Dan Schwartz of the Connecticut Employment Law blog posted yesterday about an interesting medical marijuana case in Connecticut. For the first time, a Connecticut court ruled that an employer could not refuse to hire an applicant simply because she was a medical marijuana user, despite the employer’s drug-free workplace program. This applicant, who used medical marijuana for PTSD, had her offer revoked after she tested positive for marijuana on the pre-employment drug screen. She then sued for discrimination. In ruling for the applicant, the court focused on the anti-discrimination provision in Connecticut’s medical marijuana law:

[U]nless required by federal law or required to obtain funding: . . . (3) No employer may refuse to hire a person or may discharge, penalize or threaten an employee solely on the basis of such person’s or employee’s status as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver under sections 21a-408 to 21a-408n, inclusive. Nothing in this subdivision shall restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours or restrict an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-408p(b)(3) (emphasis added).

Does this decision have any impact on Florida employers?

Continue Reading Connecticut Court Finds Employer Discriminated for Refusing to Hire Medical Marijuana User: What Does This Mean for Florida Employers?

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing guest posts from our member firms with the Florida Law Alliance, who will be producing an employment law conference on November 10, 2017, at the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel.

Today’s post is from Craig Salner, a partner at the Clarke Silverglate law firm in Miami:

Most South Florida practitioners are familiar with the barrage of recent lawsuits against places of public accommodation challenging their equal accessibility for the disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a statute more known for its ban on disability discrimination in the workplace, has a section known as “Title III” which requires places of public accommodation to provide equal access to persons with disabilities. ADA Title III requirements typically have been applied to components of a business’s physical structure – appropriate linking of the parking lot to the adjacent sidewalk, sufficient main floor space for a wheelchair-bound patron to ambulate between and around aisles, bathrooms with sufficient space to maneuver with reachable soap and paper dispensers, etc.

Successful ADA Title III litigants are entitled to injunctive relief (i.e., the accessibility flaws must be remedied) plus attorney’s fees. Despite the lack of monetary damages available to litigants, ADA Title III litigation has spiked in South Florida with the emergence of certain serial “tester” plaintiffs – specific individuals claiming to test places of public accommodation for ADA Title III compliance and suing in instances of alleged non-compliance. Title III ADA lawsuits have nearly tripled nationwide in the last three years, rising from 2,722 in 2013 to 6,601 in 2016, including a 37 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. Florida is second only to California in the number of 2016 filings.

Are Internet websites places of public accommodation covered by Title III of the ADA?

Continue Reading Company Websites Under Attack – ADA Title III Expanding to the Internet

Human resource keyboardMake plans now to attend the biggest employment law conference in Southwest Florida, HR Law & Solutions, now in its 25th year! Henderson Franklin’s Employment Law and Workers’ Compensation attorneys will return to Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers on Friday, March 10, 2017, for a fun-filled day of education. Click here to view the seminar brochure.

Topics and Speakers

8:30 – 9:45 a.m. Legislative and Case Law Update
Speakers:  Robert C. Shearman, Esquire and Vicki L. Sproat, Esquire
Bob and Vicki will provide an interactive update on notable court decisions, including cases addressing contentious employment policies and other noteworthy employee claims. Attendees will learn practical advice and tips for businesses to reach their goal of a compliant workplace under current laws and regulations.

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. The ADA – 25 Years Later
Speaker:  John F. Potanovic, Esquire
On March 5, 1992, Henderson Franklin sponsored its first “Employer’s Update,” where John spoke to a small gathering at the Royal Palm Yacht Club about a brand new law – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Much has evolved since then. 25 years later, the Henderson Franklin seminar is called “HR Law and Solutions” and has 300+ attendees each year; the Royal Palm Yacht Club is a Pinchers Crab Shack; and John no longer has need for a blow-dryer. In this session, John will discuss the more difficult issues confronting employers attempting to steer clear of ADA problems, and he will share best practices to assist in dealing with these challenging issues.

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. How to Avoid Costly Litigation in Workers’ Compensation
Speakers:  David Roos, Esquire, Michael McCabe, Esquire and Tania Ogden, Esquire
Henderson Franklin’s Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorneys will share strategic tips employers can implement to help avoid costly litigation. They will discuss best practices with regard to policies that should be in place before the injury, how to manage and set employees’ expectations when an injury occurs, employer do’s and don’ts, as well as return to work policies. David, Michael and Tania will also share the importance of communication between the employer, insurance company and defense attorney(s) to try and achieve the best outcome possible for the employer.

