Wrapping up my look back this shortened week at some “Basics” posts, here’s a reminder of the obligations employers have to conduct sexual harassment prevention trainings.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and thanks for your continued readership.  

With every new law that gets passed, it’s easy to overlook the existing requirements that employers must follow.

After all, if employers are just tracking the new laws down without first nailing down compliance with “older” ones, then they are leaving themselves just as vulnerable to potential claims.

One area that is easy to overlook is sexual harassment prevention, particularly in Connecticut. Indeed, some employers believe that simply adopting a policy is all that is required.

And they would be wrong.

So, it’s time to go back to the basics and make sure you’ve hit the checklist when it comes to sexual harassment prevention in Connecticut.  Here are some things to consider:

  • All employers with 3 or more employees, must post notices regarding sexual harassment. Rather than tell you what it should say, just download the poster from the CHRO directly.  And it’s free.   (While you’re at it, consider spending some money to buy the all-in-one posters offered by some commercial ventures; alternatively, you can get the notices from each of the agencies.)
  • The CHRO suggests (but does not mandate) that the notices also include: A statement concerning the employer’s policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment and a statement concerning the disciplinary action that may be taken if sexual harassment has been committed; and  contact person at the place of employment to whom one can report complaints of sexual harassment or direct questions or concerns regarding sexual harassment.  Those are good ideas. Add them.
  • The notices need to be posted in a prominent location.  A shared lunch room is typical. Don’t bury them in a location that employees will never see.
  • Employers with 50 or more employees must also provide two hours of training and education to all supervisory employees of employees in the State of Connecticut within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position.  If you haven’t done such training, get it done now.  Your company’s preferred lawfirm should be able to do it or, in some instances, an employer’s EPLI carrier may also provide that service.
  • The training has certain requirements, such as that it is done in a classroom-like setting.  Some e-learning programs are now allowed under a 2003 informal opinion of the CHRO.
  • The CHRO recommends (but does not require) that an update of legal requirements and development in the law be given to supervisory employees every three years.  Again, that’s probably a good idea; it demonstrates an employer’s commitment to this issue.
  • The CHRO encourages employers to keep records of such training. I would go further than that to say that employers should strongly consider it.  If faced with a sexual harassment claim, such records may be key evidence to support the employer’s arguments that it took steps to ensure such harassment did not occur by training its employees.

Do you have all of these items under control? If so, you’re a step ahead.  If not, don’t ignore the issue.

Take steps to get the training done (Shipman & Goodwin provides such seminars on a frequent basis) and make sure your policies and procedures are current.

In the course of my litigation cases, I’ve had a good-natured argument at times with a few counsel who represent employees about the mindset of employers.  The argument I’ve heard from them is that employers are too cavalier in firing employees and just go about hiring someone else (someone younger, they argue).

headahbBut what I’ve heard from my clients over the years is something different.

Typically, the decision to fire an employee is tough, made only after a series of internal conversations.  Employees with performance issues weigh on the supervisor’s minds — the struggle between trying to help the employee improve while still making sure that the needs of the business get done.

Mostly they get it right. But firing a poor performer doesn’t typically solve the issues for employers. Rather, they then need to find the RIGHT person to fill that position.

Hiring the right person is hard.   Just the process of searching for that person can sometimes feel like the proverbial needle in the haystack.  Online resumes come in by the dozen and business pressures make it difficult for employers to just find the time to parse through the resumes and interview candidates.

The headaches with hiring have only gotten worse over the last decade as well.

New laws have been put in place that place restrictions on what employers can and cannot ask and when they can ask those questions. And further restrictions on things like non-compete agreements in certain professions make hiring the right person all the more important.

For example, “Ban the Box” is now the law in Connecticut. Have you amended your employment applications to address this issue? Restrictions on the use of credit reports were put in a few years ago. Have you revised your process accordingly? And how can you search social media without running afoul of laws that ban “shoulder surfing”?  Do you give employees an “offer letter” that outlines the terms of their employment as Connecticut law requires?

I’ve talked about some of these things in prior posts, but I’m going to expound upon it further at our firm’s upcoming Labor & Employment Law seminar later this month.  You can register for the program here; space is very limited at this point.

Are there other topics related to hiring that you’d like to hear addressed at the seminar or on the blog? Be sure to post a comment so we can incorporate that in our free presentation.

Next week, I will be speaking at the CBIA Annual HR Conference along with my colleague Jarad Lucan about why you should care about the NLRB.

Unfortunately, if you don’t already have tickets, it’s sold out. It’s being held at the Radisson in Cromwell, Connecticut and features some great topics for consideration. 

