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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week -- June 8 – 14, 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 6/8/14 was about the 5 biggest killers of an employee’s confidence. What are they? 1. Fear of being laughed out of the room. 2. Pressure to do things right. 3.  When it’s all about results. (go to the post to read the other two.)

TAKEAWAY: If you expect your employees to produce for you, give them the means to do so – don’t handcuff them.

On Monday 6/9/14 the post talked about Walgreens ok in firing a 58-year-old assistant store manager for poor customer service. Here, the person was hired when 55 years old. A few years after hire, he was transferred to a different store. An incident occurred, resulting in a customer complaint and a final write-up for the employee for poor customer service. Four months later, after another customer service incident, he was fired. He brought suit under the ADEA. After knocking down all of his arguments, the court found no pretense, but merely adherence to the stated policy, so Walgreens won.

TAKEAWAY: A discharge can be lawful even if the employee has one or more protected characteristics; don’t be afraid to evenly enforce valid policies.

Next, on Tuesday 6/10/14 we talked about a legal setback for UPS’ leave policy. This deals with the application of the ADA and job attendance. The policy, put into place in 2002, was that UPS would "administratively separate from employment” employees after 12 months of leave. One employee at issue began her employment in 1990; she took a medical leave in February 2006, returning February 2007. Thereafter, she injured herself and the medical condition worsened; she asked for time off to deal with both. UPS’ answer? It fired her under the leave policy. Another employee also began working at UPS in 1990; in 2006 she was transferred to a different area which worsened her medical condition. Her doctor requested transfer back to the prior work location; instead, UPS put her on leave and then fired her after 12 months when she couldn’t return to work.  So why was the policy problematic: Because it required employees to be at 100% upon return to work, not allowing for any possible accommodation – which the EEOC claimed was illegal under the ADA. UPS argued that the leave policy merely supported the fact that attendance was an essential function of the job and not attending for 12 months served that end. The court sided with the EEOC.

TAKEAWAY: Can attendance be an essential job function? Yes. But even so, the employer still has a duty to provide reasonable accommodation if required under the ADA.

On Wednesday 6/11/14 the post was about a PA widow who lost her $280K house for $6 in interest. What happened? She paid off the mortgage with the proceeds from her husband’s life insurance policy after he died in 2004, but apparently it did not cover all of the interest. The judge said that she had received proper notice before the home was sold at auction in 2011. She will receive a majority of the sale proceeds, but will still lose her house (unless she prevails on appeal).

TAKEAWAY: If you receive a legal notice, don’t bury your head in the sand – do something about it, including taking the doucment to an attorney to learn what it means.

On Thursday 6/12/14 the post was about whether you should file for bankruptcy if an ex-spouse who charged on a joint credit card isn’t paying. Even if you have a marital/divorce settlement agreement that requires your ex to pay the debt, and even if s/he is in violation of that agreement, the credit card company can still legally look to you for its money. Accordingly, the only ways to ensure that the credit card company cannot come after you are to pay it off in full (or pay enough that the company will release you) or file for bankruptcy protection.

TAKEAWAY:  Be aware of both the upside and downside of marital/divorce settlement agreements and what might be the effects if one or the other spouse doesn’t fulfill his/her obligations.

The post on Friday 6/13/14 talked about the 5 elements of an effective harassment & discrimination training program. Sadly, harassment and discrimination happen and more frequently than anyone probably thinks. Employers should train their employees to try to prevent it from happening. What are some of the steps? Ensuring that the employer can track the policy through any revisions (and explain why the revisions occurred) and when employees were trained on the (revised) policy. The other 3 elements are in the post.

TAKEAWAY:  If an employer is going to put in place a policy, it should know the purpose of the policy and train employees how to properly apply and evenly enforce the policy.

Finally, the post yesterday 6/14/14 was about what documents you can require from your permanent legal immigrant employees. Be smarter than this supermarket chain from TX. What happened? The employer required legal permanent residents to present new employment eligibility documents after hire when their Permanent Resident cards expired; it also requested a specific document during the initial employment verification process although applicants had a choice of what to present. And, to make things worse, the employer did these things based on citizenship status.

TAKEAWAY: Your HR staff must know what documents applicants (and employees) must show and what documents they can show; not knowing the difference could be very costly.

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