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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – April 23-29, 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 4/23/17 we noted the government has accused Google of "quite extreme" gender discrimination (and how disappointing that is). DOL is investigating Google for alleged pay discrimination and has apparently found systemic disparities that disfavor women, to the extreme. Google denies the allegations, asserting that it has "rigorous statistical tests in place to ensure that men and women in comparable positions received equal pay." The post gives additional background about the process, but stay tuned.

TAKEAWAY: Discrimination in any facet of employment – including pay – on the basis of gender is just wrong – don’t do it. No matter how big or small your business, you will be found out.

The post on Monday 4/24/17 was an alert: the plaintiff only needs an inference that protected activity is the likely reason for the adverse action, not the but-for reason. This is a case out of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and therefore binding here in PA. The case was a Title VII retaliation claim where the employee (Dr. Carvalho-Grevious) appealed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the former employer (a university) and 2 employees, a former interim Dean and the Provost. The complaint alleged that by retaliating against her for complaining about race and gender discrimination, the University violated Title VII (and another issue in the post). The question before the appeals court was whether a plaintiff in a Title VII retaliation claim must establish but-for causation as part of the prima-facie case. The court's analysis is in the post. The holding, which affects both employees and employers, is that at the early (prima facie) stage, a plaintiff need only show evidence sufficient to raise an inference that engagement in a protected activity was the likely reason (not the but-for reason) for the adverse action.

TAKEAWAY: The initial burden on employees asserting retaliation claims under Title VII is now lower/easier to meet; both sides should keep this in mind when evaluating the merits of a charge/suit for retaliation.

In the post on Tuesday 4/25/17 we told you about 6 times Uncle Sam can seize your tax refund. Maybe you already know about one of these first-hand … So what are the 6 bases? First and foremost is if you owe federal taxes from a prior year. Next is if you owe state taxes from a prior year. The third reason is for past-due child and parent support debts. The other 3 reasons are in the post. Of course, there are limits for some or all of the reasons as to how much of the refund can be seized. The post gives you links for some ways you might want to proceed.

TAKEAWAY: If your tax refund has been seized, or is about to be, there might be something you can do to stop it – contact an attorney knowledgeable in this area (like Austin Law Firm).

The post on Wednesday 4/26/17 noted that an employee must give an accommodation a chance. Yep, makes sense. As part of the process, when the employer offers a reasonable accommodation, the employee must give it a try (under most circumstances). If s/he just quits, there will not be eligibility for UC benefits (and maybe other repercussions too). In the post, the employer offered a reasonable accommodation, but the employee quit before even trying. Since he could not prove a necessitous and compelling reason, the appeals court found him ineligible for UC benefits.

TAKEAWAY:  An employer has a duty to offer a reasonable accommodation to an eligible employee; only if the accommodation really is not reasonable (and the employee can show shy) can the employee not give it a chance.

In the post on Thursday 4/27/17 we noted that a comprehensive employee handbook may be the best tool to beat unemployment claims (and we offered to help you). In PA, eligibility for UC benefits in a discharge situation turns on whether the employee committed what is deemed to be willful misconduct; the burden of showing that is on the employer. One way to do that is through violation of a policy as in the post; there are specific things the employer must show though, so often it is best to involve an attorney.

TAKEAWAY: To fight UC benefits on the basis of a policy violation, the employer must show there is a policy, the employee knew about it, the employee violated it, and the employer evenly enforced the policy.

The post on Friday 4/28/17 was another new case holding: the "heart of the matter" test is out and now an independent claim is the standard for a complaint for legal and declaratory relief. This case is again out of the Third Circuit and therefore binding on PA cases. The issue before the court was in suits seeking both legal and declaratory relief, what standard applies to jurisdiction. Resolving a split among lower courts in PA, the Third Circuit analyzed the issue (see the post) and ruled that the new standard in a complaint seeking both legal and declaratory relief is the independent claim test.

TAKEAWAY: The new standard to analyze whether a court has jurisdiction when both legal and declaratory relief is pled is whether the legal claims are independent (in which case the court hears them) or dependent on the declaratory claims (in which case the court may decline jurisdiction of all claims).

Finally, in the post yesterday 4/29/17 we asked: What does your condominium or homeowners' association insurance cover – and what is it supposed to cover? If you live in a community governed by an Association, these are questions to which you need the answers. The first thing to know is that the Association's insurance does NOT cover your unit/home or your possessions in it, so get your own insurance for that (and get it pronto if it's not already in place). If you live in a condominium, make sure to get insurance specific to that. Some things to look for in your own policy include covering any portion of the Association's deductible that you might be responsible for, covering things not covered under the Association's policy, and other items identified in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Your home, whether in a condominium or a fsingle-family detached house, is probably your biggest investment, so protect it by having the right insurance coverage in place.

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