Identifying workplace discrimination; SCOTUS rules 94 yr old woman keeps tax sale proceeds; making up FMLA leave time; and more in Our Social Media Posts This Week, May 28 – Jun. 3, 2023.

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.

The post on Sunday 5/28/2023 was about How to identify workplace discrimination and protect rights. Discrimination can take many forms, from blatant favoritism to quiet exclusion and prejudice, and identifying it early on is important to taking action and protecting rights. Discrimination can be based on, or because of, a protected characteristic – including race and the others mentioned in the post – or on other bases. All discrimination harms the workplace and creates not only an unpleasant and toxic environment, but one that is probably illegal. Different actions or omissions may be the result of discrimination; examples include being excluded from key meetings or opportunities and the others noted in the post. If discrimination occurs, it should be documented and brought to the attention of HR (or management if appropriate). There are also other possible steps as noted in the post.

TAKEAWAY: No workplace should tolerate discrimination, but rather look to stop it in its tracks. Know the law – and contact an employment lawyer.

The posts on Monday 5/29/2023, here, here and here, were a Memorial Day reminder to all – of those who served and sacrificed in the armed forces.

TAKEAWAY: Memories are great; honor those who acted by respecting the workplace laws we have.

The post on Tuesday 5/30/2023 was about a US Supreme Court case to defend taking a 94-year-odl woman’s money. So, what’s the basic premise of Tyler v Hennepin County? A Minnesota county sold a tax-foreclosed condo and kept all of the sale proceeds, not just the delinquent taxes. The issue is who should get the excess proceeds of a home seized and sold in a property tax fore-closure case. Geraldine Tyler left her condo and moved into assisted living in 2010. She then did not pay property taxes for the next 5 years. the county sold the condo to recoup the taxes and more; the total owed to the county is in the post. The county sold the condo for almost 3x what was due to it and retained the excess. Tyler’s attorneys argued that she was entitled to the excess; the county argued to the contrary (with the basis for its argument as noted in the post). This case was just argued April 26th and was the last argument of the term. Justice Elena Kagan made her position clear during argument when she asked, “Are there any limits? … I mean, $5,000 tax debt, $5 million house, take the house, don’t give back the rest?” Other parties, including at least one state (see the post), lined up behind the county.

TAKEAWAY: Stay tuned for the outcome – or jump to our post on Friday 6/2/2023 so you know the law going forward.

The post on Wednesday 5/31/2023 asked: Can employers require employees to make up time they miss for FMLA leave?  First let’s take a step back. You should know that the FMLA guarantees that eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12- month period – some of the qualifying reasons are noted in the post. But the question here is if there are circumstances when an employer can approve the FMLA leave but require the employee to make up that time. In some places the answer might be YES. In one situation the employee took intermittent FMLA leave to care for his father (who had Alzheimer’s). But the way the scheduling worked (see the post), making up the missed time came into play. The employee sued, alleging FMLA interference. The trial court said there was no FMLA violation – why it said that is in the post. The case is now on appeal. But if the trial court is correct, what ramifications might that have in the workplace? Requiring FMLA leave to be made up would deter employees from requesting leave to which they might be entitled and more as noted in the post. A good suggestion as to how employers should handle this type of situation is in the post.   

        TAKEAWAY: Know the law – FMLA and applicable state law (that may be broader) and get advice from an employment lawyer.

In the post on Thursday 6/1/2023 we read about 10 things that are illegal for your employer to do. Let’s count them down. First, employers may not ask prohibited questions such as those about citizenship status, marital status and religious beliefs. Next, employers may not pay less than is required by law, meaning the applicable state or federal minimum wage. Third, employers may not pay people under the table. That means paying in cash without taking proper deductions and reporting the earnings. It does not prohibit paying people in cash, just not deducting or reporting. Violations can affect both the employee and employer. What else? An employer cannot discriminate against workers on the basis of race, gender, age or other factors noted in the post. The other six things that employers cannot do are listed and described in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Employers and employees must know what actions can or cannot be taken against employees and follow applicable law.

The post on Friday 6/2/2023 told us SCOTUS hold forfeiture of tax sale surplus proceeds is a governmental taking. It may have been the last case argued before the Supreme Court in the most recent term, but it was one of the first decisions issued.  The Court held in Tyler v Hennepin County that the Takings Clause of the US Constitution limits the distribution of excess proceeds from a governmental tax collection process. The decision was based on MN law but could impact other states too. You know some of the facts from our post of May 30, 2023. Pursuant to MN law, the County retained all proceeds of tax sale, meaning that the mortgage holder, HOA and homeowner received nothing. Tyler then filed a class action suit; both the trial and intermediate appellate courts ruled against her. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The two issues before the Court are listed in the post. Many interested parties filed briefs. Oral argument went for almost two hours and went WAY back into history (as noted in the post). The Court first addressed Tyler’s standing (analyzing it as described in the post), then moved to the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Court said that while state law can establish a property right that is a prerequisite to a governmental taking, there also might be other sources of property rights. After analyzing history, the Court found at least one such right – all as described in the post. The end result is that while the state had authority to sell the home to collect the delinquent taxes, it could NOT retain the surplus without just compensation. The Court’s quote (in the post) makes perfect sense. Now states other than MN must review their laws and ensure compliance with this decision. And since the Court did not address two other issues (identified and described in the post), keep an eye out.

TAKEAWAY: This post follows our post on May 30, 2023. Know the law and possible future legal implications. Get legal advice.

Finally, in the post yesterday 6/3/2023, we saw that DOJ secures $2 Million agreement in sexual harassment lawsuit against Alabama sheriff. The suit alleged violations of Title VII by severe and pervasive sexual harassment of female corrections officers by male inmates. And that despite numerous complaints to supervisors, the sheriff’s office did nothing to remedy the harassment. DOJ’s allegations include actions taken by male inmates including sexual slurs, sexual propositions and more as listed in the post. The settlement requires the sheriff’s office to pay $2.02M into a settlement fund and also for all-important non-monetary relief as detailed in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Enforcement of Title VII is a DOJ civil rights priority; know the law and follow it. Get legal advice before you take a wrong step.

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