1:45  – 2:45 p.m. New Year, New Administration: What Does 2017 Hold for Employers?
Speakers:  Panel discussion moderated by Suzanne M. Boy, Esquire, with panelists Robert E. Weisberg, Esquire, Regional Attorney for U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Miami) and Benjamin Yormak, Esquire
There is little doubt in employer and HR circles that the ever-evolving nature of employment law can make management and prevention of problems difficult for even the most experienced leaders. After a 2016 that saw the Department of Labor roll out its huge new overtime changes mid-year, only to have implementation halted just weeks prior to the effective date, this has probably never been more true for 2017, when there is significant uncertainty surrounding what the new Administration will mean for employment laws. In this session attendees will have a unique look into what experts from all sides of the employment law world believe is on deck for 2017, including: potential changes to minimum wage and overtime laws, paid sick/maternity leave; the status of sexual orientation/gender identity protections; and, the ever-changing NLRB rulings. The panelists will also share their best tips to help employers stay in compliance and reduce exposure to the many employment claims prevalent today.

3:00 – 4:30 p.m. The Co-Workers’ Challenge
Guest Speaker Scotty Gunther
The Co-Workers’ Challenge is a quick paced, unique program that combines humor, motivational speaking, and leadership training. This session promotes teamwork, communication, and stress relief for HR professionals and other leaders through laughter. The Co-Workers’ Challenge provides participants various tools, strategies and tactics that they can use to help facilitate better communication, forge stronger working relationships among co-workers, and diffuse difficult or stressful situations more effectively.

4:30 – 5:30 p.m. 25th Anniversary Celebration
Please join us for a cocktail hour to celebrate our 25th Anniversary!

Continuing Education

This conference has been approved by SHRM for 5.75 PDCs and from HRCI for 6 Recertification Credit Hours (General).

Conference Partners

We are grateful for the support and sponsorship of Lykes Insurance (lunch sponsor) and of Gravity Benefits (our 25th Anniversary Celebration Sponsor), as well as our in-kind partners Charlotte County SHRM, SHRM SWFL, and HR Collier.

Registration

Registration is $50 per person and includes a continental breakfast, plated lunch, seminar materials and valet parking. To online register now, click here.

Join the discussion on social media using the #swflhrlaw hashtag.

We hope to see you soon! For group reservations or questions, please contact me at gail.lamarche@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1186.

11084136_870847629623565_1393615644063915399_o

We are so excited to announce that registration is now open for the 2016 HR Law & Solutions Seminar. Now in its 24th year, this full-day seminar is a fantastic opportunity for both new and experience HR professionals and other business executives to learn about important employment laws, network with their peers, and, of course, have a little fun! This year, we return to the gorgeous Sanibel Harbour Resort and Spa on, Monday, April 4, 2016. Topics and speakers include:

  • Legislative and Case Law Update. Attorneys Robert Shearman and Vicki Sproat will provide an interactive update on notable court decisions, including cases addressing contentious employment policies and contract provisions, and other noteworthy employee claims.
  • The Intersection of Immigration and Employment Law: What You Need to Know and Probably Don’t. Immigration law is a hot button topic in our country’s current political landscape, particularly since this is an election year. For many HR professionals, the relevancy of immigration law is limited to I-9 forms and E-Verify. Attorney Tulio Suarez will give attendees insight on key immigration-related HR issues potentially faced by all employers.
  • Breakout Sessions. Henderson Franklin’s employment law, immigration, and workers’ compensation attorneys will break out in smaller groups to facilitate discussions and give attendees an opportunity to gain more information on specific topics of interest to them and answer any legal questions on any aspect of laws and issues impacting their workplace. More specifically:
    • Welcome to the Company, Please Sign Here. In such a litigious climate, it is more important than ever for employers to have their workplace documentation in order from the start of the employment relationship. Attorneys John Agnew and Suzanne Boy will give HR professionals, business owners, and managers guidance on how to prepare and implement solid employment policies and contracts.
    • You’re From the Government, and We’re Here to Help. Claims against government or other public sector employers often present special challenges. Attorneys John Potanovic and Bob Shearman will delve into the framework of, and best practices in dealing with, Florida Public Sector Whistleblower claims and Constitutional claims.
    • Tips to Recognize, Reduce, and Deal with Workers’ Compensation Fraud in the Workplace. For many HR professionals, employers, agents, attorneys and adjusters, fraud in the workers’ compensation system is often frustrating and confusing. Attorneys David Roos, Michael McCabe and Tania Ogden will give attendees insights on key issues and strategies to recognize and identify insurance fraud at the time of hire, after a reported work accident, during the course of providing benefits and how to best deal with the situation.
  • Ego vs. EQ: How Top Business Leaders Beat Eight Ego Traps with Emotional Intelligence. Somewhere along the line, while climbing the corporate ladder or growing their own company, highly-technical strong employees can struggle with maintaining a healthy level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) that keeps them connected to their workforce and grounded in the day-to-day realities of their business. The risk of falling into “ego traps” increases, hurting the business and threatening their hard-won success. In this session guest speaker Jennifer Shirkani will help attendees discover ways to be an inspirational and emotionally-engaging leader.
  • Lawful and Unlawful Use of Social Media for Hiring and Retention. Researching applicants for employment is common place in today’s online environment. If your company searches prospective candidates on social media without appropriate guidelines to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, you may be subject to lawsuits for discrimination. Social Media Attorney Ethan Wall will educate attendees on the laws that govern the use of social media for hiring and retention.

