Legal Clinic

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Drinking with Co-workers
Question: We are a very social office. Many of our supervisors go out drinking with employees on Fridays and we hear that at times things can get a little raunchy when people are drunk. Can this off-work behavior result in potential liability for the company?
Sick-Leave Policies
Question: We are a company based in New York and have been receiving a lot of inquiries from employees about the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. They think it entitles them to five extra days of earned sick time, but we already have our own sick-time policy. Do we have to give our employees five extra days of sick time?
Developments in Social-Media Policies
Question: There has been a lot of recent talk about social media with respect to employer monitoring of employees' social-media activity and, more specifically, what employers can and cannot ask employees related to their social-media activity. Can you please provide a summary of the recent developments in this area?
Compensating 'On-Call' Workers
Question: Due to the nature of our business, we would like to require our employees to be "on call" during certain days. Of course, if we call them in to work on those days we will pay them for the time worked. However, does federal law require us to compensate our employees on the days that they are "on call" but not asked to report to work?
Top Legal Developments in HR
Question: I am putting together a high-level presentation for my HR team on the top legal developments in 2013 that will impact how we practically manage employee relations in workplace in 2014. Can you please identify and provide a brief synopsis of the most important employment-related legal developments in 2013 -- something like a Top 10? I want to make sure I know about all the "biggies."
Offering Reasonable Accommodation
Question: You have written a lot about the importance of engaging in the interactive process under the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to figure out whether an employer can offer a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability. Can you give some more insight into the process itself -- such as a step-by-step how-to guide for HR professionals to reference when engaging in the ADA's interactive process?
When Workers File EEOC Claims
Question: We have a couple of employees who have recently filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims against our company. These employees have had poor performance issues, are constant complainers and we believe their filing was not done for any legitimate reason, but instead was done solely to protect their jobs. After their filing, they have become brazen in their bad behavior, but their supervisors are scared to supervise or reprimand them and co-workers are afraid to work with them for fear that they will end up in the complaint. This is negatively affecting our productivity and morale. How would you recommend we handle this situation?
Dreadlocks and the Dress Code
Question: One of our workers has begun wearing his hair in a dreadlocks style to work. This is against our organization's dress code, which is very conservative in nature. That said, we also want to respect diverse cultures and peoples' desire to express their diversity of culture, but doubt that his decision to wear dreadlocks is a reflection of this because he does not self-identify as African American, African or Caribbean. Are we legally permitted to require him to change his hairstyle at work -- or even ask him to change it?
Is Obesity a Serious Medical Condition?
Question: Is obesity considered a serious medical condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Also, is it a condition that would have to provide a reasonable accommodation for? We have an employee who is morbidly obese, has asked for us to provide him with a bariatric sized chair (that costs a couple thousand dollars), and to place him in a ground floor office so that he does not have to take the stairs though we have very limited ground floor office space.
Mandatory Retirement Incentive Programs
Question: We are considering instituting a mandatory retirement incentive program at our company, but don't want to run afoul of the law in doing so. Can you please explain who we are permitted to include in a mandatory retirement program and who has to be excluded? We are in New York state.
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