The Mendte-Lane Saga Concludes With a Guilty Plea and a Lawsuit

According to the AP, Larry Mendte has admitted that he hacked into Alycia Lane’s e-mail and leaked her private information to a reporter from the Philadelphia Daily News.  This admission comes just two months after Mendte’s home was raided by the FBI and his computers from home and work were seized.  Although not likely, Mendte could be sentenced to up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in November.

JON19DPT 52439 Photography by Peter Tobia  IN THIS PICTURE  Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane in between news cast.  THE STORY IS CH3 news team individual and together.

JON19DPT 52439 Photography by Peter Tobia IN THIS PICTURE Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane in between news cast. THE STORY IS CH3 news team individual and together.

Mendte admitted that he viewed hundreds of e-mails after installing a keystroke-tracking software on her computer at work.  Lane maintains that she complained about the possibility that her e-mails were being leaked but her employer, KYW-TV, “treated her as if she was paranoid.”  Lane claims that her career has been ruined as a result of Mendte’s behavior.

State Employees Will Go From Fat to Fit–Or Else

Get Fit or Get Fired? No, but if you’re employed by the State of Alabama, you’ll have to pay higher insurance premiums.

Fat employees, beware. The State of Alabama has issued an official “crackdown” on unfit employees. That’s right. The state has issued a get-fit mandate. Employees have one year to “see the light,” so to speak. Either get moving towards thin or face a bulging health-care premium. Employees who fail to trim their waistlines will pay $25 a month for insurance that will be free to their leaner coworkers. piggy

Alabama is the first state that has elected a “stick” approach to motivating employees to get healthy. There are a few states that offer rewards (i.e., carrots), to employees who make healthy lifestyle changes. Like many other employers, both public and private, Alabama already charges a premium to employees who smoke.

So what exactly is required? According to the New York Times article, Extra Pounds Means Insurance Fees for Ala. Workers, beginning in January 2010, state workers will be required to undergo health screenings—or face a monetary penalty if they refuse. If the screening reveals problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, or obesity, they are given one year to shape up or ship out. At a follow-up screening after twelve months, they won’t face the $25 charge.

And what will qualify employees for a passing grade when they take the screening test next year? Employees with a Body Mass Index (BMI) lower than 34 will be exempt from the “obesity charge.” A BMI of 30 is considered the threshold for obesity. And if you fail the screening? Other than being required to “make progress,” the State has not yet determined exactly how “progress” will be defined.

Maybe the most obvious question is just how the State of Alabama thinks that its out-of-shape employees, many of whom have been battling their weight, cholesterol, or other health issues for years, will suddenly develop the motivation, knowledge, and skills to make these changes. Deeply rooted lifestyle changes are not made because of an HR initiative.

If I sound cynical, it’s because I am. When employers stopped hiring smokers and charging employees who smoked, I was skeptical. Although there are obvious and undisputable benefits to a tobacco-free workforce, I worried that the proffered motivation was a bit too “glossy” to be true.

I also wondered how long it would be until there weren’t enough smokers left to make them a valuable target. At that point, what group would be the next to be targeted? I suspected it would be obese or overweight employees. It seems my prediction has come to fruition. At least for overweight government employees in a state where 30.3% of citizens are obese.

TV News Anchors’ Soap Opera Has the Makings of a Made-for-TV Drama

Larry_Mendte_AlyciaEmployee-privacy rights.  Compensation-based jealousy.  Bitter co-workers.  Electronic monitoring.  Gender discrimination.  Clash of the Gen X and Baby-Boomers, even?  The continuing saga involving former news anchors Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane has all of the makings of an employment-law thriller.  Continue reading

ABA Journal Takes Note of Our Newsworthy News Anchors

Here at the Delaware Employment Law Blog, we’ve been following the Alycia Lane-Larry Mendte brouhaha since it first began to brew–before Mendte was accused of snooping through his co-anchor’s personal e-mails “hundreds of times;” before the FBI confirmed that it had swept Mendte’s home on the swanky Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, taking with them Mendte’s personal computers when they left; before he was suspended and then fired for the “e-mail situation” (though no one is quite sure what that involved). Heck, we’ve been covering this story all the way back to before Lane was terminated for embarrassing the news station where she and Mendte had been co-anchors, following her involvement in a string of high-drama, news-making scandals of her own.  chp_taking_notes_1

There can be no dispute that the story has been as interesting as any news broadcast could hope to be.  Better than that, it’s really evolved into a daytime soap opera.  The ABA Journal apparently agrees.  In her article, News Anchor Fired Over Alleged E-Mail Snooping That Brought Down Co-Anchor, Martha Neil reports that the involvement of the FBI in what appears to be an employment-law matter has raised some eyebrows.  Assuming Mendte did, as is now alleged, install keystroke-tracking software on the station’s computers, enabling him to access Lane’s account without her permission, that still wouldn’t explain the involvement of the federal law authorities.  No crime has been alleged–at least none that I can identify. 

