I have previously posted a survey of the laws in all 50 states concerning an employee’s right to vote. In case you’ve just heard about the survey, I’m giving you a link to the post again, so you can easily find it. In addition to the voting laws themselves, the post contains some practical tips concerning employee voting. Click here.
The owner of a chain of McDonald’s restaurants in Ohio sent a letter to his employees about the upcoming elections. The letter accompanied employee paychecks and said that employee wages could only be raised “if the right people” were elected. If others were elected, “we will not” raise wages. The letter encouraged employees to vote for Republican candidates in the Governor’s race, the U.S. Senate race, and a congressional district race. Then the walls of legal hell collapsed on the franchise owner.
November 2 is just two weeks away. The mid-term elections are almost here. It’s predicted that there will be a lot of new faces in Congress next year. Remember, it was generally believed that the 2008 elections would usher in all kinds of new labor and employment laws. That hasn’t happened. It’s generally believed that the results of the mid-term elections will mean very little activity on the labor and employment front. It will be interesting to see if we are as wrong about the mid-term elections as we were about the 2008 elections.
When the 2008 elections were approaching, I surveyed the laws in all 50 states concerning the voting rights of employees. With the mid-term elections a little more than three weeks away, it’s time for another review this subject. I know that some of you have been recently accessing the post I did back in 2008. The state laws remain basically the same, although there are a few changes. The purpose of this post is to make sure that you are up-to-speed on these laws in the state or states where you have facilities or employees.
Like a few other states, Tennessee has a law on the books that permits registered gun owners to bring their guns into establishments serving alcohol. A server in a Nashville restaurant has filed an anonymous complaint with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration claiming that mixing guns with alcohol creates an unsafe work environment under TOSHA.
Residents in 14 states plus DC are able to obtain prescriptions from their doctors for medical marijuana to deal with pain. Only the law in Rhode Island, however, prevents employers from firing employees who use medical marijuana. In the other states, there’s a big gray area when it comes to employers’ use of their drug testing policies to terminate an employee who tests positive, despite a doctor’s prescription.
Much has been written about the problem with bullies in the workplace. A few posts on the subject have appeared on this blog. (Here, here, here, and here.) Some states have even considered legislation to deal with this problem. I don’t have the answer. I don’t think state legislatures do either. I do have a few suggestions and tips.
It’s not unusual for employers to require certain employees to sign agreements containing restrictive covenants. These covenants might restrict competition for a period of time. These covenants might take the form of non-solicitation and non-disclosure restrictions, which say the employee can’t solicit the employer’s clients or customers or disclose proprietary information. If an employee has had significant contact with clients or customers, a non-solicitation agreement is quite important.
Yesterday, significant parts of Arizona’s new and controversial immigration law were ruled invalid by a federal judge. (Read here.) Undoubtedly, there will be an appeal, so who knows what will eventually happen? Not many people disagree with the proposition that there should be a federal overhaul of immigration law. But Congress isn’t about to act on this before the November elections, and it’s unlikely Congress will act on it after the elections.
In McDonald v. City of Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms applies to state and local governments just as it does to the federal government. This ruling is hardly surprising in light of the Court’s decision two years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Court found that the District of Columbia’s absolute ban on the possession of handguns (similar to what Chicago’s ordinance did) violated the Second Amendment.
The False Claims Act (sometimes called the “Lincoln Law,” as it was passed during President Lincoln’s administration) allows private citizens to file lawsuits, on behalf of the federal government, when there’s evidence that a person has wrongly made a claim for money from the federal government. The citizen who files the suit is entitled to part of any money that’s recovered. The government can bring its own lawsuits, but part of the rationale of the False Claims Act is that private citizens’ assistance in helping recover misspent federal funds should be encouraged and rewarded.
A Hooters waitress in Michigan claims that she’s been put on probation and told to lose weight if she wants to keep her job. The server, standing five feet, eight inches, and weighing 132 pounds, says she’s devastated and looking for a lawyer. Hooters says it imposes no weight restriction on its employees. “Our practice of upholding an image standard based on appearance, attitude and fitness for Hooters girls is both legal and fair. It is not unlike the standard used by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders or the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.”
I’ve previously written about a common misconception that many employers have about independent contractors. It sort of goes like this. If you hire someone, you can call them an employee or an independent contractor. If the latter, you just need to get the person to sign an independent contractor agreement. Then, you don’t have to withhold income taxes or social security, pay unemployment premiums, or provide benefits.
One of our country’s most divisive issues is immigration. While this issue has various dimensions, it’s resolution is critical to employers and an important part of employment law. Everyone seems to agree that reform is needed. No one seems to agree on what the reform should be. As noted in a recent post, the current negative view of immigration belies who we are as a nation and causes the enactment of well-intentioned but unhelpful state laws.
Arizona’s state legislature has been in an immigration crackdown mode since 2006 when it passed a law to dissolve companies with a pattern of hiring illegal immigrants. In 2009, it became a crime for a state government worker to give benefits to an illegal immigrant. According to the Los Angeles Times, the legislature has now enacted a bill making it a misdemeanor for an immigrant to lack proper paperwork and requiring police officers to investigate a person’s immigration status if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an illegal immigrant.
Much has been written about the recent New York Times article on whether employers are violating the wage and hour law by failing to pay interns for their work. See Workplace Prof Blog, Philip Miles, Manpower Employment Blawg, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, YGLESIAS, Hipsterrunoff, Joanne Jacobs, The Kept-Up Academic Librarian, Minding the Workplace, and FindLaw.
When I was a teenager, Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs burst onto the scene with their huge hit Wooly Bully. The lyrics were hard to make out and hard to discern even if you made them out. It’s clear that Sam and his Pharaohs weren’t singing about bullies at school or work, but they could have been.
A high percentage of employers have workplace smoking policies. Most of these policies say that employees can’t smoke in the workplace, on the premises, in company vehicles or can smoke only in restricted areas. So, in the winter, it’s not uncommon to see a dwindling number of smokers huddled outside an office building trying to stay warm while satisfying a much-scorned addiction. Indeed, smokers are the lepers of the 21st century.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times (click here, here, and here), 2009 ended with gun violence in the workplace. A former employee of the gaming commission near San Diego burst into the executive director’s office and killed him with a shotgun. The former employee then committed suicide.
The Fort Hood military base is the largest employer in Texas. Until recently, it was thought to be one of the safest. It’s now another workplace of terrible violence. (Read other posts on the shooting at Ft. Hood.)