In House: HR & Employment Law Archives
In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Recently in HR & Employment Law Category

Until a few days ago, parent companies of franchises could disclaim responsibility for labor violations of their franchisees. But The New York Times reports the National Labor Relations Board has thrown a wrench into that comfort, finding McDonald's -- one of the largest franchise operators in the world -- jointly liable for its franchisees' violations.

The NLRB's General Counsel is allowing complaints to proceed against McDonald's as well as certain franchises that allegedly penalized workers for engaging in pro-labor activities. Some of these activities included strikes that included other fast-food franchises like Wendy's and Burger King.

While the statement consists only of a press release, it follows hot on the heels of the NLRB's decision to expand the definition of "joint employer," likely paving the way for more franchiser/franchisee cases like this one.

Fresh on the heels of settling a labor class action (assuming the objectors don't nuke the deal) regarding a Silicon Valley anti-poaching pact, Apple finds itself again on the defensive, and again, it's a labor class action.

This time, a mega-class of current and former Apple workers in California allege that the company's break policies violated California law, both by giving lunch breaks after the five-hour mark and by denying workers a second rest break for longer shifts.

Late last week, a San Diego judge certified the class, which covers nearly 21,000 current and former hourly retail and corporate Apple employees over a four-year period from December 2007 to August 2012, reports the San Jose Mercury-News. California law provides that employees must be paid the equivalent of one hour's wage for each missed break -- a huge tab considering the size of the company.

In September 2013, an employee at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, made a claim alleging unfair labor practices. The employee asserted that the plant's management was preventing employees from talking about their labor union or soliciting for the union during work hours.

As you probably know, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) expressly allows employees to engage in union activities and prevents employers from interfering with that right. In response to the complaint against Mercedes-Benz, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board found three violations of the FLSA.

Here's what in-house counsel need to know from this decision:

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court granted cert in a pregnancy discrimination case to determine whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") requires employers who make accommodations for people with short-term disabilities to make the same accommodations for pregnant workers.

A mere two weeks later, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines related to pregnancy discrimination, reports The Washington Post. Let's take a closer look at the coincidental timing, the new guidelines, and what this means for your company.

Stop me if you've heard this one: tech company's Chinese supplier is caught violating labor laws.

Okay, don't actually stop me. Keep reading. That's better.

This time, it's Samsung. Shortly after announcing an "all clear" in its recent internal labor audit, at least in regards to child labor (there were plenty of other violations, of course), the company is doing a double-take after a watchdog allegedly found multiple instances of Chinese children working for a supplier using fake IDs.

Congratulations: Your closely held corporation is a person. And when it comes to religious beliefs, that fictional person, it seems, takes after its figurative parents -- its closely held owners.

What does the Supreme Court's landmark Hobby Lobby ruling mean for your company, your religious beliefs, and your requirement to provide either contraceptive coverage or insurance coverage for other services that run contrary to your beliefs?

Depending on the level of accommodation you're requesting, you may only need to fill out a form or send a letter, though for objections to anything other than contraception, you may be forced to litigate.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) operate in a weird plane between retirement funds that are meant to benefit employees and a means for employee "buy in" that should benefit the company. The administrator of a plan is supposed to further the latter aim, while maintaining a fiduciary duty to employees.

Smells like conflict of interest, right? That's exactly what happened with Fifth Third Bancorp, which used employee funds to purchase more company stock, even while the bank was engaged in the risky subprime mortgage market. (Spoiler alert: the bubble burst, and the stock price collapsed.)

On Monday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the White House Summit on Working Families, to engage the country in a "conversation on working families for a 21st Century workplace." In his remarks leading up to the event, and at the summit, the President outlined four issues that are a priority for working families: workplace flexibility, access to affordable child care, minimum and equal wages, and paid maternity leave.

To that end, the President is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Labor to begin expanding flexible workplace policies for federal employees, supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, changing the definition of spouse in the Family and Medical Leave Act to accommodate same sex married couples, as well as increasing access to affordable child care. Though starting with federal employees is a great way to start, there's nothing to stop your company from leading by example. As lawyers in the legal department, you're in a unique position to help steer the company to help make the workplace more efficient, as well as a happier place for your company's employees.

Here are some ways how your company can help #FamiliesSucceed.

Many employers don't allow employees to troll around the facility after or before working hours. Why? The reasons vary: security, a distraction-free workplace, keeping people from working off the clock, etc.

But now, if your company has such a blanket policy, it may have to have an exception: the Section 7 exception. That's right, the NLRB's favorite tool for blocking social media and workplace conduct policies is now making an appearance in off-duty facility access policies.

While you can limit access, you'll want to create an exception for the union and labor activities protected by Section 7.

James Robinson might be the most expensive security guard in the world. The former employee of Pretty Girl clothing in Brooklyn, who previously pled guilty to assaulting his coworker, just cost his employer $4.7 million.

Why? Not only did Robinson punch his Yemeni-born coworker, Osama Saleh, in the face, fracturing his cheekbone, but he repeatedly verbally harassed Saleh before escalating to physical violence. Robinson allegedly repeatedly called him "bin Laden" and ranted about hating "dirty" Arabs. Supervisors, meanwhile, did nothing, despite Saleh's pleas, dismissing the conduct as banter, reports the New York Daily News.