The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to prohibit pay secrecy policies and actions by covered Federal contractors and subcontractors (“Contractors”). The NPRM seeks to implement Executive Order 13665, signed by President Obama earlier this year, by proposing to prohibit pay secrecy policies and practices.
Kozy Kitten Cat Food (if you are unfamiliar a YouTube Video is available here) has affected some of our lives more significantly than others. In 1977, a Southern District of Florida court was faced with the religious discrimination claims of Mr. Stanley Oscar Brown. Mr. Brown claimed that he was discriminated against because of his religion. His Complaint alleged that his employer was interfering with is “‘personal religious creed’ that ‘Kozy Kitten People/Cat Food . . . is contributing significantly to (his) state of well being . . . (and therefore) to (his) overall work performance.’” While not spelled out in the Complaint, our guess is that Mr. Brown himself enjoyed the taste of Kozy Kitten Cat Food. The Court found “Plaintiff’s ‘personal religious creed’ concerning Kozy Kitten Cat Food can be described as . . . a mere personal preference and, therefore, is beyond the parameters of the concept of religion as protected by the constitution or, by logical extension, by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq.”
Three months ago, we reported on EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., in which a three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit brought by a fired Ford Motor Company employee Jane Harris. In 2011, the EEOC had filed suit on her behalf, alleging that Ford violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate Ms. Harris' disability and by retaliating against her for filing a charge with the EEOC. A U.S. District Court in Michigan granted Ford summary judgment, however, the Sixth Circuit panel threw out that decision, ruling that Ford had not met its burden of proving that Ms. Harris’ physical presence was an essential function of her job. The Sixth Circuit’s ruling raised potentially significant issues for companies that allow employees to telecommute. (Our prior post on the case can be found here: http://www.hrlawupdate.com/home/2014/6/17/where-do-you-work.html.)
Recently, however, a majority of the Sixth Circuit’s judges voted to rehear the case and the Court issued an Order vacating its prior opinion pending rehearing.
We will continue to follow this case and keep our loyal viewers updated. If you have questions about it, or about any aspect of your company’s telecommuting policy, please contact Verrill Dana’s Labor & Employment Department.
Frantic Friday: How We Want You to Start Your Long Weekend OR How 2,600 Retweets Created an FMLA Nightmare
Last week Christine Byers, a police reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tweeted with regards to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri: “Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop’s version of events in the shooting.” @ChristineDByers. The post garnered over 2,600 retweets and a number of news reports.
So why are we posting about it here? Because Ms. Byers was on FMLA leave—and has been since March—when she posted the tweet. The next day Ms. Byers tweeted: “On FMLA from paper. Earlier tweets did not meet standards for publication.” This tweet, however, sparked public outrage with people believing Ms. Byers had been terminated and causing the Post-Dispatch to issue, in part, the following statement: “Christine Byers is a police reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who has been on FMLA leave since March. She is not involved in the Ferguson coverage while she is on leave. Her tweets are personal.” The line between many employee’s personal identity and work identity can sometimes become blurred—make sure your company takes steps, before issues arise, to guard against such issues.
Recently a Florida District Court Judge held that neither an employee, nor her former employer, owned the Facebook “likes” that had been drawn to an unofficial (later turned official) Facebook fan page. Mattocks v. Black Entertainment Television, 2014 WL 4101594 (S.D. Fl. Aug. 20, 2014). The former employee, Stacey Mattocks, started a Facebook fan page for The Game, a comedy-drama on BET that ran in 2008. While The Game ceased airing shortly after its inception, the Facebook page lived on and in 2010, when BET decided to revive The Game, it reached out to Ms. Mattocks, and offered her a part-time position maintaining the Facebook page as the show’s official fan page. This offer would make sense, considering the page already had approximately 2 million “likes” that Ms. Mattocks had garnered herself.