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Showing 116 posts from 2012.

Cratchit v. Scrooge - Holiday Adventures in Employment Law

Cratchit v. ScroogeBob Cratchit’s boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, is an “odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man.”  Or, at least that’s what Mrs. Cratchit says of him after feeding her family of eight, including her crippled son, Tiny Tim, a too-small pudding for dessert on Christmas.  Readers of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol could easily reach the same conclusion.   Bob, a clerk in Scrooge’s business (which some suggest is what we would call a stock brokerage today), is paid a mere 15 shillings weekly to work six days a week in an office that Scrooge refuses to adequately heat.  That seems bad.  But, today, in say, New London, somewhere in the U.S.A., would it be illegal?  For these final days of the holiday season, we explore possible causes of action in Cratchit v. Scrooge.  (We are not the only lawyers with these types of holiday musings.) Read More ›

Iowan Dentist's Firing of Assistant Because of Her Perceived Threat to His Marriage Was Not Unlawful Gender Discrimination, But Was it Unlawful Sexual Harassment?

Between baking cookies, assembling toys and driving to the in-laws, you may have missed the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on December 21 that a male dentist was not liable to his former female assistant of ten-and-a-half years – admittedly the best assistant he ever had – for gender discrimination.  The dentist fired the assistant after:  he complained that her clothing was too tight, he told her that she would know her clothes were too revealing if she saw his pants bulging, he texted her to ask how often she experienced an orgasm, he observed that the apparent infrequency in the assistant’s sex life was “like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it,” and he was confronted by his wife, who believed the assistant was a “big threat” to the dentist and wife’s marriage and demanded that the assistant be terminated, which he then did by reading a prepared statement to the assistant in the presence of his church pastor.   Read More ›

Triple Trouble? Wage Laws, Severance Benefits, and Treble Damages

When an employer fails to pay an employee wages that are due, the employer might have to pay far more than the amount it owed.  Under the laws of a number of states, employees who don't receive earned wages can sue for those wages – and the wage laws may permit treble damages (i.e., a recovery of three times the amount of the lost wages) if the employee can prove the claim.

These kinds of wage laws don’t just apply to hourly employees, but can also be extended to cover C-level executives who are entitled to severance benefits and bonuses.  Velarde v. PACE Membership Warehouse, Inc., 105 F.3d 1313 (9th Cir. 1997), shows how that might occur. Read More ›

The Inbox

The Inbox

Grab your glass of eggnog, light the fireplace, and peruse the latest in Suits by Suits:

  • Fox Business reports that a New York law firm is making a cottage industry out of lawsuits against company directors based on the Dodd-Frank Act’s “say-on-pay” provision, which requires an advisory shareholder vote on executive compensation once every three years.  The lawsuits by Faruqi & Faruqi, which a defense lawyer calls a “shakedown” effort, claim that companies aren’t giving their shareholders enough information to assess executive pay.  They haven’t resulted in awards to shareholders, but have resulted in some additional disclosures (and some legal fees to the plaintiffs’ counsel).
Read More ›

Christmas as a Holiday, Part 2

We left a lot of things unresolved in our last post discussing the history of Christmas as a holiday here in the United States – although we did delve into the ancient significance of December 25 and the winter solstice, as well as the practice of decorating evergreen trees, which led here to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse just outside the White House.

But of course there’s more!  Read on…. Read More ›

Online University Faces Trial on Employee's Discrimination Claim Based on Polish National Origin

Flag of PolandJones International University (“JIU”) is headed for trial on claims by its former employee, Ivonna Edkins, that it discriminated against her based on her Polish origin and gender.  Two weeks ago, a federal district judge in Colorado denied JIU’s motion for summary judgment on Edkins’s claims, finding evidence that JIU’s former general counsel was a “domineering male who was disrespectful and dismissive of women with executive responsibilities.”  Edkins v. Jones Int’l Univ., Ltd., No. 11–cv–01790–RPM (D. Colo. 2012).