Continuing Education

This conference has been approved by SHRM for 5.25 PDCs and by HRCI for 5.25 Recertification Credit Hours (General).

Conference Partners

We are grateful for the support and sponsorship of Lykes Insurance (lunch sponsor), Charlotte County SHRM, SHRM SWFL, and HR Collier.

Overnight Accommodations

Since the seminar is on Monday this year, we have reserved a block of rooms at Sanibel Harbour for $189/night. To make hotel reservations, click here. Reservations must be made by March 3 to take advantage of the group rate.

Seminar Registration

Registration is $40 per person and includes a continental breakfast, plated lunch, seminar materials and valet parking. Click here to download the brochure. Click here to register.

If you have any questions, please let us know. We look forward to seeing you all on April 4!

Eeoc_logo2Thanks to Richard Cohen and his Employment Discrimination Report blog and the Washington Post for focusing attention on the recent report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about the rapid increase in retaliation claims in the workplace. For years, employment discrimination complaints (i.e., claims by employees that they were discriminated against on the basis of one or more protected factors like race, gender, national origin, age, etc.) were at the top of the EEOC charts as far as number of claims filed. However, as my colleague Suzanne Boy noted back in January 2013, since 2010 there have been more retaliation claims filed with the EEOC than any type of discrimination claim.

The big increase involves claims filed by eligible employees (those who work for employers with at least 15 employees and most public employers) that they were demoted, fired, transferred, denied a raise or a promotion or similar complaints in retaliation for having complained about race, gender, age or other types of discrimination – sometimes even where the alleged discrimination involved someone else. According to the EEOC, a record 38,539 retaliation charges were filed in fiscal year 2013.

The statistics for Florida are similar. In 2013, a total of 3,095 retaliation claims were filed, representing about 41% of the complaints filed with Florida offices of the EEOC. This compares to 2,533 race discrimination complaints, representing 33% of all charges filed.

What accounts for the increase?

Continue Reading Employee Retaliation Claims Continue to Rise

self driving car by  Steve Jurvetson flickrHere’s a novel question for you: What do so-called “autonomous” cars have in common with class action federal employment discrimination lawsuits?

As an admitted car guy, I am often taken to drawing parallels between the automotive world and the legal profession (and just about everything else in life). So when I recently came across a lawsuit filed by the EEOC, my mind wandered from the courtroom to the road. Let me explain.

First, as you may know, an autonomous car is a car that literally drives itself — a “self-driving” car. If you’ve been reading too many car magazines like me, you’ve probably read about ongoing research and development efforts by various car manufacturers to develop a truly self-driving, pilot-less vehicle. Many automotive experts predict that in a relatively short period of time — say 10 years from now, perhaps sooner — such vehicles will be commonplace on roads in the U.S. and elsewhere.

EEOC v. Bass Pro Outdoor World

Continue Reading Self-Driving Lawsuits?

