A recent decision in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky has fortified the protections of FMLA lawyerFamily and Medical Leave Act, enforcing one of the core intentions of the act: that an employee should not have to work while on leave or be punished for not being able to work during that time. The case revolves around a government employee in Kentucky working in waste management. Almost immediately after receiving a promotion, plaintiff broke his leg in an accident unrelated to work and was not able to complete training for a commercial driver’s license necessary for the new job, according to a report from Workforce.

A collective bargaining agreement allowed plaintiff three months to obtain his CDL for the job. The company, however, counted the time plaintiff was out from work on FMLA leave toward those three months. When he did not complete his training in time, he was terminated, even though doing so would have been impossible with a broken leg. He sued the company for FMLA violation. Continue reading

When one police officer had the courage to speak out against alleged acts of sexual harassment in her sexual harassmentprecinct, she claims she was the one who was investigated, according to a BuzzFeed News report. Her story is one that would almost be too wild to be true if we hadn’t witnessed this type of behavior in so many other institutions, businesses, and places of work. The officer said she was new to the New York Police Department when she started getting a lot of friendly attention from one of the higher ranking officers. Friendliness allegedly escalated to unwanted touching and then propositions. For five years, she claimed she endured the behavior, telling anyone in her chain of command she felt safe enough talking to, hoping for change that never came. She said she felt trapped, knowing how aggressively police officers reacted when outsiders are brought in to investigate one of their own. Eventually she cracked and sought help form the department’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, at which point she alleged a very creative form of retaliation began.

The officer said shortly after filing her complaint, she was under investigation for alleged alcohol abuse and ordered to complete a treatment program. She took this accusation to be a direct threat, considering she described her own alcohol use as minimal with only a few drinks a year and a clean record with no complaints. Fighting the accusations only seemed to get her in more trouble though, as she said she was suspended when she refused to complete the program and lost a month of pay. Meanwhile, the officer she accused of harassment was docked 10 vacation days for years of alleged abuse toward her. Continue reading

In-N-Out Burger Inc. employees should be allowed to wear buttons in support of higher minimum wage, employee rightsaccording to a recent ruling from a federal appeals court. A panel with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recently unanimously upheld a decision by National Labor Relations Board in a case regarding employees at In-N-Out Burger wearing Fight for $15 buttons. The company tried to ban the buttons arguing they interfered with the company’s image, which includes a very specific uniform and a dress code that prohibits wearing pins or stickers. The company also claimed the buttons could pose food safety concerns, but NLRB and the panel said that was not enough reason to restrict workers’ rights and that doing so was in violation of federal law, according to a report from Reuters.

Fight for $15 is an organization that supports unions and pushes for higher minimum wage, especially among fast-food workers across the country. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, protects the right of workers to join a union and encourages collective bargaining. It also holds firm against practices by employers deemed harmful to the general welfare of workers. What does all of this have to do with employees wearing buttons?

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The Supreme Court’s recent decision in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and employee rightsMunicipal Employees quickly rose to landmark status in employment law. The 5-4 ruling by the high court determined it is unconstitutional to force nonunion workers to pay fees to unions in the public sector. Justices for the majority decisions explained that forcing workers to financially back an organization whose views they did not necessarily agree with was a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech, according to a CNBC report. The decision overturned the 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which stated fees could be collected for collective bargaining, but not for political purposes. Some believe, however, that by nature collective bargaining and union practices are political.

While the ruling does not affect the private sector directly, the spirit of the decision certainly sets a precedent for legal disputes with private employment unions. It also helps bolster laws that already exist in 27 states which forbid agreements between unions and employers to force all employees who are part of a bargaining unit to contribute to union dues. The ruling is viewed by many as a victory for individual liberties. Continue reading

A 58-year-old Ontario, Calif., woman who has already been awarded $3 million in compensatory damages is now entitled to $28 million more after aage discrimination jury in Los Angeles Superior Court determined she faced repeated and pervasive age discrimination from her former employer. The jury decided defendants acted with malice against plaintiff and landed on the figure of $28 million during the punitive stage of the lawsuit. Comments against the plaintiff during her employment with the company allegedly included “We need younger workers here,” “Dumb female,” and “You are outdated.” The remarks reportedly were made by her supervisor and his boss. According to Associated Press, in addition to discrimination, plaintiff accused her former employer of harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination.

Plaintiff worked for the company and its subsidiaries in various positions from 1978 until she said she was forced to quit from job stress in 2014. About seven months before she left the company, plaintiff got a new boss, and things really changed for her at work. She alleged her new boss regularly threatened her job and put extremely intense pressure on her. Although the parent company was located in Washington, plaintiff worked at plants in Orange, San Dimas, and Glendora. Attorney for plaintiff suggested the settlement should be more than double what she was ultimately awarded, arguing that age discrimination was part of a bigger picture. He claimed an entire department at the company was driven out and replaced by younger, cheaper employees. Plaintiff said she was replaced by a 20-year-old after she left. Continue reading

Imagine not being able to put a photo of your family on your desk. Think about what you would do if you couldn’t talk aboutsexual orientation rights simple weekend plans with co-workers. What would you do if you couldn’t even mention the name of your significant other? This is the reality for almost half of LGBTQ employees nationwide, according to a Human Rights Campaign report. A survey of workers of all sexual orientations found that of those who identified at LGBTQ, 46 percent still hide their orientation at work, a number that has remained about the same over the past 10 years. A Human Rights Campaign Report from 2008 tallied 50 percent of LGBTQ respondents as being closeted in the workplace.

