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June 30, 2010

Supreme Court Decision Weakens Employers’ Positions

Filed under: Employment Law8:51 am

The U.S. Supreme Court in Lewis v. Chicago, has made it more difficult for employers to defend disparate impact discrimination claims.    The Court ruled that employees or job applicants could challenge the application of an alleged discriminatory practice even if they hadn’t contested the initial adoption of that practice on a timely basis.

In the case, the City of Chicago had given a written test to 26,000 applicants for firefighter positions.  The City placed applicants in three categories:  “well-qualified,” “qualified” or “not qualified” and indicated that they’d hire from the “well-qualified” category.  Individuals in the “qualified” group were told that they’d be eligible for consideration but not likely to be hired unless the well-qualified group was used up.  African-American applicants were not well represented in the “well qualified” group and a class of them sued, claiming that the test adversely impacted African-Americans.   However, the plaintiffs did not file their case within the required 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act (the test).  So the question was:   must they file their case within 300 days of the test or within 300 days of the application of the practice (i.e., when hiring began to take place.)

A unanimous Supreme Court, ruled for the applicants, finding that in this instance a case must be filed within 300 days of the application of the process, in other words after each round of hiring.

The Court did not decide whether there was discrimination but only ruled on the issue of whether the case was filed timely.    You’ll remember that disparate impact can be found in a Title VII case if it can be shown that an otherwise neutral employment practice (e.g., testing applicants) has a disproportionate impact on a protected group (based on sex, race, religion, etc.)  and there is no showing that the disparity was justified by business necessity.  There is no need to show discriminatory intent in disparate impact cases.   In most states discrimination charges must be filed within 300 days, however some have a 180 day limit.

What does this mean for you?      It makes it more important than ever that you continually review your employment practices such as hiring, promotion, corrective action, termination, etc. and that your managers are well trained in the basics of employment law.

Otherwise you may be liable for unintentional discrimination that occurs well after a practice or policy is implemented.


June 28, 2010

Interesting ADA Cases

Filed under: ADA & Disability,Legal Issues — Tags: 1:55 pm

1. Can an off duty, intoxicated police chief who causes a car accident, be disciplined even though he claims he’s protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Budde v. Kane County Forest Preserve, considered the issue.   Following the accident the police chief was terminated for failing to meet the standards of his position and being unable to drive a police car because of his suspended license.

The chief contended that the ADA was violated because his employer failed to accommodate his alcoholism and retaliated against him for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

Alcoholism can be a disability under the ADA and therefore entitle an employee (who isn’t intoxicated at work) to a reasonable accommodation to seek treatment.  The court ruled against the chief, finding that because of his conduct he couldn’t perform an essential job function (driving) and that police officers could be held to high standards of conduct.



June 25, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Sexual Harassment Claims by Men on Rise

Filed under: Employment Law,Harrasment10:08 am

Although most sexual harassment claims involve male-on-female harassment, allegations of male-on-male harassment—and even female-on-male harassment—are on the rise. Employers should not only be aware of this trend, but also understand how to identify all forms of sexual harassment and adjust their harassment policies accordingly.

Since 1990, the percentage of sexual harassment claims filed by men has doubled to more than 16 percent, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This percentage has continued to rise even as the overall number of sexual harassment complaints has declined. From 2006 to 2009, sexual harassment claims filed by men jumped to 16.4 percent from 15.4 percent of all sexual harassment claims. Last year, the percentage of sexual harassment lawsuits filed by the EEOC filed on behalf of male plaintiffs reached 14 percent, marking an all-time high.



June 21, 2010

New Healthcare Law Requires New W-2 Reporting Requirements

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: , 1:49 pm

Recent healthcare reform will bring a lot of changes.  One of those is the new requirement that employers report the cost of employer provided health coverage on W-2s.  This new rule applies beginning in 2011 so employers will need to be prepared for its implementation in late December.  Costs for various plans must be reported, including: medical and drug plans, executive checkups, Medicare supplemental policies, on-site clinics, and EAPs.  Dental and vision plans are also included unless they are “stand alone” plans.  Flexible spending plans are excluded.   More information regarding how to value these plans, whether such valuations must occur monthly (it seems they must), and other important details is forthcoming from the government.   So, stay tuned for more developments.  And, in the next few months when you have nothing to do (like that ever happens) start figuring out how you’ll handle this requirement.


