Happy Holidays, with a Helping of the Flu

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The 2017-18 flu season was unusually bad, and many employers found themselves stuck between meeting their staffing needs and avoiding the spread of a virulent flu strain.  While the 2018-19 cold and flu season is forecast to be less brutal, employers should take this opportunity to revisit their pandemic preparedness.  Following are some thoughts on preventing and preparing for the next big outbreak. Continue reading

Employee Handbooks: Anti-Harassment Tip Sheet

Employee_HandbooksA legally effective anti-harassment policy is an absolute requirement for any employee handbook.  There is not a single reason to not have a policy that effectively establishes the organization’s prohibition against harassment and related retaliation.  But there are millions of reasons to make sure that your handbook includes such a policy and that the workplace is set to manage a complaint of harassment should it receive one.   Continue reading

Employee Handbook Policy #502: Respectful Workplace

mans-fists-ready-to-fightWhen I do employment law training and seminars, I solicit feedback from participants with a questionnaire.  One of the questions is what other topics are of the most interest to audience members. Recently, I’ve seen a surge of requests for employment law seminars on How to Create Employee Manuals. Because I aim to please, I’ll be conducting a seminar on the topic in October.  But, to hold you over until then, I thought readers might appreciate some posts on specific handbook policies.  Continue reading

Employees Turn to Moonlighting to Combat the Financial Downturn

Delaware busineses, like the rest of the country, have felt the pinch of a slowed economy. Delaware employees are no exception. Secondary employment or moonlighting has become common as a result.

The continually increasing and record-high price of gas has made it difficult for some to make ends meet. The Department of Labor (DOL) reports that the number of workers working two jobs has increased 5% since last year. Some workers have resorted to a second job in an effort to protect themselves from financial devastation. Others want to maintain a certain lifestyle and have taken additional employment to ensure they are able to make nonessential purchases. Despite how commonplace moonlighting may become, the practice has real consequences for employers, especially for the business where the employee works full-time. Continue reading

Heading to the Shore . . . Or Maybe the Beach

beach-chairs-and-oceanDon’t know the difference?  Residents of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania sure do.  “The Shore” refers to the New Jersey Shore and all of the wonderful towns that it includes.  “The Beach,” on the other hand, refers to the Maryland and Delaware Beaches, including Ocean City, Maryland (not to be confused with Ocean City, NJ, of course), Rehobeth, and Lewis, Delaware, to name a few.  Continue reading

Is It Time to Update Your Electronic Communications Policy? If you’re the Mayor of Detroit, the answer is “Yes”

Delaware businesses must have a written electronic-monitoring policy if they want to monitor phone, e-mail, or computer usage by employees. Delaware law requires employers to get either a signed consent from employees or to have a message conveying the policy that is shown to the employee each time he logs on to the computer. And even in states without such laws, unless you have a written policy that communicated to employees, you stand to risk a privacy claim. The key is to ensure that your employees do not have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in their use of your electronic systems. Continue reading

Do You Wear a Flag Pin?: Keep Political Speech Out of the Office

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At the democratic debate held last night at Philadelphia’s own Constitution Center, Senator Barack Obama was asked why he did not wear an American flag pin in his lapel. While that may be an appropriate question for a presidential candidate, what happens if the issue sparks a political debate around the water cooler?

Can work and politics mix?

Probably not. That’s not to say that talking politics at work is unlawful–it’s just not a good idea. Politics bring strong emotions that may have no place in the office. Political debates can be loud, distracting, and offensive to colleagues. Let’s face it, if you can’t talk about who you’re going to vote for at a dinner party with friends without stirring the pot, you should definitely think twice about doing it at work.

In fact, an employee’s political actions at work can have harsh consequences. Employees should keep in mind that they could be disciplined – even terminated – for promoting their political views in the workplace.

The bottom line is that private employers have a lot of latitude when it comes to what an employee can and cannot say at work; private-sector employees essentially have no constitutional free-speech rights in the workplace.

This is not to say that employers have free reign to control their employee’s viewpoints, or to force their own viewpoints upon employees. For example, a Tennessee state statute makes it unlawful for an employer to require an employee to vote a certain way to keep their employment or to threaten an employee with disciplinary action if he does not vote for a certain candidate or party. Notwithstanding Tennessee’s unique law, an employer who discriminates against an employee for his political views can be subject to legal liability.

So what’s the bottom line? Employees and employers need to be sensitive this election season. Calling employees together to watch the speech of one candidate shouldn’t happen. Taking adverse actions against an employee because he expresses his view in favor of a candidate is certainly ill-advised. And management should not send out a memo or an e-mail in support of a political candidate. In short, pause before you ask your colleague where his flag pin is.