On Wednesday, January 8, 2019, the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party House leadership introduced Bills 1-10, its priority for this session. The bills include three pro-employee bills.
The New Year provides a fresh start and motivation to set goals. Employers can and should make resolutions to make the New Year better for the organization and the employees. If you procrastinated last year, it is not too late to add those "to-dos" to your list for this New Year, and some items are updates on an on-going basis. Challenge yourself and your employees to better the work environment on 2019 resolutions.
On February 26, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York issued its en banc decision in Zarda v. Altitude Express, 883 F.3d 100 (2nd Cir. 2018), holding that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Altitude Express terminated Donald Zarda, a Long Island sky-diving instructor, in 2010. As Mr. Zarda prepared for a tandem sky-dive with a female student, he told her that he was "100 percent gay," and the student's boyfriend later complained to Altitude Express, which then terminated Mr. Zarda's employment. Mr. Zarda commenced a lawsuit in the federal U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, asserting that his firing violated Title VII.
Sex harassment has filled the news media for several weeks with accounts of misdeeds of Hollywood producers, actors, congressmen, senate candidates, media personalities and, close to our home, the resignations of legislative members and the apologies of Senator Franken.
With the season comes holiday parties for employers, customers and vendors. Employers will need to do their part to make sure these sponsored events remain free of liability. Here are some suggestions:
The Minnesota Supreme Court, on August 9, 2017, answered a question that has plagued Minnesota employment lawyers for four years. Prior to August 9, 2017, an employee seeking to "blow the whistle" on the employer's practices arguably had to demonstrate, as part of the employee's "good faith" report, that the employee made the report for the "purpose of exposing an illegality." I say arguably, because in 2013, the Minnesota Legislature had ostensibly removed this obligation when it codified a definition of "good faith" in the Minnesota Whistleblower Act. Despite this 2013 amendment, which most practitioners recognized significantly broadened the law in favor of whistleblowers, some courts stubbornly continued to apply the former court-created definition of "good faith." In Friedlander v. Edwards Life Sciences, LLC, the Minnesota Supreme Court finally put that issue to rest by officially holding that the "purpose of exposing an illegality" is no longer a part of an employee's burden of proof.
Drug testing and sexual harassment have found their way into the election for the highest office in the land. Donald Trump has proposed that Hillary Clinton and he each subject themselves to drug testing before Wednesday night's debate to underscore Hillary's being physically unfit for President. Hillary challenges Donald's fitness with a bevy of accusers of Donald Trump's propensity to demean women and allegations he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. Politics aside, what if these were candidates for private employment, and you were the decision-maker?
St. Paul becomes the second city in Minnesota to mandate paid sick leave time for employees. http://www.twincities.com/2016/09/07/st-paul-approves-earned-sick-leave-mandate/. The ordinance, which takes effect July 1, 2017, requires employers to allot their workers an hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 80 hours in a two-year period.