAY: All employers must train their employees how to communicate and act with each other – and then act when things go awry. Playing ostrich is not an option. Talk to an employment lawyer.

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