In the post on Sunday 7/10/2022 we learned that Ramsey Solutions settles discrimination lawsuit from former employee who came out as lesbian. The suit alleged that the corporation pressured an employee to resign after the employee came out as a lesbian. This suit by Julie Anne Stamps was only one of three federal suits filed against the company by former employees in the past few years. The company is headed by Dave Ramsey who is a finance guru, hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is a conservative evangelical Christian. Stamp’s complaint, from September 2021, alleged an institutionalized pattern of views on sexuality and gender; what that was, and how it affected employees, is in the post. Ramsey’s faith values influence company policies. That is borne out by at least one provision in the employee handbook that is quoted in the post. Stamps came out to her supervisor in May 2020; the interactions that followed, and the effect on Stamps, are in the post. When Stamps told her supervisor that she was going to be open about her sexuality, the supervisor took action (that is in the post). Stamps’ complaint also alleges that the timing of the action was changed based on the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision. The company did not comment on the settlement (although it denied the allegations within the suit). A bit about the other two pending suits is also in the post (along with what Ramsey himself said after the 3 suits were filed and the criteria he uses to hire a lawyer to defend against the suits).
TAKEAWAY: Where there’s smoke, there is often fire. In the employment context, that means that employers should ensure no decisions or actions cause “smoke” that might result in a finding of an illegal “fire”.
The post on Monday 7/11/2022 noted that an ADA settlement with YMCA ensures equal opportunities for children with diabetes. Allegations in the suit were that the YMCA did not reasonably modify its policies for a child with diabetes. The policies related to after-school programming. What the YMCA did (or in this case, did not do) that violated the ADA is described in the post. The settlement includes adoption of a non-discrimination policy to ensure ADA compliance and the other monetary and non-monetary items noted in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t forget about Title III of the ADA – it prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation. This is broad and may well include your workplace.
The post on Tuesday 7/12/2022 told us a sinking condo dispute lands in court. Yes, this is just sad all around. Vanessa Brown was so proud when she bought her first home. Now, decades later, she faces a foreclosure on that home – and fears the walls may literally come down before she gets a court date. Brown is a minister and retired clinician; her unit is one of 17 condos in a 2-building complex. What is the current standard of living in most of the units? See the post. In 2015, Brown stopped paying her association fees – her basis for that is in the post. So recently the condo association voted to foreclose against Brown for not paying the assessments which now total over $21,000. The question – and an argument by Brown and other owners – is how much responsibility lies at the fees of the city and state. Brown bought her home in 1997 for $66,000; at that time, many of the other units were valued at over $100,000. IN 2002 she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She went into remission about a decade later and then saw lines cutting through her walls. In 2015 she got cancer again – worse this time. And more bad things occurred with the condo as noted in the post. Then last year there was a property reevaluation; appraised values severely shrunk as noted in the post, she discovered she had breast cancer, and the foreclosure began. So why did values decrease so sharply? See the post as to the reason given by the structural engineer and how it kept compounding (literally and figuratively) over the years. And it’s not all structural; no, there are maintenance and upkeep issues too. What is the management company supposedly not doing? See the post. And that is but one reason the association is considering becoming self- managed. The association’s president said he thinks there are 4 types of people in the association: those who purchased condos on the west side long ago before the current issue was discovered; those who bought later at the basement price, knowing the risk; and the 2 others noted in the post. The state is paying for crumbling condo foundations in wealthy towns, but not here. There is talk about what the state can do, but … see the post.
TAKEAWAY: Buying any home entails the risk of future issues with construction. While homes in planned communities (mainly condominium or homeowners’ associations) seems safer due to the maintenance obligation of the association, buyers should know their legal rights and obligations and consult with a community association lawyer.
The post on Wednesday 7/13/2022 told us a federal appellate court finds specific allegation of one-time use of racial slur sufficient to preclude dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). Anthony Woods is a Black man working for the French market. He was supervised by N’Gai Smith who is of Hispanic descent. Woods’ employment was terminated after a physical altercation, the facts underlying which are in the post. Woods represented himself in this case; the complaint alleged violation of at least 21 laws and named multiple defendants in addition to the French market. The trial court’s ruling dismissing the case was 44 pages long and included an analysis of the race-based hostile environment claim in which Woods alleged that his super-visor, in the presence of other employees, called him a derogatory racial epithet. What exactly the supervisor said is described in the post. The trial court said that the one-time incident or remark was insufficient to support Woods’ claim and dismissed that claim (with the others). Woods appealed. The appellate court issued a short 4-page opinion in which it affirmed dismissal of all claims EXCEPT the hostile environment claim. The appellate court looked to decisions from the First, Second, Fourth, Seventh, Eight, Ninth and DC Circuits in reversing; the basis, including a quote from then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh when he was on the DC Circuit, is in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Would this play out the same in PA? Notice that the Third Circuit (which issues decisions binding in PA) is not among those listed as having decisions that played into the one here, so probably not at this time, but given the reasoning in this case and the right facts, things might play out the same in PA. Consult an employment lawyer as to your facts and applicable law.
In the post on Thursday 7/14/2022 taught us that the proposed overtime Rule now projected to come out in Fall 2022. DOL announced this when its regulatory agenda came out on June 21st. The Rule will recommend how to implement the exemption of bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. First will probably be adjusting the salary level. Where might that go? See the post. Accompanying that might be an automatic periodic or annual increase to the salary level – how that might be accomplished is noted in the post. There is also the duties test; DOL might finally modify the Regs. One line of thought is that they will be brought more in line with what California currently does (which is noted in the post). If that happens, many employees who are currently exempt will no longer be exempt. Whatever changes are made, litigation is almost a sure bet.
TAKEAWAY: No changes are yet confirmed, but know what might be out there and how it will affect your workforce.
The post on Friday 7/15/2022 showed (another) HOA sues homeowner over unpaid fees – and moves toward foreclosure. This time the occurrence is in FL. Nicole Locantro is being sued by the Association for not paying assessments. She allegedly owes $10,215; of what that consists is detailed in the post. The associa-tion wants immediate payment or the ability to foreclose. Locantro purchased the home in 2016 for $575,000. There are also initiation and membership fees due to the association plus the annual dues (which are in addition to quarterly maintenance fees of $2,800), all of which amounts are pretty hefty – sit down and then see the post. The association’s management agent tried to collect the amount due, to no avail.
TAKEAWAY: Owners of homes in planned communities, whether a condo-minium or homeowners’ association, are required to pay all amounts due. Failure to pay might lead to suit, including for foreclosure. Know the rights and obligations of both owners and the association.
Finally, in the post yesterday 7/16/2022, we learned about the hazards of remote employee layoffs: wage and hour issues, severance agreements, and unemployment claims. Remote work covered a small percentage of workers pre-pandemic but exploded in the last few years. And now that employers are cutting back on their workforces due to the slowing economy, there are issues that must be considered relative to remote employees. First, which law applies to final paychecks, that of the state in which the employer is located or where the employee is working? Normally it will be the latter, but both states’ laws should be reviewed for the answer. And what about requests by those remote employees whose employment is being terminated for access to or copies of their personnel files? See the post. Can the employer provide a severance agreement to the separating employee? Maybe; see the post. And what repercussions might the employer experi-ence when the employee files a claim for unemployment? Again, see the post. There are other things to be considered when ending the employment of a remote employee that don’t come up with someone who is works in person; see the post for those items and possible solutions.
TAKEAWAY: Remote employees have been a boon to employees in many ways, but also present new complications upon termination of those relationships. Consultation with an employment lawyer can save or prevent future headaches for employers.