No company wants to be sued by its current or former employees, particularly for discrimination claims. Even if you prevail, litigating such claims inevitably exposes you to public stigma and internal discord. In such situations, an early “procedural victory” can be worth much more than the mere cost savings of legal fees. So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could do something now to either decrease the chance of such a suit being filed and/or increase the chance of obtaining a quick, procedural victory if litigation does ensue? As a recent decision in the Federal District Court, Morales v. FedEx, makes clear, a contractual “statute of limitations provision” may allow your company to achieve these objectives.
Hector Morales began working for Federal Express in 2015 and was terminated on July 31, 2017. In May 2018, Morales filed a claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging that his termination was based on racial discrimination and was retaliatory. In July of 2020, Morales filed a complaint in the Federal District Court, alleging, among other things, that FedEx had discriminated against him in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 1981.
Eventually, FedEx moved for summary judgment on the § 1981 claim … Keep reading
When Massachusetts voters legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes four years ago, the impact on most employers was limited to clarifying that “legal” marijuana use was still generally prohibited in the workplace. Now, Massachusetts has legalized limited use of recreational marijuana. Although the recreational marijuana use law also provides that employers may prohibit employees from reporting to work or performing work under the influence of marijuana, the new law is raising practical challenges for employers. Here are three ways that employers may consider changing what they have been doing:
1. Pre-employment Drug Testing
Many employers require job candidates to successfully pass a drug test as a condition to receiving a job offer. Prior to the legalization of marijuana, a positive test for marijuana use by a job candidate was an indication of illegal drug use and clear grounds for rescinding an offer of employment. Since legalization of medical and recreational use, from a legal standpoint, rescinding a job offer based on testing positive for marijuana use is still generally permitted. From a practical standpoint, however, the rationale that marijuana use is illegal no longer exists and brings into question the rationale for drug testing for marijuana at … Keep reading
Because ’tis the season to give, The In-House Advisor would like to give in-house counsel the following reminders so as to limit their companies’ holiday exposure:
Tip 1: Religious discrimination and accommodations
As we all know, while the “holiday” season in December often refers to Christmas, there are many other religious holidays celebrated by workers, both now and throughout the year. In-house counsel may wish to take the opportunity now to advise their companies’ managers to allow, and not interfere with, an employee’s observance of religious obligations. For purposes of employment discrimination laws, the definition of “religion” is much broader than one might think and is not limited to major, organized religions. Rather, “religious beliefs” protected by discrimination laws is defined as:
Moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.
It would behoove employers to carefully consider scheduling of work on holidays and planning and scheduling of holiday celebrations with an eye towards religious considerations. Likewise, being mindful of the religions practiced by company employees may avoid issues with respect to holiday parties. For instance, depending upon the make-up of your workforce, scheduling a party for Friday night … Keep reading
A recent decision by a full panel of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) emphasizes the need for supervisors to understand their duty to act to ensure that unlawful harassment allegations are addressed and that any such conduct ceases.
Since 1998, two cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Burlington Industries v. Ellerth, enable employers to avoid liability for employee claims of sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 if: (1) the employer took reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the harassing or discriminatory behavior, and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities provided. Employer policies, training for its supervisors and investigative processes are taken into consideration in determining whether there were sufficient preventive or corrective opportunities provided to employees. If the conduct, however, results in a tangible employment action such as a demotion or termination, then the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense is unavailable to the employer.
Although many states have not adopted this defense, a few states have advanced the law at the state level, at least in theory, to permit employers … Keep reading
NOTE: Some changes have occurred since this entry was originally posted. Please see new post from April 18, 2012 for an update.
On April 30, 2012, a number of major changes to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) regulations will take effect and businesses, especially those that are not unionized, should take heed. While many employers view the NLRA as a “traditional” labor law that is not applicable to private, non-union entities, almost all employers engaged in interstate commerce are subject to the NLRA.
Two of these changes (effective April 30) are of particular note:
- Posting of Notices: As of April 30, 2012, all employers must post the Notice of Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act (English). For now, failure to comply with the posting requirement does not automatically result in an unfair labor practice, as the regulation was originally drafted, but it is likely that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)will draw an adverse inference from an employer’s failure to post. The posters must be 11 x 17 inches in size and posted in English and any other language which at least 20% of the workforce speaks, if they are not proficient in
… Keep reading
With the new year, Massachusetts employers must add “gender identity” to the list of classes entitled to protection from employment discrimination and retaliation. What was touted as the “transgender rights” law in Massachusetts is, in fact, a “gender identity” law.
The Massachusetts transgender rights law defines “gender identity” as:
[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.
This law allows employees to establish a workplace gender identity by providing their employer with evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or “any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, as part of a person’s core identity.”
Notwithstanding this new law, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has already found that transgender employees are protected under the Commonwealth’s existing sex and disability discrimination laws. Thus, we have long counseled Massachusetts employers to treat transgendered employees as a protected class, and we do not anticipate that this legislation will change that fundamental advice. … Keep reading
Most employment claims can be avoided by simply being aware of what the law requires. Here are three recurring issues which plaintiffs’ class action attorneys and government agencies are targeting across the country and which can be easily avoided by taking action now.
1. Misclassification of Workers as Independent Contractors
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and US Department of Labor (US DOL) have been increasingly cracking down on independent contractor misclassification. Last year, Massachusetts, along with several other states, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the IRS and DOL, formally agreeing to cooperate in investigating independent contractor misclassifications. If a violation occurs, the government agency investigating the matter is obligated to report it to the other state and federal agencies which may be affected by the misclassification, potentially opening up the company to an audit by the IRS or the US DOL.
Massachusetts has one of the toughest tests to be met in order to classify someone as an independent contractor, and the penalties for misclassifying vary with the legal requirement which was not met as a result of the misclassification. For example, if a worker was not paid accrued wages or vacation time upon termination, the … Keep reading