June 18, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Supreme Court Rules on Text Message Privacy Case

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: , , , , 7:25 am

The Supreme Court overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling concerning employer-provided communication devices and workers’ privacy rights. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the employer, the city of Ontario, ruling that the search of the employee’s text messages was reasonable and not in violation of the employee’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Background of the case: Police sergeant Jeff Quon received a pager from his employer, the city of Ontario, California. The city’s contract with Arch Wireless Operating Co. contained a limit on the number of characters that could be texted on a monthly basis. If the city’s employees exceeded that limit, the city would be charged extra fees.



June 17, 2010

HRN To Be Exhibitor at SHRM – Booth 2409

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , , 7:40 am

HRN will be attending and exhibiting at the SHRM 2010 Annual Conference and Exhibition June 27-30 at the San Diego Convention Center. If you are attending this premier HR global event, please plan to visit with HRN representatives by stopping by Booth 2409 to discuss HRN solutions and services. Representing HRN at the SHRM conference will be Monica Burnett, SPHR, HR Consultant, Mike Dougal, SPHR, Director of HR Consulting, and Paul Hendrycks, Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

If you are interested in obtaining a free day-pass to the SHRM 2010 exhibition area, e-mail HRN at and we will provide you with information to download a free pass.

For more information about the conference go to:

We look forward to meeting with you in San Diego!


June 16, 2010

Which Occupations Have the Highest Concentration of Women?

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:01 pm

A lot has changed for women in the workplace.  But apparently some things remain the same.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a list of the top 20 leading occupations of women which probably looks a lot like it did years ago.  The jobs and percent occupied by women are:

Secretaries/Admin Assistants (96.8%), Childcare Workers (95%), Accounting Clerks (92.3%), Registered Nurses (92%),  Teacher Assistants (91.6%),  Receptionists (91.5%), Maids (89.5%), Nursing aides (88.5%), Home Care Aids (85.2%),  Office Clerks (82%), Elementary & Middle School Teachers (81.9%),  Cashiers (74.4%), Wait Staff/Servers (71.6%), Office Supervisors (71.3%), Customer Service Reps (67.9%), Accountants (61.8%), Retail Sales (51.9%), Retail Supervisors (44.1%), Cooks (41.5%) and Managers (34.1%).   Overall, women now comprise 47.4% of the workforce.


June 14, 2010

Study Shows Different Perceptions Regarding Advancement Opportunities

Filed under: HRN News — Tags: , 7:58 am

A study by Bain & Co. asked business people, at large organizations, who had better advancement opportunities, men or women?  As you might guess, male and female responses differed significantly.  Regarding lower level professional positions the perceptions of males and females were quite similar, with 90% of men and 85% of women indicating that both genders have an equal opportunity at a job.  The differences begin to show up regarding middle management jobs where 81% of men said both genders have an equal chance but only 52% of women believed that to be the case.  Further, 66% of men indicated that executive promotion opportunities were equal, but only 31% of women held the same position.  The facts indicate that both sexes may be optimistic as women hold only 3% of CEO positions and just 13% of executive positions in the Fortune 500.

Additionally, while you may not have millions of employees, it’s a good reminder to check your pay and promotion practices to ensure that they are free of discrimination.  If you don’t have a good base pay system in place, as well as an objective means to decide on raises, you may want to look into one.   [Dukes v. Wal-Mart, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit]

Interested in Compensation or Incentive Plan Management Software? Checkout HRN’s Compease or Incentease.


June 11, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Most Employers to Wait to Cover Adult Children

Filed under: Insurance — Tags: , , , , 8:38 am

Many companies do not intend to comply early with a provision in the new health care reform law that will require group health care plans to extend coverage to employees’ young adult children up to age 26, according to a survey released Tuesday, June 8.

Among the 501 large employers responding to a Hewitt Associates Inc. survey, 77 percent said they will wait until the effective date before offering the coverage. Ten percent of respondents said they will extend coverage early to all eligible adult children, 9 percent said they will continue coverage for graduating students already covered in their plans, and 4 percent were undecided.

The law requires the extension to be made on the first day of the plan year starting after September 23, 2010. For calendar-year plans, which are the most common, the effective date of the provision would be January 1.

Source: Jerry Geisel, Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.


June 9, 2010

What are the Most Stressful Jobs?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 1:48 pm

According to a study by, the top 5 most stressful jobs are:  1. Firefighter, 2. Corporate Executive, 3. Taxi Driver, 4. Surgeon, and 5. Police Officer.   The study considered 21 “stress factors” including, work environment, job competition, advancement opportunities, and perceived risk of unemployment.  The next five most stressful positions include:  Commercial Pilot, Highway Patrol Officer, Public Relations Officer, Ad Executive, and Real Estate Agent.  Of course, you and I know that our jobs are the most stressful.

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