News & Analysis

Black Lives Matter apparel at work evokes legal, business, social concerns

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has sparked significant emotion in the past few months. Ever since the NBA season restarted, TV viewers are seeing the phrase emblazoned on the courts and on some players' jerseys. What you won't see on TV are the large employers that have faced significant backlash for attempting to prohibit employees from wearing BLM masks and other apparel. For example, several Whole Foods employees recently initiated a class action lawsuit claiming they've been subjected to race discrimination and retaliation for wearing BLM masks and other clothing, even after the company reversed its initial prohibition on the face coverings. Let's look at the legal, business, and social considerations in play here.

What to do if employees 'can't wear mask because of medical condition'

Many employers are wondering what to do if employees say they can't wear a required mask at work because of a medical condition. Read on to learn more.

Oompa-Loompa doompety doo, Willy Wonka's got an employment law issue for you

In the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-Loompas were small humans whom predators in their homeland preyed upon before Wonka invited them to work at his factory. Among other things, they loved to play practical jokes and sing songs. According to Wikipedia, they were paid in their favorite food, cocoa beans. Which, of course, raises a larger question for us employment law enthusiasts: Were the Oompa-Loompas employees or independent contractors?

Pregnant employee terminated for her threatening behavior ― not discrimination

In a recent case decided by the federal district court in Shreveport, an employee's pregnancy didn't curb her own threatening behavior that led to her termination. The court had to decide if her termination was really due to her threatening behavior or whether other motivations were at play, such as her pregnancy or complaints about not being accommodated.

New Georgia law protects breastfeeding moms in workplace

Working mothers who return to the workplace after childbirth and wish to pump breast milk received enhanced legal protection on August 11, when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation requiring employers to provide paid lactation breaks and private locations at the worksite. The new law, known as "Charlotte's Law,"? eliminates an employer's discretion about whether to allow or prohibit employees to take the time they need to pump breast milk at work.

When in (or not in) doubt, flesh it out!

We all know the drill. You interview multiple employees/applicants for a position, and one just stands out. Your gut tells you he's the right guy for the position, but on paper, he's less qualified than the other candidates. Oh, and the others are members of a protected class. How can you avoid landing in hot water if you hire Mr. Right Guy? A Mississippi school district recently learned this lesson the hard way.

Employer's failure to do its homework leads to six-figure defamation award

A Louisiana employer's allegations during a hearing about a former employee's unemployment benefits claim ― that she had engaged in fraud ― resulted in a $224,000 judgment in her favor for defamation of character. The case serves as a reminder to employers of the potential pitfalls of even a lowly unemployment claim proceeding and the risks of accusing an employee of fraud when they don't take steps to ensure the allegation is factually sound.

Korean carmaker outpowers the opposition

In a controversial, bitterly divided decision, the 11th Circuit (whose rulings apply to all Alabama, Florida, and Georgia employers) recently held a Georgia automaker's decision to fire an HR representative after it had suspected her of recruiting another employee to sue the company was lawful and nonretaliatory.

Supervisor's retaliatory motive nearly tanks firing after fourth strike

A former Walmart employee who was fired for her inappropriate handling of a suspected shoplifter ― her fourth disciplinary action ― cannot continue with her retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 despite her supervisor's retaliatory motive. She argued her supervisor harbored a retaliatory motive against her due to sexual harassment complaints she made against him less than two months earlier. The 5th Circuit found that although the supervisor played a role in the investigation, the employee didn't present evidence the investigator relied on the supervisor's statements when making the termination decision. Of note for employers is the court's warning that the outcome would have been very different for Walmart had the supervisor inappropriately influenced the investigation.

Roundup of DOL's recent COVID-19 guidance on FFCRA, FMLA, FLSA

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) continues to issue new COVID-19 guidance. Here is a roundup of recent guidelines related to the coronavirus and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).