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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

EEOC sues grocery chain for workplace discrimination

An employee in Wisconsin who is concerned about religious discrimination in the workplace may find a current lawsuit involving the supermarket chain Food Lion insightful. Religious discrimination is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and employees with sincere religious beliefs are required to be given reasonable accommodations. In the Food Lion case, an employee reportedly initially received this appropriate consideration when he worked in a store in Winston-Salem. However, the accommodations were not made at the Kernsville store to which he was later transferred. He was allegedly fired in 2011 due to his inability to work on Sundays.

The employee requested scheduling consideration for Sundays and Thursday nights so that he could attend formal activities in connection with his beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. The manager of the second store allegedly indicated that this was a problem. The suit filed on Aug. 20, 2014, has been brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the former employee. The suit seeks back pay in addition to punitive and compensatory damages and various losses.

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Issues FMLA Decision

On August 18, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in Hansen v. Fincantieri Marine Group, LLC, et al., No. 13-3391 (7th Cir., Aug. 18, 2014) stating that plaintiffs pursuing claims under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") are not required to present expert testimony regarding their incapacity on certain days in order to establish that they are entitled to FMLA leave.

$6 million payout from LinkedIn to workers

Wisconsin residents who are users of LinkedIn may not have heard that the company must pay almost $6 million in wages and damages to 359 of its employees. On Aug. 4, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the company would pay the amount to workers in four states.

A LinkedIn representative stated that it was mostly employees in sales who were affected and that the failure to pay was the result of lacking the right tools to track employee hours. LinkedIn says it was already taking steps to solve the issue before the Department of Labor became involved.

Retail giant sued for discrimination

Wisconsin employees may want to pay close attention to an employment discrimination case involving a major retailer. A Target employee in Houston, Texas, has sued the company for racial and disability discrimination as well as retaliation. He is asking for punitive and compensatory damages, reinstatement and attorney's fees.

The plaintiff has worked for the company in three different stores and in a variety of positions since 1993. He has two rods in his back and has been diagnosed with both dyslexia and autism. The lawsuit states that the conditions do not prevent him from performing any of his job duties. However, he claims his supervisors made frequent adjustments to his schedule and assigned him menial tasks.

Unpaid interns not considered employees

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a former psychologist intern at the Medical College of Wisconsin is not protected under state anti-retaliation rules for health employees. The reasoning for the decision is due to the fact that the woman who made the complaint was an unpaid intern. As she had not been compensated for her work, she was unable to be considered an employee under the law. The ruling noted that if unpaid interns were classified as employees, almost everyone would have to have been classified as an employee.

In her August 2009 complaint, the woman alleges that she was terminated from an internship a week after meeting with her supervisor at the transplant surgery unit of Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital where she was assigned for her internship. She reportedly asked for the meeting to discuss unethical behavior. According to the college through which she interned, the woman was let go because of concerns due to her performance, which began before the complaint was made.

Wisconsin man terminated after showing firearm to co-worker

Milwaukee workers may be interested in the case of a Wisconsin man who was terminated due to a firearm he kept in his vehicle. Though the man had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, the employer claimed that the gun was taken outside of the car at some point.

An employee of a Wisconsin door and window company was working in March when he showed a fellow worker a firearm that he kept in his vehicle. The man claims that they were inside of his car at the time and that he had a valid concealed weapons permit. This permit, he says, specifically limits the ability of an employer to terminate an employee for keeping a firearm inside their vehicle. This provision applies on the employer's property.

Reducing employee discrimination

Wisconsin employees may be affected by new legislation designed to protect pregnant women from job discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated 30-year-old doctrines to clearly articulate that any form of discrimination against pregnant women at the workplace is to be considered illegal and constitutes sexual discrimination. The chairwoman for the EEOC says that the agency continues to receive an alarming amount of claims alleging overt or subtle discrimination against pregnant employees.

The new standards set forth by the EEOC prevent employers from requiring employees to take leave from work, stating that they are obligated to provide pregnant workers with light duty instead. In addition, lactation will now be considered as a medical condition related to the pregnancy. Men may now receive paternal leave as well. These changes were implemented less than a month following the Supreme Court's decision to hear a case concerning the EEOC's duty to attempt to settle workplace discrimination charges before filing a claim against the employer in court.

Tinder sued for sexual harassment

While the popular dating app Tinder may have brought Wisconsin residents together, its founder is in hot water after a former marketing executive has made serious allegations against him. According to the former executive, she was subjected to sexual harassment and stripped of her title as co-founder.

The former marketing vice president said that her co-founder said that she could not be listed as a co-founder because having a 24-year-old girl with this title made the company look like a joke. Additionally, she says that the co-founder degraded her in front of the chief executive officer of the company and subjected her to inappropriate sexual comments on a routine basis.

Noncompete clauses in Wisconsin employment agreements

At one time, a noncompete clause was primarily limited to employment contracts of employees who had access to trade secrets or other proprietary information. Today, noncompete clauses are being inserted into employment contracts of tutors, auto workers and camp counselors. As such agreements have become more common in the workplace, workers may be restricted in their professional development after they are let go from a job.

There are remedies for workers who are not allowed to work for a competitor due to such an agreement. First, a worker may ask a lawyer to draft an advisory opinion letter to the former employer stating that the clause is too broad. A worker may also go to court and ask a judge to nullify the agreement due to it being too long in length or too restrictive as to where the employee can work. Another option is to get a job and hope that the former employer doesn't attempt to enforce the agreement.

Tribal sovereignty potentially problematic for employees

Workers employed by tribal businesses in Wisconsin may find that their ability to appeal to federal and state laws may be hampered by the sovereign immunity granted to Native American tribes. However, U.S. courts have applied certain federal workplace standards to these sovereign workplaces in cases involving non-tribal workers. Compensation for breaches of employee rights may hinge upon the workplace waiving sovereignty. Tribal courts reportedly offer additional avenues for workers seeking to file employment claims.

Sovereign tribes are not required under federal law to follow layoff requirements or the anti-discrimination regulations found in the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII. A number of court rulings have invoked other employee rights found in federal law. Some examples are the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act and Family Medical Leave Act. Precedent may be established for applying these laws, but courts are not bound to do so.

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