This month, the EEOC issued its controversial Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues. Of course, we all knew that pregnancy discrimination was unlawful, but did you know that according to the EEOC Guidance:

  • Many short term pregnancy related conditions are considered disabilities under the ADAAA, and thereby implicating a duty to reasonably accommodate.
  • Employers must offer temporary light duty assignments to pregnant employees with work restrictions if the employer provides the same accommodations to non-pregnant employees with similar work restrictions.
  • Lactation is a covered pregnancy related medical condition under the ADAAA.
  • An employer’s health insurance plan must cover prescription contraceptives on the same basis as prescription drug devices and services that are used to prevent the occurrence of medical conditions other than pregnancy. (At least the EEOC at least recognized the Hobby Lobby decision by stating that the Guidance does not address whether an employer may be exempt from Title VII’s requirements under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment!)
  • Parental leave (which is distinct from FMLA leave and medical leave associated with child birth and recovery) must be provided to similarly situated male and female employees on the same terms and conditions.

pregnant business woman in the officeThe EEOC Guidance is not law, but it is the enforcing agency’s non-binding interpretation of the law. Will courts agree with the EEOC’s broad interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) and the ADA? We will know more after the Supreme Court hears the case of Young v. United Parcel Services, Inc. next term. In the UPS case, the Supreme Court agreed to review a Fourth Circuit decision finding that the PDA does not require employers to offer light duty to pregnant employees with work restrictions even if light duty is available for certain categories of non-pregnant employees.

Until we hear more from Those Who Wear Black Robes, be forewarned. Dealing with pregnant employees may be more complicated than you ever expected! And more costly!

ergo chair via Kare Products FlickrConsider this scenario:

Carmen Parada worked for Banco Industrial de Venezuela in New York as a credit analyst, a largely sedentary job that involved organizing credit letter applications, ensuring that certain documents complied with various standards, and issuing credit letters. In 2007, she fell on the sidewalk and suffered a spinal injury in her lower back. As a result, the employee was directed by her doctor to avoid “prolonged sitting” and to stand after 10 or 15 minutes of sitting. She borrowed a colleague’s ergonomic office chair temporarily, and was able to sit using that chair without the need for standing breaks. The employee asked her employer (a bank) multiple times for a permanent ergonomic chair as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). However, she never received the chair and was ultimately terminated.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A. The bank may deny the employee’s request for the ergonomic chair as a reasonable accommodation under ADA, since she is not precluded from sitting at all times.

B. The bank must grant the employee’s request for breaks to allow her to stand after 10-15 minutes of sitting as a reasonable accommodation under ADA but is not required to provide the chair at the employer’s expense.

C. The bank must grant the employee’s request to either stand periodically or use an ergonomic chair, but not both, and the employee has to pay for her own chair.

D. The bank must grant the employee’s request and provide the chair at the employer’s expense, if the employee can show that she is a qualified individual with a disability and the chair will allow her to perform the essential functions of her job.

Continue Reading Employment Law IQ: Reasonable Accommodation, Termination and the ADA

chemical allergyConsider this scenario. Cathy works for Clean As a Whistle, Inc. as a janitor. Cathy recently developed a sensitivity to all cleaning chemicals. Initially, Cathy brought in a doctor’s note limiting her to two hours of chemical exposure per eight hour work day. Clean As a Whistle agreed to limit her exposure to two hours. When that limitation failed to abate Cathy’s symptoms, her doctor modified the restriction to “no exposure to cleaning solutions.”

Clean As a Whistle tried to find a solution for Cathy, but ultimately determined there was no way to accommodate her because the chemicals were airborne so merely working in the building resulted in exposure, and providing a respirator was too expensive. After she was terminated, Cathy sued.

Did Clean As a Whistle violate the ADA?

A.  Yes, because Clean As a Whistle did not engage in the interactive process.

B.  No, because Cathy did not have a disability.

C.  Yes, because Clean As a Whistle should have provided a respirator.

D.  No, because Cathy was not “qualified” to do her job based on the doctor’s restriction.

Continue Reading Employment Law IQ: Disability, Termination, and the ADA

employee terminationConsider the following hypothetical:

Scenario: Amy is a receptionist for Judgment Day Church. The Church fires Amy after it learns that she had an elective abortion. The termination notice states that Amy is being terminated for violating a pledge she signed at the time she was hired stating she would not engage in immoral conduct that is contrary to Church teachings.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A.  Amy may have a claim against the Church for invasion of her Constitutional right to privacy.

B.  Amy may have a claim against the Church for pregnancy discrimination.

C.  Amy does not have a claim against the Church for discrimination because Church employees are exempt from discrimination claims under the Ministerial Exception created by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

D.  Amy does not have a claim against the Church because the alleged misconduct occurred outside regular working hours.

Continue Reading Employment Law IQ: Can a Church Employee be Fired for Having an Abortion?