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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Oct. 16-22, 2016

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.

In the post on Sunday 10/16/16 we talked about the presidential candidates' paid family leave plans. This might be of interest to you before Election Day. Trump's proposal would give new mothers 6 weeks of leave with some payment through unemployment plus child care tax credits. However, the proposal applies only to women who have given birth. What it leaves out (or does not address) is in the post. Clinton's proposal is broader: any family member would get up to 12 weeks' leave with at least 2/3 of their salary paid. The plan would also include care for sick relatives. The post explains how she proposes paying for that.

TAKEAWAY: Know before you vote – but do vote on Election Day, Tuesday November 8, 2016.

The post on Monday 10/17/16 was about an EEOC lawsuit accusing Wynn Law Vegas of discriminating against a disabled veteran. The suit was filed last month as a result of alleged discrimination against an Army veteran diagnosed with PTSD. The complaint alleges the Wynn refused to accommodate the disability for a security bike officer position by requiring submission of burdensome doctor's notes. That, according to the complaint, made the stress even worse (and violated the ADA). More details are in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Employers have an obligation to participate in the interactive accommodation process. They are permitted to request certain medical information, but only to the extent necessary for the process. Employers should not try to bully employees under the guise of accommodation.

In the post on Tuesday 10/18/16 we reported that employees don't have the right to wear dreadlocks (per a recent federal court ruling). The decision came out in mid-September. The EEOC had filed suit on behalf of Chastity Jones, a black job applicant. Chastity applied on-line for a CSR position that entailed no public contact. She was brought in for an interview and showed up professionally dressed with short dreadlocks. After the interview, Chastity and others applicants were told by a Caucasian employee that they were hired. Nothing was said about Chastity's hair. There was a brief meeting about a required lab test and then it hit. The woman said the employer couldn't hire Chastity with dreadlocks. The reason given is in the post. When Chastity refused to cut her dreadlocks, the offer of employment was rescinded becasue she would have been in violation of the grooming policy. The company's race-neutral grooming policy is mentioned in the post. The suit alleged race discrimination. The trial court dismissed the case, finding no plausible allegation of intentional race discrimination. The EEOC appealed. The appeals court affirmed on several bases: the EEOC's combining of disparate impact and disparate treatment, precedent regarding the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of immutable traits, and two other bases in the post. The ruling comes down to Title VII dealing with immutable characteristics like race, color and natural origin and a hairstyle, "… even one more closely association with a particular ethnic group, [being] a mutable characteristic." The post gives much more detail on the various bases on which the court ruled against the EEOC.

TAKEAWAY: When it comes to race and natural origin, things are not (literally) black and white. Often a judicial interpretation is required; here it analyzed the situation and determined there was no discrimination. Before having your company dragged through the courts, consult an employment law attorney as to the appropriate course of action.

The post on Wednesday 10/19/16 noted that an age-related comment doesn't always show bias. Huh? It depends … on the context among other things. In the case in the post, Dana was over 40 and refused an initial severance offer. A second offer was made to her and a supervisor said Dana should consider accepting because of her age. She didn't accept and was discharged, then sued for age discrimination. The court ruled against her; its analysis is in the post.

TAKEAWAY: The mere mention of age in the workplace often throws fear into an employer, but it need not as long as age is not being used in a discriminatory manner. That, however, is part of the training employees, especially managerial-level, should get.

In the post on Thursday 10/20/16 we talked about the good and bad of homeowner and condo associations (and suggested you contact us with questions). So what were some of the items mentioned? Membership in the association is required and automatic upon buying a unit in the development. A Board governs the association and enforces the restrictive covenants and bylaws. It is important to know what those documents say before buying. Examples of why are in the post. Associations can be good if properly performing their role of enforcement – that protects property values and often maintain amenities like pools and clubhouses and landscaping. Of course the cost for all of that is shared among the owners so knowing the current and proposed budgets is also a good idea.  

TAKEAWAY: It sounds trite, but it's good advice: know before you buy. A house is a big financial commitment, so when it is located in a condominium or planned community, it is especially important to obtain and read all relevant documents; they are binding legal documents.

The post on Friday 10/21/16 noted that a security firm is to pay $115,000 to settle an EEOC retaliation suit (and asked how safe that makes you feel). Guardsmark is apparently a VERY large security company, but not so large that it can discriminate with impunity. It has agreed to pay $115,000 (plus other relief) to settle an EEOC case. What was the background? A security guard used security cameras to zoom in on a woman's private parts. The subject employee told the woman and she filed an internal complaint for sexual harassment. Good, right? Yes, Except that the next step was the company firing the employee after learning about the woman's complaint. More details are in the post.

TAKEAWAY: If there is a complaint about potentially illegal action, don't retaliate against anyone as a result of the complaint. Rather, look it as a chance to halt any (more) liability and take appropriate action.

Finally, the post yesterday 10/22/16 told us about another settlement: Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for a discrimination suit. This one sticks out because the settlement comes only a few months after the release by the GAO of a scathing report about the company's treatment of employees. Here, Victoria Bradner had filed suit in October 2015 alleging discrimination on the basis of race (she is Hispanic). Victoria was a long-time employee who was terminated in January 2015. But it started before that. She was going through a divorce so a male co-worker brought her a gift; it was in the storage room and she went there to look at it. It was a specially-shaped cake; the post tells you what shape. Victoria left the cake in the storage area where her supervisor and another employee went to look at it. Shortly after, when Victoria expressed interest in an open job that would be a promotion, she was investigated relative to the cake (and other things). She was discharged and a younger, less-experienced Caucasian female promoted into the position. This was on the heels of a conciliation agreement with DOL in August 2015 alleging a history of discrimination against women and black employees from at least 2010; the employer paid almost $234,000 under that agreement. The post gives details on even more suits and charges filed against and settled by the same employer.

TAKEAWAY: If an employer gets its hand slapped once for alleged illegal conduct, it should learn the lesson and realize the government will be watching even closer. A second, third or fourth alleged illegal action is even worse.

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