As the drama and intrigue continue to unfold, we’ll be sure to be on high alert for the criminal element of what seems to be a straightforward, albeit juicy, employment-law scenario. Just another day in the workplace.

For earlier posts on the Mendte-Lana saga, see:

Prying Eyes: What is “Private” Becomes Even Fuzzier for Employees Who Snoop

More Drama at the News Desk: Co-Anchor Suspected of Snooping Through E-Mails

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha’ Gonna Do . . . When They Work for You?

What do News Anchors, Sports Figures, and Corporate Executives Have in Common? Employment Agreements and Risk-Avoidance Clauses.

 

 

Are Employers Getting Pushy About Weight Loss?

Is the workplace the right place to fight the battle of the bulge?  With wellness programs on the rise, obesity among employees has been one of the most targeted health issues.

There seems to be a new study every week about the types of wellness initiatives that are being used, the effectiveness of the different initiatives, and the high cost of wellness programs.  And each study seems to generate different data.  brown bag lunch

Despite the conflicting data, one common thread among many programs is the attempt to target obesity as a health risk.  A study by the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity (STOP) Alliance reports that 80 percent of employees, regardless of weight, believe that weight-management programs belong in the workplace.  71 percent reported that weight-management issues are appropriately addressed in the workplace. 

A recent article in BusinessWeek entitled “Hide the Doritos! Here comes HR” identified some well-known organizations that have declared war on calorie over-consumption.  According to the piece, companies such as Google, Yamaha, and Caterpillar have taken a first step by removing the junk food from all company kitchens and vending machines. 

[Source:  Human Resource Executive Online]

Other Posts about Employees’ Off-Duty Conduct

Employees, Prepare to Get Healthy, Like It Or Not!

DelaWELL Wellness Programs Wins Award

DOL Offers Compliance Checklist for Wellness Programs

Are Wellness Programs on the Decline?

A Whirlpool of Excitement about Rights of Employees Who Smoke

Employees Who Smoke (Part 1) Smoking Breaks

Employees Who Smoke (Part 2) Charging Smokers Higher Health Care Premiums

Employees Who Smoke (Part 3) Employee Incentive Programs Targeted to Smokers

Delaware Employers & Employees Who Smoke (Part 4)

Employer Quits Its Smoking Policy

Not Everyone Is Fired Up About Smoking Ban

From Cancer Sticks to Drumsticks: How far should employers go when it comes to employees’ health?

From Cancer Sticks to Drumsticks: How Far Should Employers Go When It Comes to Employees’ Health?

Workplace discrimination based on smoking habits and tobacco use has garnered national attention as a wide-spread employment practice.  Weyco, Inc. was the first large employer to make the news for its tough stance against smoking when it fired several employees after they failed to quit smoking.  Its actions have been at the center of the debate of an employer’s right to control the on- and off-duty conduct of its employees.  (See the list of prior posts on this topic, below). 

drumstick

Now, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization perhaps best known for throwing blood on people wearing furs, has called on Weyco to take its policy to the next level. PETA has written to Weyco President Howard Weyers urging him to hire only vegetarians.

In its letter, PETA points out that the consumption of meat and other animal products has been conclusively linked to heart disease, diabetes, several types of cancer, and obesity. PETA also recommends that the company provide employees with free vegetarian lunches–a program that PETA is offering to help implement–to improve the health of the company’s current employees.

“When you take into consideration all the diseases that have been linked to meat consumption, it adds up to a mountain of health care costs,” says PETA’s Ashley Byrne. “Discouraging smoking is a great idea, but if Weyco really wants to get serious about cutting costs, it’ll urge its employees to ditch drumsticks as well as cancer sticks.”

