In the post on Sunday 6/26/2022 we had a small business owner’s guide to federal employment laws – what you need to know. To treat employees fairly and provide a good and healthy work environment, you need to know what you can and cannot due under applic-able laws and for that, you need to know what those laws are. They start with wage and hour laws in the Fair Labor Standards Act (federal law). The FLSA sets the federal minimum wage (states can set higher minimum wages) and requires the payment of overtime. It also deals with the timing of wage payments, misclassification, and rules for younger workers, all as noted in the post. You also need to know about employment eligibility and equal pay – those laws too are discussed in the post. There are also equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, several in fact. They include Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act), GINA, and others listed and discussed in the post. You also need to know about leave laws like USERRA and the FMLA; a discussion of each is in the post. The post also includes discussion of occupational safety laws, whistleblower laws, employee benefit laws (including HIPAA and COBRA), and labor relations laws (and remember that at least part of the National Labor Relations Act applies to ALL employers, so don’t discount this one). Read the post for more details.
TAKEAWAY: Know what laws apply to your workplace and what they require or prohibit; get advice from an employment lawyer as needed.
The post on Monday 6/27/2022 was about casino worker wins $120K because she was not invited to after-work drinks. Interested? The plaintiff, of mixed black African heritage, said she felt shunned by colleagues because they did not give her an invitation to a Latin American restaurant for drinks which they were discussing in her presence. Before that she’s complained about an alleged violation of the company’s DEI policy – how that was resolved is in the post. She also complained about how she was treated after making the first complaint – details are in the post. She eventually sued. The court ruled that she was entitled to damages on several bases (noted in the post), including that she lost the opportunity to bond with colleagues on that social occasion. Other claims she included in her suit were also successful (and are noted in the post).
TAKEAWAY: This case would probably not turn out the same in the US, but it would be extremely fact-dependent.
The post on Tuesday 6/28/2022 told us an HOA demands father of fallen officer remove ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag he’s flown for 5 years. Come with me through the looking glass to the world of condo and homeowner associations, where various documents contain restrictions that residents must follow. Here Thomas had been flying the flag to honor his son Steven who was killed while reporting to a shooting at an Ohio nursing home. The flag is a version of the American flag. Where it came from is in the post. He ahs to take it down for a bit to repair the flagpole, and then the issue arose. Someone came into his yard … you just have to read it in the post. Thomas, a disabled vet on oxygen, couldn’t believe it. He made the person leave, but then the person returned and removed Thomas’s American flag and the other flag. Thomas contacted the police. No that did not end it. Then the HOA got involved. They told him the Thin Blue Line flag had to be removed; their basis is in the post. Thomas disagrees. The matter is pending.
TAKEAWAY: Know not only what restrictions there are when you move into a planned community, but that they can change after you move in. Have a community association lawyer review the legal documents with you BEFORE you purchase in a condo or homeowners’ association.
The post on Wednesday 6/29/2022 told us a store manager accuses Co-op of racial discrimination. This case, as are many, is factually-dependent. The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society announced it was seeking a new CEO. Doren Hall eagerly applied. He so wanted to oversee the 4 grocery stores, 2 auto service centers and commercial kitchen. Hall had extensive experience in the industry including the last 5 at one of the Co-op’s locations. Hall is a 50-year old Black man. His hiring was supported by one whose opinion should have weighed heavily– see the post. The day after Hall interviewed, a member of the Co-op board’s search committee called and told him he was not going to be considered further. Hall filed a complaint for race discrimination with the state agency. The Co-op hired a female. Normally charges of discrimination are not public, but Hall made his public. He wanted to bring to light the discrimination he says he’s suffered over the last 5 years. The Co-op, which is over 90 years old, has a 12-member board that includes 2 employees. The constituency of the search committee is noted in the post. Hall mentioned a few things that have happened – just in the last six months – that support his claim; they are detailed in the post (and should make you cringe). Hall also put a Black Lives Matter poster in his office, but removed it when an employee said he was offended by it and the board suggested he take it down. Why Hall complied is noted in the post. This isn’t the Co-op’s first brush with the law. An incident form 2014 is described in the post as well as something from 2016. And how Hall got to the Co-op and his history that helped him with his duties. And what did Hall say about the woman who was selected for the CEO position? See the post.
TAKEAWAY: make sure that decisions that affect persons in protected categories are supported by valid, legal bases. Run them by an employment lawyer to be sure.
The post on Thursday 6/30/2022 teaches us why at-will employment matters. First, what is at-will employment? It means that the employee can quit at any time, with or without notice, and that the employee can be fired at any time, with or without reason, and with or without notice, as long as the termination is not for an illegal reason. There are ways to alter at-will employment; see the post. State and federal laws govern employment relationships. For example, the National Labor Relations Act normally applies to unionized workplaces (or those where employees seek to unionize), but the Act also benefits employees not in the union as noted in the post.
TAKEAWAY: know what if any guaranty of continued employment there is and how the relationship can legally be ended (by the employer or employee).
The post on Friday 7/1/2022 asked: Where forum are thou? Is the chosen forum akin to no forum at all (and the possible effect on condo/homeowner associations in PA)? What we are talking about here is where suit can, or must, be brought according to contractual terms. That can be very important – and might even make or break a case. The issue came up in this case as to whether a forum selection clause in a manufacturer’s warranty was enforceable as to a condo association who was not a party to the warranty/contract. Both at the trial court level and then on appeal the decision held that the association was indeed bound, meaning that the FL association had to litigate in NJ. Let’s look at the facts. The association contracted with several parties for repairs to the exterior. Sika, a NJ corporation, gave a 5-year warranty to the association in 2016. In 2019 the association sued the construction contractors, then added a claim against Sika for breach of warranty. Sika filed a motion to dismiss because of the forum selection clause in its warranty. The association argued that it was not bound by the provision since it had not signed the warranty (and another argument noted in the post). How state law works relative to forum selection provisions is explained in the post. The court said that the association was bound by that provision even though it had not signed the warranty. Why? Because the claim at issue arose directly from the warranty and more as described in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Every association should look at every contract or other legal document to see where in which court it might need to file suit, or into which court it might be hauled if the other party files suit, and take that into consideration BEFORE signing the contract/agreement. Get advice from your community association lawyer.
Finally, in the post yesterday 7/2/2022 we saw that Apple Store workers approve union, the first in the U.S. (and just down the road in Towson, MD). Is this just the first apple domino? We’ve been watching it happen at various Starbucks locations, and an Amazon warehouse, and now it’s Apple’s turn. The vote came in mid-June and was 65-33. In May a letter had been sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook letting him know of the intent to organize and the proposed union’s name; that is in the post. One store employee said that Apple tried to undermine the union drive; how he saw the vote in the future is discussed in the post. Apparently employees from a failed unionizing campaign at an Atlanta-area Apple Store provided information to the MD employees such as noted in the post. Two other Apple Store locations are also trying to organize, but one has withdrawn its request on the basis noted in the post. What managers allegedly told some Apple Store employees in NY about their organizing drive is noted in the post. Apple has over 270 retail locations around the US. The things that most concern them are listed in the post, including giving stores more control over scheduling rather than having that go through the corporate office.
TAKEAWAY: Employees are more forceful about going after what they want from an employer, regardless of size – keep your employees happy to avoid a union push in your workplace.