But the basic gist of our presentation will be a continuation of some of the themes I’ve talked about before on the blog (here, here and here, for example) — namely that the NLRB is continuing to expand its sphere of influence.

Naturally, our presentation is entitled: “The NLRB in 2016: Why it May Be Your Biggest Headache — Particularly If You Don’t Have a Union.”

For employers that are used to dealing with unions in their workplace, many of these issues won’t be a surprise.

But as I’ve talked about before, the NLRB has been critical of even those employers without unions.  The Triple Play case regarding discipline of employees for comments on Facebook is a perfect example.

For employers then, it’s important to understand the concept of “protected concerted activities” and the fact that any employee — whether a union member or not — may be protected by federal law for his or her actions.

If you’re attending the CBIA’s HR Conference next week, feel free to say “hi”.  Should be a great event.

campSo “bear” with me on this one.

Today is Yogi Berra’s 90th birthday. The Yankee great is famous for not only his play as a baseball player but also for his sayings, such as “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”

He was so popular he was said to inspire the name of Yogi Bear, a popular cartoon character who lived in Jellystone Park. And what did he like saying? He was “smarter than the average bear!”

But here’s where we come full circle: Jellystone Parks are now a real-life camp/resort too!

And that brings me to today’s topic: Camps.  (I realize that’s a long way to go for this introduction, but so be it.)

Tomorrow, my partners Linda Yoder and Leander Dolphin present a webinar entitled: “Top Tips for Accommodations under the ADA – Who’s Ready for Summer Camp?”

Indeed, with summer just around the corner, summer camps and youth services providers are making preparations for the fast-approaching camp season. This webinar will discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) application to camp and other youth programs, and a review of top tips to consider, including accommodations, modifications of policies and procedures, provision of auxiliary aids, and safety concerns.

The webinar will cover frequently asked questions such as:

  • Who is considered “disabled” under the ADA?
  • Is our summer camp or youth services program required to comply with the ADA?
  • How do we determine if our organization’s programs, buildings and grounds are ADA accessible?
  • How do we respond to requests for accommodation?
  • Are we required to modify policies and procedures?
  • How do we determine whether an accommodation is reasonable?
  • What if there are competing and conflicting requests for accommodation?
  • How do we respond to safety concerns?
  • What steps can we take to ensure that our contracts protect us from liability or other concerns?

It’s scheduled for 1p Eastern Time. To sign up, you can click here.

And lest you think you can’t learn a lot from a webinar, remember this quote from Yogi Berra: “You Can Observe a Lot By Just Watching.”

 

 

With cameras on every smart phone and computers that can track your every click, it’s hard for employers to know what’s proper in the workplace when it comes to surveillance and monitoring.

I’ve talked on the blog before about Connecticut’s Electronic Monitoring Act. But there are several other laws and theories that employers should be aware of before pushing the “power” switch on that hidden camera.

Take, for example, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 52-570d.  That law prohibits the taping of a private telephone conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation.  That can come in handy if you believe an employee is recording a phone call without your permission.

The addition of social media in the workplace has added another layer to the analysis in some states too.  While Connecticut hasn’t yet passed a law that would restrict employers from asking for the passwords of employees’ social media accounts, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that issue come up again in the new session.

What else is there? Well, for that you’ll have to come to our free labor & employment law seminar this Friday where I will be speaking on this topic with my colleague Peter Murphy.  Details are available here.  If you’re interested, just sign up. 

And we promise we won’t play this song, however tempting as it might be.

 

One of things I try to do on this blog is look through our crystal ball and focus on topic that may be on the horizon.

For some time now, workplace bullying has seemed to be one of those issues. I’ve touched on it before, but today my colleague Chris Parkin is back with some further discussion on it. 

In the meantime, we’ll be discussing this more in-depth at our FREE Labor & Employment Law Seminar on October 31st.   Please be sure to sign up ASAP if you’re interested because we are starting to get close to our capacity. 

Workplace bullying is real.  It happens every day in offices and on job sites throughout Connecticut.

Does an employer have an obligation to prevent or stop it? Is bullying illegal? The answer surprises HR managers and bullying victims alike: there’s no federal or Connecticut law against bullying in the workplace.

It’s perfectly legal to be an abrasive, even abusive, supervisor or colleague.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

And indeed, just because bullying may not be completely outlawed, it does not mean that employers are off the hook entirely.  Indeed, workplace bullying conduct may nevertheless give rise to claims of discrimination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision, among others.

To date, few of these bullying-type claims have been brought in Connecticut but the potential for claims is real, particularly when the alleged victim is a member of a protected class.

In addition, there is a national effort to lobby state legislatures to pass anti-bullying legislation.  Despite years of lobbying, only California has passed a major bill relating to bullying.  Just last month, the state passed a bill that expands their sexual harassment training requirement to include “prevention of abusive conduct” as a component.

