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Expanding Title VII?

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' landmark decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (Case No. 15-1720), which established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the issue of sexual orientation, may be an indication that the Courts are willing to adopt much more inclusive positions towards gay workers and may, as well, keep moving in that same direction with regard to transgender employees. It is quite clear from a review of print and social media that LGBT advocates are becoming much more aggressive in the challenging of perceived discrimination in the workplace. Clearly, the Legal Basis behind the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Decision in Hively could also be used in future Cases to widen the scope of protection for transgender workers.

EPLI Coverage: If You Like Us, Let Them Know

Over the last ten years or so, Employment Practice Liability Insurance ("EPLI") has become a more and more common form of insurance coverage for businesses. Unlike traditional sources of coverage, which insure against risks associated with business operations, products, work injuries, hazards, etc., EPLI covers an employer against liability stemming from employment practices, such as damages (e.g., back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, attorney fees, etc.) for unlawful discrimination, wrongful discharge, whistleblowing, etc.

The Exploding New Gig Economy: States Decide Tough Classification Issues!

In recent years, many states have passed laws attempting to regulate ride-hailing companies such as Uber (and other members of the "gig economy"). These new laws cover how to treat independent contractors with regard to insurance requirements, recordkeeping, inspections and background checks, etc.

President Trump Appoints MN Supreme Court Justice to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

On May 8th President Trump began nominating judges to fill more than 125 existing vacancies in the nation's federal courts. Among his first 10 nominees following the recent appointment of Justice Neal Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, is our own Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, whom the President nominated to a seat on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Assuming Judge Stras' appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will continue to influence legal issues in Minnesota but on the federal level since the Eighth Circuit oversees the federal courts in Minnesota as well as Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and North and South Dakota. As would be expected, Judge Stras's nomination is supported by conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society (known for its "strict constructionist" position on how the laws and constitution should be interpreted by the courts). Judge Stras holds several degrees from the University of Kansas, including an MBA and JD. After teaching at the University of Minnesota Law School as an assistant professor, in 2010 then Governor Tim Pawlenty appointed him to a vacant seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court and he won re-election in 2012.

Wessels Sherman's 2017 Employer Empowerment Seminar in Minnesota is Another Big Success!

seminar1.jpgWessels Sherman's Minnesota office hosted the firm's annual labor and employment law seminar for employers, accountants, attorneys and other business professionals on April 28, 2017 at the beautiful Radisson Blu, Mall of America hotel. James Sherman, firm President/CEO and Founder/Managing Shareholder of our Minneapolis office, welcomed the room full of attendees who came from four different states and a broad spectrum of industries and fields. After delivering the day's first presentation on drastic changes taking place in workplace laws and regulations in 2017, Mr. Sherman served as moderator to introduce the many other presenters throughout the day. Special Guest Speaker Nick Rogers, President/CEO of Minnesota's newest major league sports team (and a lawyer who previously practiced in the private sector), regaled the audience with the fascinating story behind Minnesota United's mercurial rise from the lower division league, to one of the countries two MLS expansion teams in 2017, to breaking ground on a brand new, privately financed, soccer specific stadium in May of this year. The club's success story can be an inspiration to businesses of all sizes and industries!

Fair Labor Standards Act Rounding Principles

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies may use "rounding principles," for employees' hours worked. The FLSA allows companies to round the employees' hours to the nearest quarter hour. But the problem becomes that companies don't implement the principles correctly. Companies violate the rounding principle by only rounding down, which will result in a wage and hour violation.

Chickens Come Home to Roost

As a number of Clients of the Firm would state, over the last ten (10) years, the author has been advising them to get out of/not participate in the Unions' Multi-Employer Pension Funds. It has long been the opinion of the author that this is a quasi-Ponzi Scheme and was destined for failure from the start. When half of the Trustees of such a Plan are Union Business Agents who have little, if any, financial background, how can actual and cogent financial guidance about investigating/managing millions of dollars be provided? The author had the privilege in the early 80's to serve as a Trustee of a Multi-Employer Pension Plan in California and got out of the Trustee Position because of the stupidity of the day-to-day Administration of the Pension Plan and its investment strategy. As an aside, the next time the author negotiated a contract with the Union that had that Pension Plan in it (Retail Clerks Union - Northern California), he got the Client out of the Plan prior to the creation of MEPPA in 1989.

IDES Audits Can Catch You With Your Guard Down

This article is being written as a cautionary tale for readers who are interested in how to have a good outcome in an Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) audit, especially where independent contractors (1099 workers) are at issue.

Illinois Employers - Liable for Criminal Acts of Supervisors?

While the liability of employers in the State of Illinois has been expanded substantially by recent amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act and the recent decision of the US District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (Case No. 15-1720), which was a landmark decision holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, there have been few, if any, cases in which Illinois employers have had to bear the responsibility for the criminal conduct of their employees. Unfortunately, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued a decision (March 24, 2017) in the Case of Sherry Anicich v. Home Depot USA, Inc.; Grand Service, LLC and Grand Flower Growers, Inc. (Case No. 16-1693). The Federal Court, acting and applying Illinois law, found that the joint employers were liable for the criminal acts of a supervisor (Brian Cooper - Regional Manager) in his rape and murder of Alisha Bromfield.

Politics and Religion in the Workplace - "Backlash Discrimination" of Muslims and Middle Eastern Employees

Fear, emotionally charged perspectives on the Trump administration's immigration policy and deeply embedded religious views are all topics ripe for disagreements possibly escalating into use of slurs, threats and insults. The workplace, where many of us spend the majority of our weekdays, is one place where these agreements may percolate to a dangerous boiling point.

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