 

Other Posts on Smoking in the Workplace:

A Whirlpool of Excitement about Rights of Employees Who Smoke

Delaware Employers & Smoking Employees (Part 1) Smoking Breaks

Delaware Employers & Smoking Employees (Part 2) Charging Smokers Higher Health Care Premiums

Delaware Employers & Employees Who Smoke (Part 3) Employee Incentive Programs Targeted to Smokers

Delaware Employers & Employees Who Smoke (Part 4)

Employer Quits Its Smoking Policy

Not Everyone Is Fired Up About Smoking Ban

Off-Duty Conduct Lands Shaq In Hot Water

Employers can (and do) consider employees’ off-duty conduct when making employment decisions–in most cases. For example, in most states, it is not unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire job applicants who smoke during non-working time. 

And, as we’ve seen with former TV news anchor, Alycia Lane, off-duty activities such as sending bikini-clad photos of yourself to a married man, yelling a homophobic slur, or slapping an undercover police officer ended up getting Lane fired.  Now another famous name is making news with his off-duty antics.

Shaquille O’Neal made the news this week not because of his on-court moves but for his freestyle rap performed off the clock.  Shaq was seen in a video rapping about former teammate, Kobe Bryant. (The censored version of the video is below). He raps that Kobe couldn’t have won three straight NBA titles without Shaq on his side.

So maybe this is a poor display of team spirit but that’s not all.  He also uses a racially derogatory word and other foul language, which has been the real center of the controversy.  Critics have condemned the performance, saying that the use of such language crossed the line from bad taste to bad morals. 

It’s unclear where the video was shot but it seems to have been at a private function.  Another example of the recent push to hold employees accountable for what they do on and off the clock.

This version of the video has been censored to bleep out the inappropriate words but not the bad lyrical style–sorry, but there wouldn’t have been any video left. 

 

 

Also, the hat tip for this post goes to Felicia B., William W. Bowser‘s delightful Legal Administrative Assistant.  Felicia forwarded me an article about the pushback Shaq’s rap has gotten and suggested that it was a good topic for an article about off-duty conduct.  Kudos to Felicia!  It never occurred to me that to put the two together! 

Other Posts About Off-Duty Conduct:

Starring Alycia Lane (and, recently, Larry Mendte):

Prying Eyes: What is “Private” Becomes Even Fuzzier for Employees Who Snoop

More Drama at the News Desk: Co-Anchor Suspected of Snooping Through E-Mails

Off-Duty Conduct & Newsmakers:  The Role of Morals Clauses in Employment Contracts

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha’ Gonna Do When They Work for You?

Off-Duty Conduct, Generally:

Off-Duty Conduct In the News

There’s No Hiding Your Own Bad Habits

Employees’ Privacy Rights:

Employers’ [Private] Eyes Are Watching You

Employee Embarrasses Employer, Who Fires Employee, Who Sues Employer

Managers, be thankful that you don’t work in news television.  Apparently, news anchors aren’t the easiest employees to manage.  Local news celebrities just might have the market cornered on employee off-duty conduct that causes employers the biggest headaches.  And now, employees’ off-duty conduct is at the heart of an employee-versus-employer lawsuit. Continue reading

Not Everyone Is Fired Up About Smoking Ban

Employers who ban smoking in the workplace are commonplace today.  Weyco’s ban on employee smoking was the first of many headlines.  In 2006, Scotts Lawn Care’s termination of an employee who tested positive for nicotine landed the company not only in the news but also in court when the employee filed suit.  Despite the increasing number of employers adopting anti-smoking policies, they’re not so popular with everyone.

 smoking ban

The UAW in particular, is not the biggest fan of smoking bans for its union members.  Effective the first day of June, Caterpillar banned smoking at all of its US facilities.  The United Autoworkers filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that workers’ right to smoke is subject to mandatory bargaining, subject to the sixty-year old bargaining agreement. 

 

Workplace Prof Blog asks the question that hasn’t yet been answered in the world of labor relations:  Does the “right to smoke” at work affect the terms and conditions of employment so that it should be considered a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.

 

U.S. Employers Consider Obesity Discrimination-In France, Not So Much

We’ve posted before about the “next big thing” in employment discrimination: obesity-based bias.  (See Is Obesity the Next Protected Class? and U.S. Businesses Recognize the High Cost of Obesity–Should Delaware Employers Do the Same?)

fat-thin

It has been speculated that, as the cost of health care continues to rise, employers will continue to charge employees higher premiums based on certain health-related factors.  Today, it’s employees who smoke.  Tomorrow will it be employees who are overweight?  French employees don’t have to worry about this potential problem.

The French parliament has been working on a law that would make it a crime to promote extreme thinness.  Fashion industry experts have opposed the efforts, claiming that there should not be a legal boundary on beauty standards.

Source:  Fox News.com