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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week -- June 22 – 28, 2014

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.

First up, the post on Sunday 6/22/14 was about the alleged discord and discrimination on the Grey’s Anatomy set. A former crew member filed suit, alleging his discharge was based on gender discrimination and harassment – when he spoke out about the director’s alleged actions and behavior toward women, he was fired. The defendants in the lawsuit are ABC Studios and Disney-ABC International Television. Stay tuned ...

TAKEAWAY: Reminder to employers: not only can you not act against an employee based on a discriminatory motive, you cannot retaliate against them for complaining about a possibly illegal practice.

On Monday 6/23/14 the post was about a potential FHA rule squeezing home buyers and sellers (even more). So what’s happening? FHA is considering restricting financing in HOA-governed communities that impose transfer fees.  Not the fee for providing a resale certificate, but the transfer fee – often this is put toward capital reserves. This change came about because HUD’s office of general counsel has warned FHA that it cannot insure mortgages for properties that have restrictions on conveyance, which includes transfer fees on sale of units in HOA-governed communities). Since many mortgages are FHA-insured, this could have a far-reaching effect on resale of homes in many communities.

TAKEAWAY: HOAs should consider whether the benefits of transfer fees outweigh the current inability of potential buyers of homes in the community to obtain FHA-insured mortgages (and perhaps think of other ways to increase their capital reserves).

Next, on Tuesday 6/24/14 we posted about the considerations before co-signing on a mortgage (legal and otherwise). What are two things to keep in mind? The loan -- and (non)payments -- will show up on your credit report; and you are 100% liable for the amount of the mortgage (meaning the lender can collect it all form you and leave you to try to collect some or all from the borrower(s).  Go to the post for more.

TAKEAWAY: Signing any legal document – and a mortgage IS a legal document – should not be done lightly. Make sure you know your rights and obligations BEFORE signing.

On Wednesday 6/25/14 the post was about the fact that fines for ADA violations just got more expensive. Of course, everyone reading this is 100% compliant with every law out there, so this won’t matter … But just in case you are in the minority, be aware of this. The new fines are $75,000 for the first offense and $150,000 for subsequent violations. Those amounts are in addition to any settlement payment that may be sought or agreed upon.

TAKEAWAY: Lest employers think all they are responsible for is paying the employee what is needed to make him/her whole, think again; there are still penalties due to the government too for violations.

On Thursday 6/26/14 we talked about whether you have to hold a job after FMLA leave if the business takes a turn for the worse. Remember that the FMLA is federal law, so it doesn’t’ matter where the employer is located if it is subject to that law. The FMLA includes a reinstatement provision, but that does not trump real business needs. If the business has experienced problems that necessitate changes in the employee’s job – from cutting hours to cutting pay to eliminating the position -- then document the problems and how that relates to the position change.

TAKEAWAY:  Absent discrimination, an employer can base job changes on legitimate business needs.

The post on Friday 6/27/14 reminded of an employer’s responsibility to protect employees from harassment – even by customers. This is referred to as third-party harassment. What were some of the things that happened to the employee? The harasser called her a “black b****,” regularly bragged about his sexual exploits, passed gas on her phone, and even used the “n” word in front of her. The court said that there could be liability if the company knew or should have known about the harassment and if it did not act “swiftly and decisively enough once it knew of the inappropriate conduct”. 

TAKEAWAY:  Employers tend to look inward in an attempt to prevent and restrain harassment and discrimination. They must remember to look outward, at customers and others, too in an attempt to fulfill their responsibilities to employees.

Finally, the post yesterday 6/28/14 was about whether an employer can require a fitness-for-duty exam after FMLA and ADA leave. The quick answer is yes, but certain requirements must be met. In the case discussed in the post, the employee was out on FMLA leave and, when that was exhausted, leave under the ADA. The employer brought her back to work, placed her on paid administrative leave, and requested that she get a medical exam. Since the employer reinstated her prior to asking for the exam, and because the employer was paying for the exam, it was job-related, and it was consistent with business necessity, there was no violation by the employer.

TAKEAWAY: Leave under the FMLA and ADA do not mean the employer cannot ensure employees are ready and able to return to work – they just have to do it in a way that complies with the legal requirements.

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