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Employment Law Articles

Workers can sue employer for failing to protect personal data

In a ruling that should make employers everywhere sit up and take notice, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided that workers could bring a negligence claim (in other words, a lawsuit alleging that they were hurt by their employer’s unreasonable carelessness) against their employer over a data breach that compromised their personal information. The case involved more than 60,000 current and former employees of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Hackers broke into the UPMC’s

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Beware the careless employee review

  Annual or semi-annual employee reviews can be helpful in documenting worker issues to justify actions you might take, and in protecting yourself against potential lawsuits by disgruntled workers. They also can help your workforce identify ways to improve its productivity and professionalism. But if you go about the review process the wrong way, you may turn what you view as a shield against employment suits into a sword for terminated, transferred or demoted workers. That’s

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Case highlights importance of protecting secret documents

Does your company have important trade secrets it wants to protect? If so, be sure to take affirmative steps to actually maintain the secrecy of these documents. That can help you if you need to take an ex-employee to court for trade secret violations, as a recent South Carolina case shows. In that case, employee Diego de Amezega worked for AirFacts, a revenue-accounting software developer for the airline and travel industry, from 2008 to 2015. His

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Employers take note: Harassment claims were on the rise last year

Last fall, nearly a year after the #MeToo movement emerged as a major social force, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released findings that sexual harassment claims had risen sharply during fiscal year 2018. The EEOC reported a 12 percent increase in sexual harassment complaints filed with the agency, the first time in a decade when that figure rose. EEOC attorneys filed 41 sexual harassment lawsuits on the agency’s behalf, twice as many suits as in 2017.

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Beware of making tipped workers do non tip-earning tasks

Many employers in the service industry take what’s called a “tip credit.” In other words, they pay workers performing tip-generating tasks a lower wage (as little as $2.13 an hour, far below the federal minimum wage) with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. There’s also been a controversy for some time over whether tipped workers have to be paid at least minimum wage for time spent on non-tipped tasks. For example, do restaurant

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Firing workplace harasser may not be enough to avoid responsibility

A recent Virginia case highlights the importance of addressing reported harassment in the workplace quickly and supervising your managers in the process. It also shows that even eventually firing the harasser won’t be enough to shield you from liability if you didn’t respond sufficiently at first. In this case, employee Perry Funk claims that a male coworker subjected him to sexually inappropriate conduct, including opening his fly and thrusting his crotch in Funk’s face and grabbing

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Employer’s delay waives right to arbitration

If your employees have signed an agreement to arbitrate any employment disputes, you need to act fast if you really want to keep the case out of court. If you sit on your rights, you might lose them. That happened recently in Rhode Island, where an exotic dancer brought a class action against the club she worked for, claiming it misclassified her and other dancers as “independent contractors,” resulting in their losing out on pay the

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Employer’s dilemma: balancing ADA requirements with rules of the workplace

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must accommodate workers with disabilities. If an employer takes a negative employment action (firing, refusing to hire, demoting, refusing to promote, etc.) against an employee with a physical, mental or even emotional disability, the disability can’t be the reason. If an otherwise-qualified employee needs reasonable (not overly burdensome) accommodations for his or her disability in order to do the job, the employer must provide them. Employers also face

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Employer can’t stop employees from taking selfies at work

An employer cannot ban all audio and video recording in the workplace, a federal appeals court recently decided. In the case in question, cellular giant T-Mobile included several controversial rules in its employee handbook, including a rule encouraging a “positive work environment,” a rule prohibiting arguing and failing to demonstrate “teamwork,” and a rule prohibiting all photography and audio/video recording without prior permission from management, HR or legal. A communication workers’ union challenged these rules before

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Suit over workplace comments can go forward in part

It’s a popular misconception that “freedom of speech” protections in the Constitution mean that you can say whatever you want in any circumstance and not have to deal with negative fallout. The truth is, your First Amendment rights protect you from being arrested, prosecuted, fined or imprisoned for things you say. But if you’re a worker expressing opinions at work that others find objectionable, don’t count on the law necessarily protecting you from employment consequences. If

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