In his order, Judge Richard Matsch described the power struggle that led to the dispute.  Read More ›

If You Have A Social Media Policy, Make Sure It's Clear And Understood

Rainy DayThe use of social media by companies and executive employees continues to get them in trouble.  We’ve covered that here, here, and here

Some companies have concluded that having a social media policy in place is enough to avoid problems with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other means to communicate have come down the pike.  But to work, a social media policy needs to meet at least two other conditions. 

First, a social media policy has to be clear.  Second, it also has to be communicated to, and clearly understood by, the company’s employees.

It may need more than that. But at a minimum, if the policy doesn’t have those two operating elements, then enforcing it can do a company and its managers more harm than good – at least when it comes to their reputations.  That, at least, appears to be the lesson we can learn from the case of Rhonda Lee, a Shreveport, Louisiana TV meteorologistRead More ›

Exactly How Many Holidays Do We Have, Anyway?

So it’s Christmas time.  And Hanukkah and Kwanzaa time.  And it all follows Thanksgiving and then is promptly succeeded by New Year’s Eve and the Feast of the Epiphany. 

Yikes.  That’s a lot of holidays.  For employers and company managers, this means a lot of decisions about what days the business should be closed – and regardless of those decisions, it means lost productivity.  It’s hard to estimate how much productivity is lost due to the November and December holidays, but if the Super Bowl is any guide – and $820 million in productivity is lost during Super Bowl week – then it could be in the billions of dollars.  As one famous old curmudgeon noted, the whole thing is a poor excuse for picking a business owner’s pocket every December

My colleague Andrew Torrez wrote recently about the history of the Christmas holiday.  But looking at this more generally: how did we wind up with the number of holidays that we have now?  Did we always have this many?  Read More ›

The Inbox, Only Ten Shopping Days Left Edition

Sometimes—but only sometimes, and certainly not all the time – we lawyers can be just a little uptight and get into nasty disputes with each other.  Not that we at S-by-S have any firsthand knowledge of that.  But we are intrigued by this mushrooming case filed in Pennsylvania by Jeffrey First, a former contract attorney with the legal staffing firm of Special Counsel.  First started off by suing two colleagues who he claimed had hacked into his bank account and email.  Then, he says, the staffing company retaliated against him and “constructively discharged” him – so he’s suing it in a separate action.  He’s also suing a partner in the firm, Pepper Hamilton, that had hired him as part of a Special Counsel team. 

Speaking of lawyers, here’s a hint for any in-house counsel out there: it’s not a good idea to steal $9 million from your employer, like this in-house lawyer did by using phony invoices from phony law firms that he set up with his wife.  Come to think of it, that’s good advice for any executive. 

Naughty, and not nice: Fry’s Electronics, a West Coast chain, is to pay the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission $2.3 million to settle a case stemming from a male manager’s sexually inappropriate texts to a female subordinate, and repeated requests that she join him for a drink.  Elevating the amount of the settlement, according to this report, is Fry’s scorched-earth litigation tactics.     EEOC settlements seem to make a frequent appearance in The Inbox; prior ones are here, here and here.   

And from the “Uh, Thanks, I Guess” Department, defense contractor Lockheed Martin says it “won’t ask the Pentagon to reimburse part of the $3.5 million it is paying the chief operating officer who left last month after it was disclosed he had an extramarital affair with a subordinate.”  Diligent colleague Andrew Torrez wrote about the case of Lockheed COO Christopher Kubasik here.  Presumably, Andrew will not be asking the Pentagon to reimburse him for his time to write about the Lockheed Martin COO leaving Lockheed Martin, either.  But, we’ll see.          

It's A Wonderful Life...Or It Will Be If George And Uncle Billy Can Get Their Legal Fees Paid, Part 2

Holiday WreathFrom the script for It’s A Wonderful Life (1946):

                        GOWER

                        Hope you enjoy it.

               George suddenly sees the old cigar lighter on the counter.

               He closes his eyes and makes a wish.

                                    GEORGE

                        Oh... Oh. Wish I had a million

                        dollars.

               As he snaps the lighter the flame springs up.

                                    GEORGE

                        Hot dog!

Can George’s wish for a million dollars (or more) actually be granted, when he and Uncle Billy may need it the most?  Read More ›