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Dykema Labor & Employment Law Blog

Dykema Labor & Employment Law Blog

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Sixth Circuit Reverses Earlier Opinion Extending Telecommuting As A Widely Available

Last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals triggered alarms among employers throughout the country when it issued its opinion in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, 752 F.3d 634 (6th Cir. 2014),  In that case, the Court held that an employee who suffered from severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) was entitled to a trial on her claim that she remained qualified for work as a resale steel buyer despite her inability to physically attend work with regularity.  Because the plaintiff had requested an accommodation of being permitted to work from home up to four days per week, and not on set days, the Cour held an issue of fact existed as to whether such a requested accommodation was reasonable, and whether the employer had failed to properly accommodate her disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act given the advances in technology that have made such telecommuting arrangements more common.  Employers were alarmed at the prospect of having employees demand, and be entitled to, “work from home” arrangements based on their representation that they could perform their job nearly as well from their home as they could in their office.

The Court granted en banc review of its earlier opinion and, on April 10, 2015, issued an opinion reinstating a more common sense approach to telecommuting based on the needs of the position and the typical requirement that employees actually be present in the workplace in order to work.  The Court did not, however, rule that telecommuting always is unavailable as a reasonable accommodation; employers are well advised to consider the Court’s opinion interpreting the accommodation requirement and examining the “interactive process” in which employers facing requests for accommodation must engage. Read More ›

NLRB Gives Examples of “Illegal” and “Legal” Handbook Provisions and Work Rules

On March 18th, the NLRB’s General Counsel published a 30-page “Report of the General Counsel Concerning Employer Rules.” The Report provides a fairly comprehensive summary of the types of rules the NLRB has found to be contrary to Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, the provision that guarantees employees—in both union and non-union workplaces—the right to engage in “concerted activity.” Read More ›

NLRB Shows Expanded Interest In Nonunion Employers

Please note: This article was first published in Law360 on January 16, 2015

It wasn’t too long ago that the National Labor Relations Board rarely concerned itself with the policies and practices of nonunionized employers, particularly when union activity, such as organizing activity, otherwise was not present in the workplace. Lately, though, the NLRB is applying what were often regarded as virtually dormant legal concepts to the nonunionized workplace. Read More ›

Sixth Circuit Affirms Limits on Employees’ Ability to be Paid for Minor Impositions Made During Meal Breaks

This week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided two cases affirming that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees seeking compensation for work related activities performed during lunch breaks have the burden to show that they spent their meal time predominantly for the employer’s benefit, and that employees are precluded from recovering when they do not follow an established reporting procedure.  These cases clearly establish that minor burdens during meal breaks, such as monitoring radios or being available for emergencies, are not significant enough to convert the breaks to compensable work time.  Consequently, the Sixth Circuit further clarified its stance that, so long as the break is still primarily for the employees’ benefit, the time need not be counted for overtime pay calculation purposes. Read More ›

2015 Brings Significant Changes To Wage Laws

A new year brings new state minimum wages….

Though employers always need to be aware of changes in minimum wage laws in the locales where they operate, it seems that a tidal wave of those changes go into effect in states and municipalities across the country each January 1. Those changes, as well as a number of other issues on the horizon, must be in the forefront of employers’ minds as this new year begins. Read More ›

NLRB Adopts “Quickie Election Rules”: Its Threat Was, After All, A Promise

After announcing its intentions in 2011, by a 3-2 vote the NLRB published its final rules to overhaul the way it will handle petitions filed by unions to represent employees.  The NLRB is advertising the new process as a means for “modernizing” and “streamlining” how petitions and representation disputes will be handled.  The employer community views the changes as a blatant attempt to assist unions in their efforts to organize employees. 

The “quickie election rules,” as they are commonly referred to, will shorten the period from when an election petition is filed with the NLRB to when the actual election is to be held from the typical 6 weeks to as few as 2 weeks, provide unions with more access to employees during the campaign period, and limit an employer’s ability to object to an petition.  The new rules will go into effect on April 14, 2015. Read More ›

NLRB Reverses Itself: Employer Email Systems Now Can be Used by Employees for Union-Related Communications.

In 2007, the National Labor Relations Board held in its Register Guard decision (decided 3-2) that an employer was within its right to manage its property and prohibit use of its email systems for non-business related purposes, including union organizing.  Today, in a 3-2 decision, the NLRB took a “180” and held in the Purple Communications case that its earlier decision was wrong and such use is permitted under the National Labor Relations Act.   Read More ›

Unanimous Supreme Court Finds Time Spent for Security Screenings is Not Compensable

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision providing clear guidance as to what constitutes compensable work under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act. 

The case, Integrity Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, involved a contractor to Amazon.com whose employees retrieved products from the shelves in Amazon’s warehouses and packaged them for delivery to Amazon’s customers.  At the end of each shift the employees were required to undergo a security screening before leaving the warehouses.  The employees claimed that the time spent waiting for and undergoing the screenings entailed about 25 minutes per day, and through the lawsuit, they were seeking overtime compensation for that time.  They also claimed that the time could have been significantly shortened to a de minimis period if the shifts were staggered or more screening stations were available.  Consequently, they claimed, the time devoted to the screening was for the benefit of the employer or its customer Amazon.com, and therefore should have counted as part of their compensable workweeks. Read More ›

OSHA Provides Interim General Guidance for Workers and Guidance for Workers in Fields at Increased Risk of Ebola Exposure

In a recently published Interim Guidance regarding the control and prevention of Ebola, OSHA  has provided interim general requirements and recommendations for workers whose duties are performed in circumstances that are known or reasonably suspected to be contaminated with the Ebola virus (e.g., due to contamination with blood or other potentially infectious material). OSHA differentiated such workers from those who have direct contact with persons with Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. Read More ›

Retaliation under Title VII: A Three-Year Gap Is Not Enough to Refute Causation Under Certain Circumstances

In retaliation cases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the question that frequently arises in evaluating the requisite element of causation is whether “timing is enough.”  Many courts have held that although temporal proximity between the protected activity and the adverse employment action is sufficient to establish a prima facie case, such close timing, standing alone, is insufficient to meet plaintiff’s ultimate burden of proof.  But in Malin v. Hospira, Inc.,___ F.3d ___, Case No. 13-2433 (August 7, 2014), the Seventh Circuit addressed the converse question.  The issue addressed in Malin was whether a three-year gap conclusively refuted a retaliation claim.  The appellate court expressly rejected the principle that “the passage of a particular amount of time between protected activity and retaliation can bar [a retaliation] claim as a matter of law.”  Slip op. at 2.   Read More ›