Parks Chesin & Walbert | Blog
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Antonin Scalia and the Supreme Court: The Impact on Employment Law

The hugely respected Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death has had massive implications for developments in employment law across America. As predictions about ongoing cases are made, ripples of uncertainty are being created throughout law firms across the country. Scalia acted as the embodiment of conservatism in the Supreme Court for three decades, and he was respected even by those who disagreed with him. His death will undoubtedly be accompanied by consequences for employees, employers and businesses.

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Can My Employer Force Me to Attend a Work Function?

Work functions: even if attendance is not mandatory, employees often feel compelled to attend.

Under most circumstances employers are permitted to require their employees attend a work function (even if it is outside normal business hours), because most states are at-will employment states. This means that an employee can be terminated or quit for any reason or no reason, as along as the employee is not part of a protected class, and the reason for termination is not unlawful discrimination. In at-will employment states, employees can be legally fired for not attending a mandatory work function that occurs outside normal business hours (even if that event occurs far away from their place of employment). Typical functions include holiday parties, meetings, weekend or evening retreats, and social or charity events. Sometimes these events are explicitly mandatory and sometimes there is strong peer pressure associated with attending— which makes them essentially mandatory events.

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Laws about Age Discrimination

Age discrimination against employees at least forty years old has been deemed illegal in most circumstances since President Johnson signed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) into law in 1967. The ADEA applies to employers (of interstate commerce) who employ twenty or more employees.

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What Does Diversity Look Like on the Supreme Court?

Historically, the Supreme Court Justice has not been a diverse group. Only in the past several decades have Presidents even nominated candidates who fell outside the categories of white, Protestant, and male. There have been 112 Supreme Court Justices, 108 of them male, and only 4 female. Only 2 have been African American. The first, Thurgood Marshall, began serving in 1967 and the second Clarence Thomas is currently on the Court. In 1981, 205 years after the creation of the Supreme Court, the country got the first female Justice, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In the 35 years since, women’s role on the Court has increased. Now, the Court has three female justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Justice Elena Kagan Justice, and Sonia Sotomayor, who is a Latina as well.

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Dr. Luke in the Limelight: Music Producers & Employment Law

Kesha’s attempts to void her recording contracts with Lukaz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and Sony are directly related to allegations of harassment and rape. The lawsuit and the media frenzy surrounding it have placed the music industry (and how artists are employed in the industry) in the spotlight. In her lawsuit, Kesha claims she was the victim of sexual harassment, gender violence, civil harassment, unfair business, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress as well as sexual assault and battery.

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Can I Get Fired over a Tweet? What NOT to Say on Social Media

In 1942— long before the advent of the Internet or social media— Thumper offered Bambi some sage advice: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” That advice still rings true today. When you post on social media, you may feel like you’re just venting or sending a message to a bunch of your friends and family (especially if you are not one of those people who have several million followers). However, it’s important to remember that there is nothing private about your online posts— even if you’ve activated the highest privacy settings. Any one of your “friends” could forward your post to someone— and even a time limited post (like a Snapchat) could be saved and transmitted by a third party via screenshot.

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In the News: Kesha’s Employment Lawsuit

The news about pop music star Kesha’s employment lawsuit is abuzz. Kesha– whose real name is Kesha Rose Sebert— filed a civil lawsuit in attempts to void her recording contracts with Lukaz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and Sony. Kesha was trying to enter into contracts with other recording and publishing companies without penalty. The lawsuit alleges causes of action of sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, civil harassment, unfair business, as well as intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

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Rehab: Can My Employer Punish Me for Attending?

Addiction affects everyone to some degree. If the addiction is severe enough—and perhaps requires rehab—addiction can affect employment. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are both federal laws that prohibit an employer from firing an employee for attending rehab or seeking treatment. An employer’s own policies or a union contract may also protect employees who attend rehab. However, an employer may terminate an employee for another valid reason such as: coming to work high or drunk, using on the job, increased absences from work, or decreased performance.

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I Need to Take Medical Leave: What Should I Do?

It isn’t always easy to juggle work and family life. If you or a loved one need to request medical leave you and your employer must follow the provisions set forth in the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees who are eligible to take unpaid leave from work to care for their family members or to attend to their own medical needs. Only eligible employees are entitled to take this leave. Twelve workweeks of leave within a twelve month period are permitted for the following purposes: the birth of a child/care for a newborn within his or her first year, the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, to look after a spouse, child or parent who is suffering from a serious health problem, any health condition that negatively impacts an employee’s ability to perform his or her job, as well as any other qualifying health reason arising from military duty.

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Can I Be Forced to Pay for a Work-Related Educational Event?

The labor exchange involves trading time and skill for money. Employers are all fully aware that they are required to properly pay their workers for all of the hours they work (as is clearly laid down in the Fair Labor Standards Act 1938). Laws have established a minimum wage and record-keeping requirements. The Fair Labor Standards Act also specifically requires that employees must be fully compensated for time that the employer controls and by which he or she benefits.

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