Tag Archives: Cases

Telling An Employee They Are Eligible For FMLA Leave May Mean They Are Eligible… Even If They Aren’t

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of unpaid leaves to employees who meet a set of eligibility standards.  These standards can be somewhat complex and, even though the FMLA has been around for over 20 years, employers still get make mistakes when determining eligibility.  The question then arises, what if your employer tells you that you are covered but then fires you when they later determine you are not actually eligible?  This exactly the scenario that arose in a recent federal appeals court decision.  See Tilley v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission, 777 F.3d 303 (6th Cir. 2015) (hat tip to the Employer Law Report for bringing this case to my attention).  Hit the jump for all the details… Continue reading

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Filed under Family Medical Leave Act, Rights, Uncategorized

Discriminatory Behavior: Do PIPs and “Coaching Plans” Count?

Anyone familiar with educator employment has likely heard the terms PIP, PDP, or FIP before.  PIPs, short for Professional Improvement Plans, are generally the first attempt of an employer to change the behavior of an employee.  Understandably, many people find being placed on PIPs surprising and very stressful, this is particularly true when an individual has been with an employer for decades only to find themselves suddenly placed under a microscope.  Placement on a PIP can make an individual to feel targeted and harassed, which leads to the obvious question, can a PIP by itself be discriminatory?  A recent decision from a federal appellate court addresses just this issue.  See Perret v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 770 F.3d 336 (5th Cir. 2014) (hat tip to the Laconic Law Blog for pointing this case out).  Hit the jump for the analysis… Continue reading

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Medical Information: What do I have to share with my employer?

When medical issues affect your work life it is natural to want to keep your health information as private as possible.  Often, employers will request that the individual sign an incredibly broad release that would grant them access to basically all of an individual’s health information which is far beyond what the law requires.  However, when deciding what information to share with your employer, bear in mind that there are some minimum standards of disclosure that must be met in order to claim protection under federal law.  This post will examine two cases, one under the Family Medical Leave Act and one under the Americans with Disabilities Act, where an individual shared information but the courts decided it wasn’t enough.  Fortunately, in most situations there is a balance that can be achieved between protecting your information and protecting your job. Continue reading

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Filed under Americans with Disabilities Act, Discrimination, Family Medical Leave Act, Uncategorized

Union Advocacy and Free Speech

I have written about the free speech rights of public employees a few times now but a recent case from a federal court in New York creates an important precedent for union members advocating on their coworkers’ behalf.  See Pekowsky v. Yonkers Bd. of Educ., No. 12 Civ. 4090 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 2014).  Before getting into the details of Pekowsky, it’s important to understand the general landscape of public employee First Amendment rights.  The courts have taken several opportunities to limit general free speech rights in the somewhat unique scenario where the government is also an individual’s employer.  In order for a public employee’s speech to be protected under the First Amendment (and therefore protect them from any discipline for that speech), the speech must meet four tests:

  1. The employee must be speaking as a citizen and not pursuant to their official duties;
  2. The speech must be on a topic of public concern;
  3. The employee’s free speech interests must outweigh the employer’s interests; and
  4. The speech must be the motivating factor of an adverse employment action.

At issue in Pekowsky, was how these tests would apply to a union representative disciplined after advocating for his coworkers.  Hit the jump for more… Continue reading

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Court Upholds $450,000 Age-Discrimination Claim Against Kansas City School District

In a decision that could have repercussions for districts across Missouri, a Missouri appellate court has upheld a jury decision against the Kansas City School District with damages totaling almost $450,000.  See Hurst v. Kansas City Mo. Sch. Dist., No. WD76534 (Mo. App. W.D. April 29, 2014).  The decision highlights methods that many districts are using to “creatively” cut workforce and circumstances where such methods break the law.  Hit the jump for all the details… Continue reading

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Filed under Discrimination, Missouri, Uncategorized

Missouri Court Rules Parents May Be Liable for Injury to Teacher Aide

Teachers and teacher aides dealing with violent students may feel there are few resources to correct the students’ behavior and protect themselves.  Administrators, tired of dealing with the same students repeatedly, will leave the classroom staff to fend for themselves and police and prosecutors are reluctant to press criminal charges against minors.  Additionally, school employees are often reluctant to protect themselves as that, almost unerringly, leads to a hotline report of child abuse or neglect.  This leaves many school employees facing a workplace where they can routinely expect to be punched, bit, scratched, and spit on.  However, a recent decision from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, may provide some remedy when the student’s parents have refused to take action to alleviate the situation.  See Ridgell v. McDermott, No. ED100402 (Mo. App. E.D. April 15, 2014).

Hit the jump for all the details… Continue reading

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Need a Disability Accommodation? Make Sure You Ask for Everything

Most of the people that I work with are aware that the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows employees to request modifications to their employment so that they an continue to work.  However, often they are less clear on what sort of modifications they can request and what work responsibilities they must still be able to complete.  A trio of recent cases demonstrate why it is important to make your request for accommodations as broad and all-encompassing as possible… Continue reading

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I’m on Medical Leave, Can I be Fired? Do I Have To Do Work?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one of the most important protections for workers dealing with their own medical issues or the health issues of a family member.  It provides time off for medical care or recuperation and guarantees that you cannot be disciplined or terminated for taking the leave (if you need to get acquainted with the basic protections of the FMLA, here is a video presentation I made with all the info).  Unfortunately, while the FMLA does protect you from termination for taking medical leave, there still may be other grounds that an individual can be terminated even while on leave.  Additionally, many employers now require some amount of call-in or work done while on leave, but the contours of what exactly can be required are fuzzy.  Hit the link for a few cases that illustrate these aspects of the FMLA… Continue reading

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Filed under Family Medical Leave Act, Uncategorized

Decision May Broaden Speech Protection for “Teaching and Writing on Academic Matters”

When I talk with educators they are routinely surprised by how limited their free speech rights are (for previous coverage of First Amendment issues, click here).  The courts have repeatedly narrowed the broad protection provided by the First Amendment so that now public employee speech must pass a number of tests before determining whether it is protected.  However, a recent decision out of the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may be changing that trend.  See Demers v. Austin, 729 F.3d 1011 (9th Cir. 2013).  Hit the jump for a discussion of the first few glimmers of change, along with a heavy helping of cautions… Continue reading

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U.S. Supreme Court Limits Employer Liability for Discrimination

In two cases over the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified some important aspects of discrimination law. Unfortunately, in both cases they decided in favor of the employer, creating new limitations on when an employee can successfully sue for discrimination. These cases are guaranteed to have impacts for all employees so we will summarize them each below.  Hit the jump for all the details… Continue reading

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Filed under Discrimination, Rights