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American Family Insurance Agents Aren't Employees

It should come as no surprise to thousands of American Family insurance agents that they are independent contractors.

And it's not because the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said so in Jammal v. American Family Insurance Company. It's because the agents said so when they joined the insurance company.

Of course, the case is more complicated than that. Unfortunately for 7,000 agents and their families, it means they don't get health and retirement benefits.

When leaving work for the day, most workers don't have to worry about security screenings to make sure they didn't steal something. However, for Amazon warehouse workers, not only are they required to undergo security screenings before being allowed to leave, those screenings are unpaid.

What's worse, due to the large number of warehouse employees, there are often long lines that can take over 20 minutes to get through. And as you might have already known, a putative class action was filed, and there is multidistrict federal litigation ongoing over this issue. Most recently, the Sixth Circuit opined that workers in Nevada were entitled to compensation for these security checks, while workers in Arizona were not.

Court Turns Down Age Discrimination Claim, Cites Performance

Getting older can be tough, especially when you lose a job based on your age.

That's what Ramona DeBra said happened at JPMorgan, where she was a teller. As she neared 60, the Michigan branch let her go.

Unfortunately in DeBra v. JPMorgan Chase & Company, it got worse for her. According to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, her age wasn't the reason she was fired.

While employers need to be rather careful when employees make requests for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the recent decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in McDonald v. UAW-GM is rather instructive for employers.

In this case, the employer did engage with the employee to work on finding a reasonable accommodation that would work for both employer and employee. However, the accommodations proposed by the employer, despite seeming to fit with the employee's doctor's recommendation, were rejected by the employee. Unfortunately for the employee, as the appellate court noted, the ADA does not require that employers provide a specifically requested accommodation, but rather to work with the employee to find an accommodation that works for both.

A funeral home in Michigan is learning one legal truth on appeal, or as the undertaker might colloquially say, postmortem: Transgender employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII.

Fortunately, no employees were murdered in the making of this appeal, but, according to a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, one was certainly discriminated against. Aimee Stephens sued her former employer, RG and GR Harris Funeral Homes, for firing her after she started to transition from male to female. In addition to the discriminatory termination, Stephens also alleged that a wardrobe allowance that was only provided to male employees constituted additional gender discrimination.

When Memphis Light, Gas and Water denied one of their own in house attorney's request for a reasonable accommodation to work from home during a period of temporary disability related to a pregnancy, the public utility likely didn't think they'd get sued. It's not like lawyers are a very litigious bunch... oh wait... .

When it comes to denying an employee a reasonable accommodation, employers should take heed and learn the lesson the Memphis utility is learning the hard way (after losing their Sixth Circuit appeal): if the accommodation is objectively reasonable, it should be granted despite a boss's subjective beliefs.

Fired Theater Clerk Must Get More Back Pay, Court Says

David Pittington was trying to make a living as a low wage-earner in a small-town, Tennessee theater.

He worked in a wooden shack outside, collecting $8 to $10 an hour. He didn't complain too much, except about how management treated his wife, who also worked there.

When the company fired him, he sued for wrongful discharge. A jury gave him $10,000 in back pay, but an appeals court said that wasn't enough in Pittington v. Great Smokey Mountain Lumberjack Feud.

Honeywell Retirees Won't Get Health Benefits

The Honeywell Autolite factory in Fostoria, Ohio, once employed more than 1,000 people; that was nearly 10 percent of the town's population.

Then, following a string of factory closures in the area, the spark plug plant started to close down. Today, there's only a handful of workers at the plant and not much they can do about it.

For Honeywell retirees, it's even worse. They had counted on health insurance benefits, but a federal appeals court said the company doesn't owe them any.

The case against hhgregg Inc. alleging that the company failed to pay overtime, and used a method of deducting commission draws from future pay, all in violation of the FLSA, has been revived. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the lower federal court, sending the case back to litigation.

The appellate court explained that the district court incorrectly found hhgregg's method of offsetting an employee's wages based on commission was lawful. In reversing, it additionally explained that the retailer or service establishment exception did not apply.

Court: $666 Pay Raise Not Diabolical

They say the devil's in the details.

No, really, that's what a law professor and an assistant dean said in their complaint against their old law school. Professor Sheldon Gelman said his $666 pay raise was intended to invoke the "mark of the beast."

Gelman alleged that Dean Craig Boise, of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, basically called him "Satan" for organizing a union. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said, well, no.