Ugly claims of discrimination in suits against Mark Zuckerberg; confusion on religious exemptions to vaccine mandates; association liability for murder of neighbor; FLSA and paid lunch breaks; and more in Our Social Media Posts This Week, Nov. 7 – 13, 2021.

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.

mark zuckerberg, wife priscilla chan, and companies sued by former employees for discrimination and harassment. ugly allegations.

In the post on Sunday 11/07/2021 we saw that two former employees sued Mark Zuckerberg, wife Priscilla Chan and companies for discrimination and harassment.  The suit claims racial, gender and sexual orientation and disability discrimination and harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination (among other things). There are 2 separate suits. They were filed by Mia King, a female, and a male noted as John Doe. Both are part of the LGBTQ community, while King is Black and Doe has medical disabilities. The Chan Zuckerberg family office said the complaints were thoroughly investigated and found not to be substantiated. So what are the bases for the claims? King worked for a company that operates on behalf of the Zuckerberg family and other entities tied to Chan and Zuckerberg and the other corporation. She worked as a security operations assistant from May 2018 – February 2019. She alleges that from the start of employment her supervisor regularly made comments hinting that she got the position because she was Black and not qualified. Examples of the comments are in the post. The supervisor even brought the British royal family into things and at time even Priscilla Chan (in a derogatory fashion). And that’s not all. He allegedly also made inappropriate, overtly sexualized comments directed at openly gay employees while in King’s presence, including Doe. Again, the details are in the post. King was offended by the homophobic remarks. And yes, there’s still more. The supervisor allegedly targeted women by using sexually charged, degrading words and more as noted in the post. When King complained, the HR Manager responded. Her response is in the post. Other super-visors to whom King complained merely told her to talk to the harassers about the conduct. King felt as if she were being retaliated against in her January 2019 evaluation; see why and how in the post. About a month later she was (unsurprisingly) written up and disciplined  by the supervisor against whom she made all of the allegations. She complained about that too to upper management. What happened? See the post. And then there is Doe’s suit. It is similar but involves a different corporate entity. And surprise surprise (ok, not really), most of the harassment and discrimination he suffered was at the hands of the same supervisor involved in King’s suit. The post contains the litany of factual allegations by Doe. At one point, after complaining to the HR Manager, Doe leaned that she shared his medical information with other employees (which resulted in even more allegedly illegal conduct by the supervisor as noted in the post). After going to senior management, he was accused of a policy violation. The chain of events that set into motion is detailed in the post.

TAKEAWAY: No matter how rich or powerful an employer might be, it is still subject to the same anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws as every other employer. Consult an employment lawyer for assistance with your situation.

confusion over religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates

The post on Monday 11/08/2021 was about vaccine mandates and religious exemptions: why employers are confused. By Executive Order on January 20, 2021, the President required federal department and agency heads to require compliance with CDC COVID guidelines by federal employees, on-site contractors and every-one in a federal building or on federal land. Then came another Executive Order on September 9, 2021, by which the President required federal employees to be vaccinated. The same day President Biden also mentioned the impending OSHA rule that would apply to employers with more than 100 employees and deal with vaccina-tion, testing, and time for same. There are also state and local rules and regulations regarding vaccine mandates. So what does an employer do when an employee notes a religious objection to vaccination? The EEOC issued Guidance on October 25, 2021, trying to answer that question. The employer must attempt to provide an accommo-dation for sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would be an undue hardship. And what are the steps to follow? See the post (which starts from the moment the employee raises the objection and continues through the accommodation process). The post contains questions an employer can ask to ascertain if the religious belief is sincerely held. The undue hardship burden under Title VII (which applies to this type of situation) is noted in the post; it is different than the undue hardship burden under the ADA (which is also noted in the post). Examples of what would meet the burden under Title VII are in the post along with some sample accommodation that might be offered. Employees might not like suggested sample accommodation #5, but it is legal. A link to the EEOC’s Guidance is also in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Know the law and how you must respond to an employee’s objection to a mandated vaccine. Have your employment lawyer at the ready to assist.

association sold unit out from under widow: legal?

