In the post on Sunday 8/22/21 we learned what you should not say when employees return to work. First, don’t confuse returning to the office with returning to work – they are different things. Employees have been working at home throughout the pandemic (and some still do). What will change is that many now are, or soon will be, working from the office. So, what should you not say to employees as they (or at least some of them) return to the office to work? First, don’t tell them you are changing their status from employee to contractor if they continue to work from home. Not only is that demoralizing for them, but it also puts you as the employer in a heap of legal trouble. Next, don’t mandate all employees’ presence in the office with no exceptions. That is another way to ask for legal trouble – the basis of which is in the post. Two more things not to say to employees upon returning to the office are also in the post, along with some explanation of why you should not make those statements.
TAKEAWAY: Not only must you train employees on what they can and cannot say, you too must know what you can or should (not) say to avoid legal troubles.
The post on Monday 8/23/21 noted that ADA Title III website accessibility lawsuits are on the rise (and suggested you don’t want to be one of the defendants). In 2020 alone, there were about 11,000 such suits field in federal courts! Title III of the ADA traditionally focused on physical accessibility (such as handicap parking and restroom accessibility) but has now moved to website accessibility. The claims are usually brought by a visually impaired or other disabled individual who alleges they cannot use a website for the reasons noted in the post. Of the Title III suits filed in 2020, over 2000 (so almost 20%) were related to website accessibility. This number will only grow. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. For more on the backstory, see the post. Regardless, all signs point to an increase in website accessibility claims and suits.
TAKEAWAY: Ensure that your website is accessible – contact an IT professional for assistance.
The post on Tuesday 8/24/21 was about workplace savvy: legally, most employers can require workers to be vaccinated – and may want to (re)consider it in light of the delta variant. Your company may be one of the many across the nation that offered incentives for employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Those incentives may have bene like the ones mentioned in the post. and due to changing circumstances, including the delta variant, you may have decided to move to a mandatory vaccination policy. You have two good bases of support for that decision. First, the EEOC’s Guidance permitting such policies (as long as they permit exceptions under the ADA and for religious reasons). One thing that does NOT qualify as a valid basis for exemption for sincerely held religious beliefs is in the post (and work noting). The second basis of support is legal – and also in the post. Again, take note.
TAKEAWAY: If you intend to put in place a mandatory vaccination policy, make sure part of it is how you will deal with exceptions for medical disability or religious beliefs – get legal assistance if unsure.
The post on Wednesday 8/25/21 explained how to get condo and HOA board members the professional help they need. Board members are those people with huge accountability and sometimes not much real authority, right? Why do we say that? Because the Governing Documents dictate how many things must be done – or that the owners, and not the board, must decide. And what is the #1 thing on which owners base those decisions? Take a guess and see the post. Thankfully, that may have changed in light of the recent and tragic Surfside disaster. Municipalities are also taking a look at laws and ordinances post-Surfside. So more than ever board members are caught between the frying pan and the fire (see the post for a translation of this analogy). Good board members should be able to depend on professionals to help them make decisions; one of those professionals is a project manager (when in the realm of repairs and maintenance). What does a project manager bring to the table? Skills and a proven track record and the other things noted in the post. All of that works to help board members fulfill their fiduciary duties.
TAKEAWAY: Professionals dedicated to working with and helping community associations can be found through the Community Associations Institute; the Keystone Chapter works specifically with associations in PA and NJ.
In the post on Thursday 8/26/2021 we learned about surprising things that a homeowner can be fined for. Ah, life in a planned community / community association (and more). The list varies from association to association, but the post mentions 13 that seem to top the surprise! list. The first is planting too many roses. This one is from Santa Fe, CA. This case went to court and the decision was against the homeowner (who also was responsible for the association’s $70,000 legal bill). And then more happened – see the post. The Number 2 surprising no-no is putting upholstered furniture outside – in Boulder, CO. This is prohibited by municipal ordinance in one neighborhood (with exception – see the post). Even the fine is specified (and might not be worth doing the deed). Numbers 3-7 have to do with donkeys, cat traps, clotheslines, annoying neighbors while watering, and hanging colored lights. See the post for those. #8 is a prohibition against setting up yard sales the wrong way. You will be surprised to find out where it cannot be held – see the post. Numbers 9 – 12 deal with garage doors, the color of swing sets, parking a truck in your driveway, and the height of dandelions. Yes, they are detailed in the post. The final surprising no-no is installing a too-tall fence or having it considered a public nuisance. And after that, you might be on the hook for damages as noted in the post. Clearly that saying ‘good fences make good neighbors” does not hold true all the time.
TAKEAWAY: Condo and homeowner associations follow their Governing Documents (Declaration/CCR’s, Bylaws and Rules & Regulations). Know what is prohibited before buying into the community.
The post on Friday 8/27/21 asked: what can employers do about employees who refuse to refer to transgender employees by their preferred names or pronouns? In short, a lot if it’s private employment. Including termination. If the employment is at-will, and this is the reason, discharge is non-discriminatory and legally valid. Even if there is a contract, if the proper process has been followed (such as the example in the post), then discharge may still be the result. But can an employee successfully argue that referring to transgender persons by their chosen name or pronoun violates the sincerely held religious beliefs of that employee? That argument pits one employee’s right to freedom of religious belief against another employee’s right to be free from discrimination. The post tells us who wins that battle and why. We can also learn from the post one possible way to resolve the issue short of discharge.
TAKEAWAY: Sometimes one employee’s rights can trump another employee’s separate rights – know which is which legally with assistance from an employment lawyer.
Finally, in the post yesterday 8/28/21, we read about scripts for terminating an employee professionally. It is unfortunate, but sometimes you have to end someone’s employment. And it is best to do it the right way so that you are more likely to stay out of the lawsuit fire. So how do you “do” termi-nation the professional way? First, document everything. Have a paper trail that supports the decision to terminate. That might include some of the things noted in the post. You should also have a plan of action for the meeting with the employee to advise of termination. How to carry out that plan is in the post. And what about the scripts itself? It will vary depending on the reason, such as for violation of a rule or policy, a regular layoff, and other bases. Samples are in the post. And what about final pay, insurance, severance (if applicable), return of property, and more? Yep, all in the post. And how to handle the employee’s emotions? Also in the post. Finally, there are things you should NOT do in the termination meeting with the employee. They include saying you are sorry (other than a straight layoff) and the others noted in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Terminating an employee is part and parcel of being a manager/ owner, but not a nice part. Knowing how to do it in such a way as to minimize hurt to the employee and potential legal liability of the company is key – get legal assistance if needed.