Workers’ compensation programs are a trade-off, providing participating employers with immunity from civil lawsuits by employees injured on the job, while compensating those employees without proof of fault. Since its 1913 adoption, West Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act has contained an exception to employer immunity if an injured employee can show a “deliberate intent” by the employer to injure the employee.
The West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act is the law that governs the way employees are paid upon separation from their employment in West Virginia. That Act has been in a state of flux recently. If you are an employer, you probably know that you used to have to pay employees within 72 hours of their separation from employment, and then the statute was changed to require payment by next regular payday or 4 business days, whichever comes first. As of June 11, that law changes again.
Spring has finally arrived to relieve us from a long, dreary winter. With warmer weather and longer days, employers now have the opportunity to focus on outdoor projects that have fallen dormant for several months. However, while warmer weather offers employers a chance to get outside and work, moving that work outside can present some hazards to employees that are often overlooked. Whether your workplace is a saw mill, a factory, or an office, the natural inhabitants of your environment who are also awakening at this time of year can pose a threat to your employees. Employers should spend time identifying these potential threats and making to minimize the risks that they present.
On February 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc, a case where religious articles of clothing have come to clash with an employer’s neutral dress code policy. In this case, a Muslim teenage girl applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Abercrombie requires all of its employees to adhere to a “Look Policy” which, among other things, prohibits wearing black clothing or headgear. Consistent with her religion, the applicant normally wore a hijab, a type of headscarf, for modesty purposes. The applicant’s headscarves, however, were different than those frequently worn by devout Muslim women. Unlike others, her headscarves did not cover her neck, were not tightly bound, and were often bought at ordinary mall clothing stores.
Many employers who provide health coverage to their employees have initiated wellness programs within the workplace over the years in order to reduce health care costs. These wellness programs may include initiatives to motivate an employee to become healthier through exercise, weight loss, nutrition and smoking cessation, among other vehicles. These programs may also include medical examinations and biometric screenings which measure an employee’s health risk factors. Often there are incentives to participate in these programs in the form of discounts on health care premiums.
In a recent decision, Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”), the Fourth Circuit reinstated a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by a court clerk terminated three weeks after requesting an accommodation for her social anxiety disorder.
Although some things in life are worth the wait, lawsuits are not one of them. If your company is going to be sued, it’s almost always better for it to happen sooner rather than later. There are several practical reasons for this; I’ll list just a couple here. First, it’s much easier to defend a claim while evidence (and memory) is still fresh. Early fact investigation will yield more information and a better evaluation of a suit’s relative strengths and weaknesses. Second, it increases predictability, especially for smaller companies. For larger companies, litigation expenses may be the cost of doing business, but for others, the cost of litigation can be debilitating – especially when unsuspected. There is nothing worse than a small business getting hit with a difficult lawsuit right after choosing to bear additional market risks. But whether a company is large or small, increased predictability puts it in a better position to create and execute a business plan.
We have written previously on this blog about the decision of a panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Ohio, among other jurisdictions), which determined last year that an employee with irritable bowel syndrome who worked for Ford Motor Company should have been permitted to work from home as a reasonable accommodation to her condition. Not satisfied with the decision, Ford pleaded for a re-hearing by the entire 6th Circuit. Recently, after the 6th Circuit granted that request, the Court reversed course and determined that doing your job at the workplace can be an essential job function.
A few weeks back, my colleague, Joe Leonoro, wrote a blog entry entitled, “U.S. Supreme Court Tackles Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace,” which can be found here. In his post, Joe wrote about the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, in which the Supreme Court overturned the Fourth Circuit’s affirmation of the district court’s grant of summary judgment to UPS in a pregnancy discrimination case. Specifically, the Court found that a question of fact remained as to whether UPS had discriminated against Ms. Young by refusing to allow her a light duty accommodation for the duration of her pregnancy. The Fourth Circuit, acting swiftly, issued its opinion less than one month later in which it again affirmed the district court and dismissed Ms. Young’s claim.