The post on Tuesday 11/09/2021 told us a condo association sold unit after denying widow a transfer of ownership. Huh? The condo was titled to her husband; he’d owned it for more than 10 years. After he dies, she asked that the Board approve transfer of title into her name; they said no. The post explains why the Board had approval/rejection rights. There is another condo nearby in her name, but she liked the view in this unit. After the Board rejected the transfer, it sold the unit. She received a deposit from the buyer. What her attorney said as to how this will play out – and why he thinks the Board denied the transfer – is in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Make sure to read the Declaration and Bylaws for your Association and know what rights and obligations owners and the Board have to each other. Contact a community association lawyer to ensure you know what is and is not legal.

back to basics: flsa and paid lunch breaks

The post on Wednesday 11/10/2021 went back to basics: what the FLSA has to say about lunch. Even though more employees are heading back to the employer’s place of business, either part- or full-time, the FLSA applies to ALL of their work, wherever performed. It is therefore imperative to know what the FLSA does or does not require relative to paid lunch breaks. First, the FLSA does NOT require that an employer provide meal or other breaks (but states and local municipalities might). On the other hand, the FLSA does require that employees be paid for all work hours. So what does that mean for short breaks? See the post. Meal breaks are different, They are usually at least 30 minutes and can be unpaid, as long as one condition is met. See the post for that all-important condition. Employers should look at all facts surrounding the meal break – including those noted in the post – to determine if it is compensable or not. With all of that, can employers institute an automatic deduction from pay for unpaid mealtimes? Yes. But should they? Well … see the post on why that might not be such a good idea.

TAKEAWAY: Make sure policies on breaks and mealtimes are conveyed to employees and enforced – and that they are paid for all work hours as defined by the FLSA and Department of Labor’s regulations. Contact an employment lawyer if needed to keep out of hot water.

veterans’ day – honor and knowing the law

In the posts on Thursday 11/11/2021, here, here and here, we honored our veterans – living and deceased – and thanked them for their sacrifices. We also learned a bit about Veterans Day history too. See the post.

TAKEAWAY: Reminder: not only have many veterans made the ultimate sacrifice, those who are with us have certain statutory rights relative to employment. Know the rights and obligations under USERRA.

association liability for neighbor’s murder by another neighbor

The post on Friday 11/12/2021 told us that a NASA employee was found guilty of murdering association neighbor who was also National Guardsman. This post followed our post on 11/4/2021. Michael Hetle worked in NASA’s HQ on risk mitigation. He had also been a police officer in Bellevue, Washington. Hetle said he was acting in self-defense when he fired 7 bullets into Javon Prather, a 4-year infantryman. The District Attorney charac-terized it differently: that Hetle executed Prather. The facts are not what you would expect. They were neighbors and had been feuding for years (as noted in our 11/4/2021 post). Hetle had made many complaints to the association about the loud noise and drinking coming from the unit owned by Prather and his wife. What else did Hetle claim about Prather? See the post. The jury found Hetle guilty of murder and is set to be sentenced in January.

TAKEAWAY: Under the FHA, Associations are responsible for certain actions taken (or not taken) by owners and residents within the community. Know what steps an association has to take to avoid liability in a potential situation. Get counsel from a community association lawyer.

no appeal in race discrimination case involving university police chief

Finally, in the post yesterday 11/13/2021, we saw that a court won’t hear appeal in race discrimination case. Hughes is a former City of Youngstown (OH) police chief who sued Youngstown State University for race discrimination and retaliation when it did not hire him as its police chief. Let’s look at the background. The job was first posted on February 15, 2017. A search committee met March 3rd and held interviews March 16 and 17. Then they recommended 3 applicants  for another interview on March 23, the day Hughes applied. Hughes and 7 other people (5 of whom were white and 3 Black) applied after March 10 and were not interviewed. What information did the search committee have about applicants? See the post. After being told he would not be considered, Hughes sent a letter to the University in early April calling out what he deemed a mistake in not being interviewed. The University responded with the reason why (see the post). On April 17, the University announced the hiring of Varso, the interim chief and 21-year veteran of the force. Varso is White. Hughes has an issue with the job posting; the University has  a response. Both are in the post. At the time Varso was hired, Hughes was employed by the University police as noted in the post. Hughes filed a  charge with the state civil rights commission on May 25, 2017; the commission’s finding is in the post. Hughes filed suit in April 2018. The state trial court granted summary judgment to the University (on one interesting basis – see the post). Hughes appealed and was knocked down again. Then came this decision by the state Supreme Court. Hughes characterizes his legal question as whether the committee’s refusal to consider his application, given the facts noted in the post, was an adverse employment action. How the University responds, and what may happen next, are both in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Make sure all applicants and employees are on even footing for hiring, disciplinary, and firing actions. Make sure there is a trail of what was or wasn’t not done and why. You will help yourself and your employment lawyer will thank you if suit is filed.

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