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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Jan. 29 - Feb. 4, 2017

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 1/29/17 we talked about an employee suit for unauthorized disclosure in an FMLA certification. This suit involves the FMLA, HIPAA and marijuana use – it almost sounds like a soap opera, but it's not. The suit was filed in Michigan where medical marijuana is legal. The employee requested FMLA leave and the employer required a certification. The certification was sent directly to the employer by the physician and noted that the employee used medical marijuana (for something unrelated to the condition for which she requested FMLA leave). The employee asked the physician to correct the certification, but was denied. Based on the certification, the employer offered a severance package and resignation in lieu of discharge for violation of the company's substance abuse policy. More details are in the post. She accepted the severance and sued the physician for violating HIPAA privacy rules. The suit is still pending.

TAKEAWAY: Be careful how you use the information you get (even though you may have obtained it legally).

The post on Monday 1/30/17 asked: should a socmed post should cost someone their job? And your answer was? The answer, as is often the case, is "it depends". On whether it is a labor/union workplace or not. On whether there is a contract or agreement with terms or provisions that govern the situation. On whether there is an applicable policy or handbook provision. On whether the person is a public figure or not. And on and on … Read the post for the details here.

TAKEAWAY: Remember that what you post on social media might as well be the front page of the NY Times; make sure you know the possible legal ramifications of each post before you hit Send.

In the post on Tuesday 1/31/17 we listed 10 things employees definitely shouldn’t have done at an office holiday party (with a hint to keep them in mind for 2017). Always remember that even if the party is held off-site, it may still considered "in the course of employment" and therefore workplace rules and policies might apply. So what are the 10 things an employee should not do? 1. Get (very) drunk – tipsy might be accepted, but not drunk. 2. Ask for a pay raise – this is neither the time nor the place. 3. Invite friends when there is a free bar – this is for employees (and others invited by the company) only. 4. Make sexual advances toward a colleague – remember, workplace rules and policies still apply. Items 5-10 are in the post.

TAKEAWAY: The holiday party is a reward for a good year – don't ruin it and possibly jeopardize employment by acting in an improper (or possibly illegal) manner.

The post on Wednesday 2/1/17 told us the PGA unfairly sacked a golf expert for refusing an 80% pay cut. We also learned that discrimination crosses national borders. Scott, age 61, dined with royalty and attended many of the most prestigious golf events in the world as part of his job with PGA. However, the new CEO asked that he retire or take an 80% salary cut and fired Scott when he refused. Scott then sued for age discrimination (among other things). See the post for the judges' ruling.   

TAKEAWAY: Age may be the reason for an adverse employment action – or it may just be a coincidence that such action is being taken against one in the protected age group. Make sure you know the difference.

In the post on Thursday 2/2/17 we learned that the EEOC sued Centurion Stone for same-sex sexual harassment. The employer-defendant here is one of the oldest stone veneer manufacturers with a national distribution. And yet it still is in the EEOC's cross-hairs for failing to stop or prevent alleged same-sex harassment. The allegations are that it allowed its male supervisors to subject male employees to sexual harassment, including making daily sexually-charged insults and innuendos and engaging in unwelcome physical contact (the details of which are in the post). Management received complaints but did nothing.

TAKEAWAY: If an employee makes a complaint, don't be an ostrich. Investigate it and, if appropriate, take corrective action.

The post on Friday 2/3/17 noted the EEOC settled a religious accommodation case over an exemption for hospital workers from a flu shot requirement. And it "only" cost the employer $300,000 and other relief. So what led up to the settlement? In late 2013 the employer hospital instituted a mandatory flu vaccine policy for employees – unless they received an exemption for medical or religious reasons. If there was no exemption for an employee refusing the vaccine, s/he was fired. The 6 plaintiff-employees requested exemptions on religious grounds but their requests were denied. They were fired when they refused the vaccine. (Note: see other relevant facts in the post.)

TAKEAWAY: Sincerely-held religious beliefs, whether or not share by a church or other formal hierarchy, are valid in the workplace and may require the employer to accommodate those beliefs.

Finally, the post yesterday 2/4/17 talked about the EEOC's suit against Caroline Creek Christian Camp for sex and disability discrimination. Here, the employer demoted a female due to pregnancy and related medical issues and then discharged her and sued her twice after she complained. Wow! And the employer even put the reason for demotion in writing! She filed a charge with the EEOC after discharge and the employer sued her. While that was pending, it sued again after a few months. Read the post for more salient details. The suit by the EEOC alleges those lawsuits were retaliatory.

TAKEAWAY: If you are the subject of an administrative charge or lawsuit, make sure any counter-measures you take are legal and warranted – don't dig a deeper hole in that quicksand.

References (4)

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