Further data collected from those who identified as LGBTQ paints a pretty clear picture as to why many still hide their private lives. About 20 percent said they were told to dress in a way that was more aligned with their perceived gender. Over 50 percent said they had heard jokes about homosexuality at work at least once in while. These stats likely have contributed to the next data point: 31 percent report feeling depressed or unhappy in the workplace. Continue reading

California Senate and Assembly members will soon have a new set of rules in place by which they willsexual harassment investigate sexual harassment complaints, according to Capital Public Radio. The policy was unanimously approved by the Joint Legislative Rules Committee and was based on guidelines created by Los Angeles County. It effectively replaces the two separate policies each house was operating under previously. New standards include creation of an investigative unit, whose members would collect evidence and interview witnesses in connection to all complaints, and an external panel, whose experts would make decisions based on the evidence and recommend potential consequences. The rules have seen some revisions in recent weeks, including adding the ability to report inappropriate behavior by third parties and lobbyists who regularly interact with government workers. This would be in addition to legislative employees and lawmakers already protected by and accountable to the policy. Furthermore, a majority of the outside panel experts will be appointed by chief justice of the California Supreme Court. The panel will act separately from legislative counsel, allowing for neutral recommendations.

Before we can truly trust lawmakers to hold others accountable, they must show themselves to be trustworthy enough to hold themselves accountable. This is as true as ever in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The past year has been eye opening in regards to the amount of sexual harassment that is taking place in work places across the country, including government offices. Roughly 150 women working for the state signed an open letter in October 2017 describing a culture of harassment and abuse in California politics. Three lawmakers in the state have stepped down due to accusations since then. Even more shocking are how many reports are being swept under the rug. That’s why we are seeing new policies cropping up all over the place.  Continue reading

The question of religious liberties in schools is being pushed to the limits with a recent case out of the state of religious discriminationWashington. A former assistant coach at high school just outside of Seattle lost his job after he was asked to stop praying after football games on the field and he refused. He is now seeking help from the Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals‘s rejection of his appeal earlier this year. Plaintiff claims his religious and personal rights have been infringed upon by the district, according to Seattle Times.

The question boils down to where the line is for the personal rights of school employees when in the presence of students. It is well known that in public schools, school-sponsored prayer is not allowed, nor is the teaching of a religion. This would be a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents the passage of any law that would establish a religion. Schools are funded by tax dollars, making school employees government workers who are accountable to holding up constitutional liberties. Teaching about religions in general and their place in history is allowed. It is less clear, however, the ways in which public servants, including teachers, are allowed to express their personal religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court has addressed prayer in schools many times over. In 1962, the historic case of Engel v. Vitale arose when parents objected to prayer recitation at the beginning of the school day, even though it was voluntary. The court determined such a practice was unconstitutional because a state official was deciding on a religious message to share with students and encouraging its recitation. In 2000, the court ruled 6-3 in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe that prayer before a football game, even if led by students, was still the imposition of a religion at a school event in such a way that students who do not practice that religion would feel coerced into participation as a result of social pressures. Where, then, is the line between personal free speech and the enactment of a certain religion when it comes to students and teachers?

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As any good sexual harassment attorney knows, one of the biggest deterrents to victims coming forward withsexual harassment their stories is fear of retaliation and the effects it can have on their careers and well-beings. This issue is compounded infinitely for immigrant families, who not only fear risking their careers, but their entire way of life, their homes, the potential of deportation, and possible separation from their families. Even those who are in the process of becoming a legal citizen are fearful causing waves could put their citizenship in jeopardy. Sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault in the workplace is scary enough, but these personal ramifications add an exclamation point to the end of an already very frightening sentence.

The fear of deportation, even for those who are following all the rules and are actively seeking citizenship, has increased significantly recently with the current administration making a very public example of non-Americans. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent months invoked a “no tolerance” policy when it comes to people crossing the border from Mexico, offering little room to differentiate between asylum seekers and those committing violent crimes or trafficking drugs. This has created an environment where those already in the country tend to lay low, keep quiet, and hold their breaths to see what happens next.

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According to a recent news report from the Los Angeles Times, workers at a golf course owned by President Donald J. Trump’s family business, and the workers of another luxury resort nearby have, through their union representation, filed a lawsuit against the city clerk after their proposed ballot initiation was not placed on the staff meeting for the upcoming meeting required to allow the measure on the November 2018 ballot.

employment lawyersThis ballot measure would require all employees who work in remote areas of the property, or who are working alone, to be provided with panic buttons they could activate if they were the target of a sexual assault or in some other type of danger. The ballot measure would also require the employees to be paid at least a $15 per hour minimum wage as well as the provision of other related benefits.  Continue reading