In the post on Sunday 4/24/2022 we saw that two coaches join Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against NFL – and what it might mean. Who? Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and longtime NFL assistant Ray Horton. Wilks claims he was unfairly fired by the Cardinals and Horton’s claim against the Tennessee Titans are noted in the post. Flores also expanded on his claims against the Dolphins and added the Houston Texans as a defendant. More details on Wilks’ claim are in the post – along with the Cardinals’ response. Horton claims that after he was flown out for an interview, he realized that the interview was a “sham” and only done “to comply with the Rooney Rule and to demonstrate an appearance of equal opportunity and a false willingness to consider a minority candidate for the position.” More details – and the comments from the person who was hired – are also in the post. And why were the Texans added to the suit? Flores alleges that they declined to hire him this offseason as head coach “due to his decision to file this action and speak publicly about systemic discrimination in the NFL.”. What does this all mean? Perhaps there really is smoke where there is fire; Perhaps the NFL will have to answer to the allegations if true. And perhaps we all learn lessons about what not to do in our own workplaces.
TAKEAWAY: Discrimination in any workplace will not be tolerated and employers will be taken to task – make sure you are not a defendant in court or public opinion.
The post on Monday 4/25/2022 told us that Starbucks firings deemed illegal by NLRB officials. Yep, fallout from the unionization wave. The NLRB plans to formally accuse Starbucks of illegally firing a group of activists who’ve been trying to unionize their store in Memphis, Tennessee – unless the company first settles the case. The nascent union alleged in February that the company fired seven employees — including almost all of the union leaders at the store — because of their support for unionization. Starbucks; response/comment: see the post. But on his first day back in the top role, one thing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told employees is, “We didn’t get here by having a union at Starbucks.” Procedurally, complaints issued by the NLRB are considered by agency judges; the appeals process from there is noted in the post. While the NLRB does have some authority, one big thing it cannot do is also in the post. And cases over firings can drag on for years — which can have an adverse effect on organizing efforts. Findings from a 2019 study of claims filed with the NLRB about workers allegedly fired as a result of union election campaigns are also in the post. One step the NLRB can take – as noted in the post – is something new general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, has said she plans to deploy “aggressively” where needed. As of April 8, 2022, Workers United has prevailed in unionization elections at 16 Starbucks sites.
TAKEAWAY: The pandemic wrought many changes in the work environment – including employees fighting for more of what they want and requiring employers to at least consider their demands. But it all must be done legally so consult an experienced labor & employment lawyer.
The post on Tuesday 4/26/2022 taught us about collective bargaining for nonprofit organization and municipal employees and employers. Everyone should know the risks and possible rewards. You’ve probably heard their names: the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of Sate, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). All have made substantial progress in organizing employees of nonprofit organizations and municipalities so it is important for everyone to understand the applicable law. While for-profit employers need not give unions information about wages and benefits until there is a certified election, much information is publicly available about non-profit entities (such as those things noted in the post). And unionization can be challenging with needing to reconcile the legal duty to bargain with the grant funding process because many non-profit employers must submit budgets and other information to funders in order to receive funds, budgets and grant requests require numerous decisions and projections about staffing and compensation, and the deadline for those decisions does not always coincide with the timeline for bargaining with a union. So how do nonprofit employers walk that fine line? See the post for suggestions. There are also issues of open meetings and organization and advocacy that arise at the intersection of unions and nonprofit or municipal employment – see the post for more on that.
TAKEAWAY: Regardless of the employer (private for-profit or non-profit or public/municipal), the National labor Relations Act governs certain rights and obligations and must be followed – engage a labor and employment lawyer.
The post on Wednesday 4/27/2022 was a reminder that just because a person is disabled does not mean an accommodation is reasonable (in the condo/HOA context). This post is about a lawsuit. The parties reside in a condominium association. Each owns a unit has parking spaces. The dispute is over the fact that when Mr. Grudziecki parks his car in his parking spot, even within the lines, it is difficult, if not impossible, to access the ramp to the garage entrance and elevator area from the left side, so owners who wish to access the elevator area must walk to the right side of the ramp when the Grudziecki car is parked there. So what, right? The Greenbergs, whose parking spaces are directly across from the Grudziecki spot, have a beef with that. It is detailed in the post – and they took it to court in 2018 because of Mrs. Greenberg’s disability. There were 4 counts in the 2nd amended complaint (listed in the post). The trial court granted summary judgement to Grudziecki; the analysis is in the post. On appeal, the court affirmed. The decision was based on the Declaration and the facts – see the post. The appeals court also ordered the Greenbergs to pay costs.
TAKEAWAY: The Declaration (and Bylaws and Rules & Regulations) govern any aspects of life in a community association – whether condominium or homeowners’. Disabilities and reasonable accommodation can come into play legally so consult a community association lawyer.
The post on Thursday 4/28/2022 was about condo/HOA director compensation: do I get paid for this? Yes, being on the Board for a condo or homeowners’ association is a lot of work and can be a thankless position, both of which discourages many owners from volunteering. But does that mean they can be paid? See the post for one answer.
TAKEAWAY: Entitlement to compen-sation by Directors of a condominium or homeowners’ association board may depend on the Governing Documents and applicable state law – consult a community association lawyer to make sure your Association stays on the right side of legal.
The post on Friday 4/29/2022 alerted to the CFPB blog on the dischargeability of private student loans in bankruptcy. Yes, this might affect you or your child(ren) so pay attention. In the blog post issued in early April, the CFPB argues that certain private education loans CAN be discharged in bankruptcy. The CFPB specifically argues that those private student loans listed in the post can be discharged without a showing of undue hardship and an adversary proceeding. Those loans are where the loan amount was higher than the cost of attendance (such as tuition, books, room, and board), which often occurs when a loan is paid directly to the consumer/student, loans to pay for education at schools that are not eligible for Title IV funding such as unaccredited colleges, a school in a foreign country, or unaccredited training and trade certificate programs, and 3 more categories of loans described in the post. The CFPB also relies information it (seemingly) obtained from the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC). This may well presage another enforcement push by the CFPB – but can be helpful to students/consumers in certain situations.
TAKEAWAY: If you are liable for student loans, yours or for your child(ren), they might be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Contact a bankruptcy attorney to find out the specifics.
Finally, in the post yesterday 4/30/2022 we learned the ABC’s of employment law: religious accommodation. This is so important for both employees and employers to know the law. The starting point is usually Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, color, and religion. Discrimination means treating one person differently (less favorably) because of one or more of those characteristics. But sometimes the law requires that an employer treat people differently; that is called a “reasonable accommodation.” Title VII didn’t originally require accommodation for religious beliefs, but the history of how it became part of the law is in the post (and interesting). Because of that, if an employee has a religious belief or practice that conflicts with a job requirement, the employer must at least try to accommodate the employee unless doing so would be an “undue hardship” for the employer. What an “undue hardship” means in this context is noted in the post. The employer has the burden of proving undue hardship in court. Before getting to – and hopefully avoiding – court, there are at least 3 questions employers should ask. First, Is the employee’s belief or practice “religious” in nature? If not, stop and go no further . If so, then ask the other questions (that are in the post. And in case you want to see how this all plays out, the post contains a cute hypothetical scenario.
TAKEAWAY: Know when you need to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs – consult an employment lawyer for assistance.