Suit over religious exemption from vax mandate; condo termination; compensation for inclement weather; Michael Scott apology video; and more in Our Social Media Posts This Week, Feb. 19-25, 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.

mgm resorts sued by ex-aria employee over vax mandate, claims religious exemption

The post on Sunday 2/19/2023 told us MGM Resorts sued by ex-Aria employee over vax mandate, claims religious exemption. Matthew Backes started to work at the Aria in June 2012 as Assistant Beverage Manager. He was eventually promoted to Bev Manager. He says he was terminated for refusing a COVID vaccine based on his “sincerely held Christian beliefs”. In August 2021, MGM announced that all salaried employees and new hires had to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 10/15/2021. The Aria had another and slightly different mandate – see the post. There was an alternative for those who refused the vaccine – again see the post. Backes timely submitted a request for religious exemption noting his reason and how he pro-posed to deal with the COVID situation (which is noted in the post). The Aria refused his requested exemption on the grounds that it would interfere with his guest and employee interactions. Backes filed a charge with the EEOC; in October 2022 it issued a Right to Sue Notice and he filed suit. Now we will see how the Aria’s denial in light of Backes’ proposed alternative (accommodation) will play out under applicable law.

        TAKEAWAY: COVID-19 may be endemic now, but employees must know how to legally deal with its workplace ramifications.

trainee police officer whose hearing aids turned police sirens into “torture” wins dscrimination claim

The post on Monday 2/20/2023 described how a trainee police officer whose hearing aids turned police sirens into ‘torture’ wins discrimination claim. Shafi Karim was a 5-year probationary officer who passed a hearing test upon initial employment. However, he struggled to hear instructions over the police radio and had feedback through his hearing aids.  Various changes were made to his work schedule (see the post) and he was eventually put on the emergency response team. An example of what happened in one training exercise is in the post. A private doctor provided an idea for a possible accommodation; Karim tried it with the cost split as noted in the post. But then the role plays using the accommodation didn’t always work out – see the post. Senior officers worried that the poor hearing could endanger people, so he was fired. The tribunal found he was wrongfully discharged and other accommodations should have been considered.

TAKEAWAY: Employers dealing with accommodating a hearing disability should consult an employment lawyer and the EEOC’s Guidance on hearing disabilities.

condominium termination: a potential path for repurposing and redeveloping aging condominium buildings

The post on Tuesday 2/21/2023 was about condominium termination: a potential path for repurposing and redeveloping aging condominium buildings. Terminating a condominium (or homeowners’) association rarely comes up due to the onerous voting requirements and legal ramifications. But it might be an attractive alternative in this economic climate, especially as some condo buildings near the end of their useful life and insurance premiums rise exponentially. The wake-up call was the collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida in June 2021. It literally and figuratively shook up the condominium world. After that collapse, lenders, regulators, insurers and potential buyers have all been more interested in the underlying issues and ramifications. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac added more stringent requirements for condo loan approvals (see the post). Several states have changed their laws relative to inspections, reserve studies and reserve funding (as described in the post) and more are under way. Condos built in the boom of the 1970’s and 1980’s are now 40-50 years old; some can be maintained, others cannot. Termination can occur pursuant to the requirements of the Declaration and applicable state law; once terminated, the restrictions in the Declaration no longer apply. OF course, the benefits and services provided by the association also no longer exist. And, as noted in the post, owners might need different or additional insurance coverage. Termination can happen after a developer approaches the association about a community (100%) buy-out or upon the sale of enough individual units that the buyer has enough votes to approve a termination. Documentation of the termination is to be accomplished pursuant to provisions of the Declaration and/or applicable state law. Likewise, what happens to the units and common property is determined by the Declaration and/or state law (some potential examples are in the post).   

TAKEAWAY: As lenders and regulators (including lawmakers) increase associa-tions’ obligations, associations and condo owners may want or need to consider alternatives to how they have been operating. Contacting a community association lawyer is a good starting point.

is it compensable? missing work due to inclement weather

The post on Wednesday 2/22/2023 asked: Is it compensable? Missing work due to inclement weather. The answer is: it depends. It might be snow and ice now, but at other times of the year it could be torrential rains or hurricanes or gale-force winds or dense fog … Many things can interfere with an employee’s ability to get to the workplace or cause a business to close. The answer usually lies with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Hourly, non-exempt employees are entitled to pay only for hours actually worked. How that plays out in inclement weather, even for those scheduled to work that day, is detailed in the post. But what about salaried, exempt workers? It depends if the business itself was open or closed. The post discusses both situations. But that’s not the end of the inquiry for either non-exempt or exempt employees any more. In this age of remote work, the facts may vary and pay may or may not be required. And finally, state laws may provide an overlay too.

        TAKEAWAY: Employers must know what and when to properly pay workers or they might find themselves in hot legal water. Employment lawyers can help.

convenience store company to pay $400K to settle claim that managers, CEO ignored sexual harassment

In the post on Thursday 2/23/2023 we saw a convenience store company to pay $400K to settle claim that managers, CEO ignored sexual harassment. McDonald Oil Co is based in Georgia.  It is now a settling respondent in a suit by the EEOC. A male at a store in Alabama allegedly subjected female employees to a score of sexually inappropriate remarks and more (see the post). The women complained to multiple managers, a district manager and the CEO, but nothing was done (well, almost nothing, see the post). The police were finally called when a manager received an inappropriate message on social media (as described in the post). McDonald has agreed to settle the allegations by the monetary payment and other noon-monetary relief, including training management and the other items noted in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Statistics show that the food service and retail industries have some of the highest rates of sexual harassment complaints and that the South has a disproportionate number of EEOC filings. Employers must know how to protect their employees and businesses from sexual harassment.

The Michael Scott (yes, of The OFfice) apology video to his condo association. Photo credit NBC.

The post on Friday 2/24/2023 was about the Michael Scott (yes, of The Office) apology video to his condo associa-tion. Some you may be Superfans and know about deleted episodes. Some of those deleted episodes include other (than the first one described in the post) apologies by Michael. Pam said that she often helps Michael film his apology videos (why is in the post). But one of those is one that Pam probably wants to forget about. It is an apology video to his condo association related to a situation he created. It starts by saying “And without delaying the seriousness of the situation” and then continues as quoted in the post. And it is that part that is perfect Michael Scott. The post has a link to deleted scenes from Season 3.

TAKEAWAY: While community associations are creatures of law, humor sometimes helps us get through the day.

doj secures resolution in sexual harassment lawsuit against schuylkill county, pennsylvania.

Finally, in the post yesterday 2/25/2023, we learned that DOJ secures resolution in sexual harassment lawsuit against Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Remember that the law does not differentiate among who is liable for illegal actions.  The settlement happened in mid-January 2023 and resolved a suit filed by DOJ in federal court. The complaint alleged that a County Commissioner, George Halcovage, sexually harassed four female employees and that they experienced retaliation after complaining. Details of the ugly allegations (sexual advances, coerced intercourse and more over several years) are in the post. The settlement includes the county retaining a consultant (form a list approved by DOJ) to take the actions listed in the post. Equally as important are restrictions on Halcovage, who refuses to resign (how he can be removed is noted in the post). And the women who were (allegedly)_ subjected to his actions? They will continue to pursue their claims under state and federal law.  A link to the DOJ’s press release about the settlement is also in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Nobody is above the law – employees are entitled to a safe workplace without harassment or discrimination. Work with an employment lawyer to keep your workplace free of such actions and behaviors (and keep yourself out of lawsuits).

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