May 27, 2011

Employees without time records? The DOL now has an app for that.

Posted in Fair Labor Standards Act, Hours Worked, Meal Periods, Overtime, Record Keeping tagged , , , at 10:31 pm by Tom Jacobson

In its ongoing effort to more aggressively enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor has introduced its first app.  It’s the DOL Timesheet app  which enables employees to use their smart phones to track their hours worked and wages owed.

In some respects, this is nothing new.  Employees have always had the right to keep track of their work hours, and the DOL  also provides printable calendars for tracking time and wages.  The DOL’s app simply provides a new tool that will make it even easier for an employee to do so.

It is an employer’s responsibility to keep records of the hours worked by its employees.  If those records are not kept, then in the event of a dispute over wages owed, overtime or any other time-keeping issue, the DOL’s new app may provide just the evidence the employee or the DOL needs to prove their case.

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

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May 23, 2011

The times they are a changin’: will you sink or swim?

Posted in Computer Use, Confidential Information, Employee Privacy, Exempt/Non-Exempt Employees, Independent Contractors, Internet Policies, Social Media in the Workplace, Social Networking tagged , , , at 8:11 pm by Tom Jacobson

As I sit through the 2011 Minnesota Employment Law Institute, this 1964 Bob Dylan classic has been running through my mind:

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

The Times They Are a Changin’, Bob Dylan (1964), http://bit.ly/hAPUnh.

Dylan’s words couldn’t be more fitting for today’s employers.  The 2011 Institute points out that rising around us are floodwaters like Facebook, blogs, tweets, Wikileaks, the new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, increased enforcement efforts by the Department of Labor, protecting confidential information and trade secrets, and the mis-classification of non-exempt employees and independent contractors.  Employers who accept the sea of change and learn how to swim through it will succeed; those who don’t will sink like stones.

To learn to swim, we hire instructors and take lessons.  If you would like more information about how I can teach you to swim though the sea of employment law change, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

May 19, 2011

There’s still time

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:02 pm by Tom Jacobson

There’s still time to register for the 2011 West Central MN Employment Law Update to be held June 9 at ATCC. For more information and a registration form, go to http://www.alexmn.org/events.cfm. Registration deadline is June 2. I hope to see you there!

May 17, 2011

Same sex harassment costs contractor $451K

Posted in Discrimination, Employee Handbooks, Gender / Sex, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Orientation, Stereotyping tagged , , , at 10:53 am by Tom Jacobson

A federal jury has awarded $451,000.00 to a male ironworker who was the victim of male-on-male sexual harassment.

The case was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Kerry Woods who alleged that his supervisor at Boh Brothers Construction Co., LLC harassed and taunted him.  According to the EEOC, the supervisor engaged in verbal abuse, made taunting gestures of a sexual nature and exposed himself. The EEOC also presented evidence that the supervisor harassed Woods “because he thought he was feminine and did not conform to the supervisor’s gender stereotypes of a typical ‘rough ironworker.'”

The EEOC also claimed that Boh Bros. retaliated against Woods after he reported the harassment.  The evidence indicated that Woods was transferred to another location, paid less, and then “laid off.”

Another important aspect of this case was the company’s failure to adopt a sexual harassment policy.  Boh Bros. had no policy defining or specifically prohibiting sexual harassment, and the harassing supervisor testified that prior to the lawsuit, he had never received sexual harassment training.  “The jury’s verdict signals to employers the importance of having robust sexual harassment policies and training in place, including in predominantly male workplaces,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez.

Another EEOC attorney, Jim Sacher, noted how “This case demonstrates the failure of this company to prevent and properly respond to a serious matter for the construction industry: male-on-male sexual harassment by a supervisor and under isolated working conditions.”

For additional details of the Boh Bros. lawsuit, see EEOC Obtains $451,000 Jury Verdict Against Boh Brothers Construction Co. For Male-On-male Sexual Harassment, http://1.usa.gov/lxvmre.  For information on related cases, see Ellen DeGeneres & Gender Stereotyping under Title VII, http://bit.ly/kudWku and Tomboy Firing Costs Company $50K, http://bit.ly/jRkzco.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

May 9, 2011

Until death parts us: marriage, work, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act

Posted in Discrimination, Marital Status tagged , , , , at 4:11 pm by Tom Jacobson

Managing married co-workers presents a unique challenge for any employer, especially if one spouse separates from employment on bad terms.  Some employers may be tempted to divorce themselves from the remaining employee.  That’s a temptation that must be avoided, the Minnesota Supreme Court said on April 13, 2011 in Taylor v. LSI Corp., http://bit.ly/iWaJTY.

In the Taylor case, LeeAnn and Gary Taylor were married, and they both worked for LSI.  He was the company’s president; she was its sales and marketing coordinator.  After Mr. Taylor offered a “forced” resignation, but before that resignation took effect, LSI fired Mrs. Taylor.  According to the Taylors, LSI fired her because the company believed she would feel uncomfortable or awkward staying with the company after Mr. Taylor’s departure.  Mrs. Taylor also claimed to have been told that, “due to her husband‟s situation . . . and the fact that it was likely [the Taylors] were going to have to relocate, [LSI] was eliminating [her] position.”  The company claimed to have legitimate business reasons for dismissing Mrs. Taylor.

Mrs. Taylor then sued LSI, claiming that her termination violated the marital discrimination provisions of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), http://bit.ly/la9EWA. A key issue in the case was whether or not Mrs. Taylor had a legitimate claim when LSI’s actions were not “directed at the institution of marriage.”  Marital discrimination has long been prohibited by the MHRA, but in 1984 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in another case that in order for a marital status discrimination claim to exist under the MHRA, there had to  be evidence that the employer’s actions were “directed at the institution of marriage,”  not just evidence that one spouse was treated adversely because of the other spouse’s situation.

However, in the Taylor case, the court noted that since its 1984 decision, the legislature amended the MHRA to provide broader protections for marital status discrimination.  The legislature did this by re-defining “marital status” to include “protection against discrimination on the basis of the identity, situation, actions, or beliefs of a spouse or former spouse.”  Based on this new definition, the court specifically rejected the notion that the MHRA still requires a showing that the employer’s actions were directed at the institution of marriage.  Thus, because Mrs. Taylor’s claim fit within the new definition, the court allowed her claim to proceed.

Employing married co-workers presents special challenges, including how to treat the remaining employee after his/her spouse is fired or otherwise separates from employment.  As tempting as it may be to try to avoid discomfort and awkwardness by dismissing the remaining spouse, the Taylor case makes it clear that doing so would likely violate the MHRA.

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

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