Four Recent HR & Employment Law Developments

As those working in human resources and my fellow employment lawyers can attest, the last few years have given us constant change.  New employment laws, new labor regulations, federal agencies aggressively enforcing both, and significant cases being issued almost daily make it tough for even the most seasoned “HR Genius” to keep on top of all of the developments.  I try to lighten the load through this Blog, but like you, only have so many hours in the day.

So,  this week I am going to lean on my management-side employment law colleagues at Michael Best & Friedrich.  Below are just a sampling of the recent articles and “client alerts” they have authored recently:

1.  Wisconsin just enacted its “Right-To-Work” Law.  What does this mean for employers in Wisconsin? Click here.

2.  The Department of Labor just issued its Final Rule revising and expanding the definition of “spouse” to include those from same sex marriages.  For more details, click here.

3.  Utah just enacted a new law prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation and “gender identity.”  If you have operations there, then you should  click here.

4.  Do you know what constitutes a valid employment claim “release,” and when you can lawfully “require” employees to sign them?  For this information and more, click here.

Hopefully you will find these helpful in your quest to becoming (or remaining) an “HR Genius.”

Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Suite 3300
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
414.225.2755 (direct)
414.277.0656 (fax)
mwquick@michaelbest.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchquick
Twitter: @HRGeniusBar
@wagelaws

 

 

 

Employees Behaving Badly – The Social Media Edition

twitter fire

“Privacy is dead, and social media hold the smoking gun” – Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable   

It seems like every week there is another story gone “viral”  of an employee posting something colossally stupid or offensive on a social media site, getting fired, and the employer left scrambling to repair its damaged reputation.  Here are just a few of the recent gems:

1.  ESPN suspended outspoken anchor Keith Olbermann for engaging in a heated twitter debate with Penn State University (“PSU”) students.  After a PSU alum brought to his attention an annual fundraiser at PSU that raised $13 million for pediatric cancer, Olbermann tweeted “PSU students are pitiful  because they’re  PSU students – period,” and called another student a “moron.”  Olbermann later apologized (via Twitter of course), calling his comments “stupid and childish.”

2.  A school bus driver thought it was a good idea to take a “selfie” holding a full bottle of beer to her lips as she sat behind the driver’s wheel, and then post it on Facebook.  Nothing says “student safety” like a brewski and a 15,000 pound vehicle, right?  The school district promptly fired the driver  after concerned parents rightfully went ballistic.  Fun Fact:  the driver never actually opened the bottle.

3. A Texas teenager fired off an expletive filled tweet complaining about starting her new job at a local pizza joint the next day, complete with a string of “thumbs-down” emoji characters:

fired

The boss saw it and tweeted back: “no… you don’t start the ** job today! I just fired you! Good luck with your no money, no job life.” Not to be outdone in this social media throwdown, the boss added some crying emoji faces. Not surprisingly, his corporate ownership was none too happy with the public airing of the dispute (think angry emoji faces).

So how can employers reduce their legal and reputational risks from their employees’ social media abuses?  For starters:

1. Adopt and enforce a clear social media policy. (Easier said than done given the NLRB’s views on the subject).

2. Train employees to think twice before tweeting, posting or sharing. And then think a third time.

3.  Train employees to ask themselves:  is this tweet/post/share something that I would say or do in front of my boss, my spouse, my parents, or my kids?  If not, don’t tweet/post/share it.

4.  Train employees to further ask themselves: is this tweet/post/share something that I am comfortable explaining and/or defending to the individuals mentioned above, or to a judge,  jury, or the mainstream media? If not, don’t tweet/post/share it.

 5.  Train employees to remember that although “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” what happens on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram will stay on the internet forever.  Or, as they used to say,  “this will go on your permanent record.”

6.   Bottom line –  Everyone (from the CEO to the rank-and-file worker) should recognize “you are what you tweet,” and that all must choose their words, videos, pictures, and yes, emojis, carefully.

Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Suite 3300
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
414.225.2755 (direct)
414.277.0656 (fax)
mwquick@michaelbest.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchquick
 Twitter: @HRGeniusBar
 @wagelaws

 

 

Employers: Don’t Get Run Over By A Fast Track Union Election

thCA56A7G8

On December 12, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued its much anticipated rule changes for union elections. The rules become effective on April 14, 2015.  The new rules set forth an “accelerated election” process that gives employers much less time to communicate to their views on union representation to their employees. The NLRB has published a chart comparing the current election rules with the new election rules.  Some of the highlights of the new fast track process include:

  1. Electronic filing and transmission of election petitions and other documents.
  2. Elections will generally  be held within 20 days of the filing of the petition.
  3. The NLRB will schedule pre-election hearings within eight days after a Notice of Hearing is filed.
  4. Pre-election hearings will generally be limited to whether it is appropriate to conduct an election, and not voter eligibility or inclusion issues.
  5. After a petition has been filed, employers will be required to post an initial “NLRB Notice of Election” containing generic information about the petition and the parties’ rights and obligations.
  6. Employers will also have to fill out and submit a “Statement of Position” within seven days of receipt of the election petition that includes a list of prospective voters, their job classifications, shifts and work locations.
  7. If the employer fails to raise a particular election issue in this “Statement of Position,” it may not present evidence on the issue at the representation hearing.
  8. Individual voter eligibility issues will generally not be heard until after the election.
  9. The list of all eligible bargaining unit employees (“Excelsior list”) must be electronically filed within two (2) business days after a Direction of Election has been issued, and must include employees’ home addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  10. Post-election hearings will be set 14 days after the filing of objections.

Bottom line: once an election petition is filed, employers will have no time to develop an effective response strategy.  Given that the new rules do not take effect for another couple months, employers should take the opportunity now to put proactive plans in place before an election petition is filed. A solid plan should include:

  • Identifying the management team responsible for responding to a union organizing attempt
  • Developing an employee communications program to discourage employees from signing union authorization cards
  • Conducting a union organizing vulnerability analysis
  • Auditing labor relations issues, relevant company policies and human resources practices and procedures
  • Training managers and supervisors to identify the signs of potential union organizing activity, and how to lawfully respond to them
  • Developing an employee communications program in the event of an NLRB scheduled election
  • Conducting supervisor training on how to effectively manage a union-free workforce

Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Suite 3300
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
414.225.2755 (direct)
414.277.0656 (fax)
mwquick@michaelbest.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchquick
Twitter: @HRGeniusBar
 @wagelaws

The NLRB and Photo/Video Bans in the Workplace

The National Labor Relations Board just weighed in on another employer’s social media policy.   Two key holdings:  (1) the company had a duty to bargain with the union over the implementation of the policy; and (2) the company’s ban on employees taking pictures and videos on the company’s premises was unlawful.  See my full article here.

Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Suite 3300
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
414.225.2755 (direct)
414.277.0656 (fax)
mwquick@michaelbest.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchquick
Twitter
:  @HRGeniusBar
@wagelaws

Another Facebook Firing Case at the NLRB

Employees sometimes say insubordinate and highly offensive things about their employers and supervisors on Facebook and other social media sites.  Faced with stinging “public” criticism, employers often react strongly and terminate the offending employee.  Frequently the termination leads to litigation at the National Labor Relations Board.  See my article on the most recent “Facebook Firing” case.

Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Suite 3300
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
414.225.2755 (direct)
414.277.0656 (fax)
mwquick@michaelbest.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchquick
Twitter
:  @HRGeniusBar
@wagelaws