Anti-bullying legislation has been proposed in Connecticut on several occasions.  The most recent effort to curb bullying in Connecticut (in 2012) would have required public sector employees to report all complaints of abusive conduct and workplace violence on an annual basis.

Like its predecessors, it failed to make it through the legislative process.  The recent passage of the California training requirement may be a look into Connecticut’s future though.  Like California, Connecticut is among the three states to mandate sexual harassment training.  The California law provides a template for a adding a bullying training requirement here in Connecticut.

We’ll talk about all of this at the seminar next week. Hope to see you there.

For many years, employers set up firewalls at work that prevented employees from going to certain websites.

Didn’t want your employees shopping at Amazon? Block the site.

Didn’t want your employees posting updates at Facebook? Block the site.

But here’s the reality: Smartphones have made those firewalls meaningless.  Information, as I’ve said before, wants to be free.  Employers who attempt to block social media usage are merely putting fingers into the proverbial bursting dam.    Whether you recognize it or not, there’s a massive waterfall of information that is now flowing.

Am I suggesting employers give up? Hardly.  But there needs to be an acknowledgment by employers that social media and technology will continue to infiltrate our workplaces in ways we haven’t even begun to think about.  We need to think about a world where such usage is considered the norm.  How do we rebuild a workplace that is cognizant of these changes and also protects both the core values of the business and the secrets that your company has that allow it to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

On October 25th, I’m going to discuss these concepts further as part of a larger presentation my firm is giving on labor & employment law. The session that I will help lead is entitled, “Are You Ready for Instagram, Vine and All the Latest That Social Media Brings Into the Workplace?”

In the presentation, we’ll cover social media policy but also how employers need to address the evolving world of social media.  Ever hear of sites like Whisper or Snapchat? And what do you do when employees take their converations off of your servers and onto instant messaging apps?

Overall, we will address the latest developments in employment law and social media, and provide guidance to employers on dealing with this shifting landscape.  Download a brochure here.

Registration is free, but is done on a first-come, first-served basis.  So be sure to sign up before it fills up.

See you later this month.

Interested in social media for business but wondering how to deal with a policy to manage it?

Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Technology & Business Development is sponsoring an executive breakfast series seminar on October 3, 2013 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. on Social Media Policy.

I will be among the panel of speakers discussing the subject.  Along with me, will be:

  • Jessica Rich, Director of Operations and Employee Services at The Walker Group;
  • Suzi Craig, Director of Opportunity & Engagement at Fathom;
  • Rob McGuiness, Manager of E-Communications at Pratt & Whitney

In this presentation, we will be covering both the legal aspects of social media policy but also best practices for you and your company to follow.

The executive breakfast program is just $25 and open to the public.  My thanks to CCSU for the invite and TD Bank for its sponsorship of this event.

It will be held at the ITBD headquarters at 185 Main Street, New Britain, CT.  You can RSVP here to attend.  Hope to see you all there.

For additonal background on social media policy, see some of my recent social media policy posts here and here.

I’ve long since preached about the need for ongoing sexual harassment prevention training.

My new firm, Shipman & Goodwin LLP has a series of trainings scheduled that should hopefully fit your schedule if you or your employees have a need for such training.

The next one is scheduled for August 27th in Hartford from 7:45-10a.  Full details are available here. 

The cost is just $50 per person and each person who attends will receive a certificate upon completion.

If you’re interested in signing up, you can register here.  And if you’re going, please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to me personally.  Its being led by one of my capable colleagues.  See you then.

Today, our firm held the last of two free seminars on employment law. Thanks to all who attended.

Surprisingly, one of the issues our attendees had a bunch of questions on was the new medical marijuana bill that became effective October 1, 2012. 

Now, I’m not going to go back over the entire bill in this post (you can see my prior post here).

But there are three things that we talked about that are worth repeating:

1. Employers can still prohibit employees from using marijuana at work and still prohibit employees from being intoxicated (or stoned) at work too.

2. While we don’t have a Connecticut case yet, it is unlikely that the ADA will require employers to consider a reasonable accommodation involving medical marijuana usage (such as being able to use it during work hours).  A Ninth Circuit case on this subject is useful.  Less settled is whether Connecticut’s law on disability discrimination might come out differently.

3.  Lastly, while an employer may not fire someone because of their status as a medical marijuana patient, the law does have an important caveat.  The employer can act if ”required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding.”  Thus, if there are, for example, commercial driving laws in your industry that restrict the use of marijuana, it appears that law will trump state law.

This is still a relatively new area for employers to deal with so to the extent you have additional questions, be sure to contact your local attorney for more details.