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by Jewel Bennett on Nov 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM
Filed in News

The House and Senate have set out their plans for reform of our nation's health care system, and several writers have analyzed the bills and outlined how the proposed bills will affect employers.  The following is a list of some blog posts that give you a quick review on the two:

The Senate still needs to vote, and if the Senate bill is passed both bills will be reconciled.  However, it is not too early for employers to be reviewing how any changes may affect them. 

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by Jewel Bennett on Oct 5, 2009 at 11:26 AM

employment lawyer recommends proceeding with caution on management behaviorIn Anderson v. Family Dollar Stores of Arkansas, Inc., the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals closely followed the US Supreme Court's direction that Title VII is not a "general civility code for the American workplace."   Employers can take comfort in the high standard courts have set regarding bad behavior in the workplace, but a company that wants to remain an employer of choice will hold their management team to a much higher standard.   Bottom line, if one of your managers is a jerk, you should demand a change in behavior or show him or her the door.

The plaintiff in Family Dollar Stores started work as a manager trainee for Family Dollar. She was fired after her first day. She complained to HR and met with the district manager. During her meeting, plaintiff claims that the district manager talked about very personal things, such as her hair, eyes, and marital status. Plaintiff was rehired and placed in a five-week training program. During the district manager's contact with plaintiff, which was once a week for approximately an hour, plaintiff claims that the district manager was physically inappropriate towards her and insinuated that he could control her future in the company.  

At the end of her training period, plaintiff was assigned to a store as manager. During the first week she made phone calls to the district manager for assistance. At one time, the district manager, who was in Florida at the time, told plaintiff that he felt she should be with him.  Another time, the plaintiff claims that the district manager called her "baby doll."

Several months after plaintiff was hired, the district manager came to the store and plaintiff addressed all of her problems with her employees. She also told him they needed to prepare the appropriate paperwork for her back pain because she was forced to unload the truck by herself.  The district manager's demeanor worsened and he grabbed plaintiff and told her he thought she was no longer willing to be a team player.  He then fired plaintiff.

Plaintiff did not report any of the harassment to HR and even though she wrote an email to HR after her termination, she did not include the sexual harassment. She first mentioned the sexual harassment in her EEOC complaint. The district court granted Family Dollar's summary judgment, finding that plaintiff's allegations were not so severe as to alter a term, condition, or privilege of her employment. The Court of Appeals agreed. The Court stated that although White's conduct was ungentlemanly and inappropriate, Title VII is not a "general civility code for the American workplace."

Sure, the district manager's conduct was not harassment under Title VII, but to create a more productive work environment, employers should not allow this type of conduct in their workplace.  It is much easier to be civil than sorry. 

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by Jewel Bennett on Sep 22, 2009 at 12:24 PM
Filed in Wage and Hour

Employment law attorney in Arkansas adds color to the Arkansas court ruling.Determining whether an employee's duties fall within the administrative exception of the Fair Labor Standards Act can be more of an art than a science. A new Arkansas case gives employers a motive to be more conservative in their decision-making, perhaps suggesting that employers be more DaVinci than Dali.

In Wolfe v. Clear Title, LLC, Wolfe, a salaried employee sued her employer, Clear Title, LLC, for violation of the FLSA and sought punitive damages for retaliation that followed her request for overtime pay. Her job duties as Escrow Manager included preparing documents, ordering items needed for closing, working with lenders for payoffs, working with title insurance companies, and dealing with clients. Although her job title included the word "manager," Wolfe did not supervise other employees. Clear Title sought to paint her job description as falling under the administrative exception of FLSA. Wolfe argued that she did not meet this exception because her position did not require her to use discretion and independent judgment.  Instead, Wolfe's duties required her to follow pre-set procedures. Because there were issues of fact, mainly conflicting affidavits, the district court denied Clear Title's motion for summary judgment.

Shifting its focus to the issue of whether punitive damages are available under the FLSA, the court noted that the circuit courts are split. To make matters more difficult, the district courts within the Eighth Circuit are split as well. Some courts find that punitive damages are available for employees who claim retaliation, while the other courts do not. Now, the Eastern District of Arkansas finds that punitive damages are available for an FLSA retaliation claim. So, in case you needed another reason to make a more conservative choice regarding FLSA in Arkansas, the Eastern District has just painted a clear picture for you.

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