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Monday
Apr202015

ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week -- Apr. 19 - 25, 2015

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.

On Sunday 4/19/15 we posted about the suit against Harvard and MIT for lack of closed captions. Yes you read that correctly. The suit alleges discrimination against deaf or hearing-impaired students as a result of a failure to provide closed captioning in online lectures, courses, podcasts, and other educational materials. The suit seeks class-action status and says that despite request, the schools provided no or only limited closed captioning.

TAKEAWAY: If something you do or put out there is for public consumption and covered by Title VII, make sure it is accessible.

The post on Monday 4/20/15 was about making sure your FMLA policy covers all of the basics. Sounds like an obvious thing, right? Not so for one employer, the Kalamazoo County Road Commission. The court reiterated that the law requires the person to have been employed by a covered employer for 12 months, to have worked 1250 hours during that 12-month period before the requested leave begins, and to work at a location where the covered employer employs at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. The employee in this suit met the first and second criteria, but the Commission did not meet the third. Despite that, it sent him a letter saying he was eligible for FMLA leave. More details are in the post. The matter will now go to a jury to decide whether or not the employee relied on that letter in seeking medical treatment.

TAKEAWAY: Know what each law requires and whether or not it covers you or your employees.

In the post on Tuesday 4/21/15, we noted that Walmart is to pay $150,000 to settle an EEOC age and disability discrimination suit. The suit alleged discrimination on the basis of age against the manager of the Keller, TX store and refusal to provide him with a reasonable accommodation for his disability. What did Walmart supposedly do? Frequent taunts from his direct supervisor including “old man” and “old food guy” and ultimately discharging him. Refusing to engage in the interactive process after he requested reassignment to a store co-manager or assistant manager position due to his medical condition and eventually rejecting the request. The suit was filed in March 2014 after conciliation failed.

TAKEAWAY:  It’s bad enough when one employee harasses or discriminated against another, but it’s especially egregious when a supervisor commits the action. Make sure your managers/supervisors are properly trained (and disciplined when necessary).

The post on Wednesday 4/22/15 reminded us to think ahead about summer interns and their pay. Who to hire. And whether they qualify as interns for pay purposes based on recent court decisions.

TAKEAWAY: Summer internships seem to sprout with the flowers, but the former require much more forethought by employers wishing to stay out of legal hot water.

In the post on Thursday 4/23/15, we learned that a bonus scheme linked to attendance was discriminatory. This is probably a scenario you’ve heard or read about time and again: an employee too disability-related time off and received a poor evaluation or no bonus as a result of absences related to the disability. The case was from a foreign jurisdiction, but the premise still applies under US federal law(s).

TAKEAWAY: Don’t take into account any disability-related absences when evaluating performance or giving bonuses.

The post on Friday 4/24/15 was about hiring and firing – the legal way. What does that mean? That you should be familiar with relevant laws and know what you can or cannot do as part of the application, interview, hiring, discipline, and discharge processes. The post mentions a few laws; some or all may apply to your business. It is always good to have an employment law attorney only a phone call away in case an issue arises (which it will do occasionally) or to guide you proactively (and defensively).

TAKEAWAY: Do things the right way from the get-go and it will help you avoid or minimize liability or, at least, provide you a good defense in case of charge or suit.

Finally, in the post yesterday 4/25/15, we talked about how businesses can avoid the legal risks of using social media. Yes, you want to use social media to attract clients or customers to your business. But you also want to protect your business and your brand from harmful socmedia interactions. The post mentioned some areas where having a social media policy is helpful; they include general employment and confidentiality and privacy. Any policy should be specific enough to cover what is necessary but broad enough to provide discretion; it should also be legally compliant, which, given recent judicial and administrative actions, may result in frequent revision.

TAKEAWAY: Even if your company doesn’t partake of social media, your employees might, so you need a policy that deals with its use. Have an employment law attorney prepare that policy for you and review it frequently in case of needed revision.

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