The Toxic Workplace

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Pexels.com

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

The toxic workplace. Most of us have had experience with a co-worker or supervisor whose bad behavior makes the workplace a toxic place. Even if this toxic behavior does not rise to the level of being legally actionable, it certainly has a negative impact on employee morale and increases turnover. In this competitive job market, can you afford the toxic behavior of the employee who is driving others away?

Have a listen to our lively discussion of the Toxic Workplace:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/10949568/cyatoxicmaster

What Does Your Social Media Presence Say About Your Company?

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

I was looking around a popular business oriented social media site, and the content that some companies posted caught my trained employment lawyer’s eye. One, in particular, posted a lot of photos of employees who were all uniformly young (in their 30s and younger), energetic, and white.

I see a couple of issues here. First, what kind of message is this company sending to prospective employees? The message certainly appears to be that they only hire able-bodied young white employees. In this highly competitive employment market especially, it is not in a company’s best interest to discourage entire groups of people from even applying for available jobs.

Second, these social media posts could be used as evidence in a discrimination case. For example, if an African American employee files a lawsuit for employment discrimination, I could see the plaintiff’s lawyer offering the social media posts as evidence that the company does not value diversity, or that it does not value persons in protected classes. Because if the company valued those folks, it would include them in its public presence, right?

Think of your company’s social media presence as evidence that can be used in your favor or against you. That “youthful vibe” could be used as evidence of age discrimination. That “tough, macho vibe” could be used as evidence of gender discrimination. In other words, if you are not careful, your vibe could be the thing that attracts a lawsuit against your company.

The takeaway: Inclusivity is the key to attracting and retaining the best talent in this job market. May sure that your social media presence isn’t repelling entire classes of applicants or attracting lawsuits.

Kathleen J. Jennings is an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia and New York. She graduated from Cornell University, College of Arts & Sciences, with distinction and New York University School of Law. She is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. and defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

Copyright 2022 by Kathleen J. Jennings

The materials available at this blog site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Kathleen J. Jennings and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author.

Who’s listening?

By Kathleen J. Jennings

Many employers monitor employee email and electronic devices. What is the right way to do it? And how do employees feel about all that monitoring? Check out the Cover Your Assets Labor and Employment Podcast for a lively discussion. You never know who might be listening!

https://www.spreaker.com/user/10949568/cyamonitor

Talking About Mental Health Awareness Month

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

May is “Mental Health Awareness Month,” so on our most recent Podcast, Thom Jennings and I discuss mental health issues in the workplace. Mental health conditions may be protected as disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act, so it is important not to ignore employee requests for accommodations for both physical and mental health conditions.

Have a listen! And if you like it, please share with your friends and colleagues.

Link to Podcast: https://www.spreaker.com/user/10949568/cyamentalhealth

Interview Questions-the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

This week on the Cover Your Assets Podcast, my nephew, Thom Jennings (affectionately known as Thom Jr.), joins me and my brother (also Thom Jennings) to talk about interview questions. Thom Jr. is an executive recruiter who has some interesting insights into the interview process. Have a listen!

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cover-your-assets-the-labor-and-employment-law-podcast/id1610059515?i=1000559791096

Free Webinar: Urban Myths of the Fair Labor Standards Act – Wage Hour Law

When: Friday, May 6th, 2022, 12:00 PM to 12:45 PM

The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, eighty-four years ago, and yet many employers continue to pay in violation of the FLSA based on urban myths. We will address those urban myths, why they are wrong, and the right way to handle that myth.

Such urban myths are: “I pay all of my employees’ salaries so I do not have to pay overtime.” “All of my workers are independent contractors so I do not have to worry about the Wage-Hour Law.”

We will also address some of the more difficult issues such as paying tipped employees and remote employees.
To Register:
https://wimlaw.com/events/webinars/fair-labor-standards-wage-hour-law

They Say It’s Your Birthday!

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

This week, on the Cover Your Assets Labor and Employment Law Podcast, Thom and I discuss the recent case involving an employee who successfully sued his employer because the employer held a birthday party in his honor. We go beyond the headlines and discuss how this litigation might have been avoided. Have a listen!

Prepare for the Worst and Hope for the Best

By Kathleen Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

Last week, an EF-3+ tornado touched down in the city where I live, so it is not surprising that the concept of disaster preparedness is on my mind. (Thankfully, my family and I suffered no damage).

Is your business prepared if a disaster were to strike? And is your business required by OSHA to have a written emergency action plan?

According to OSHA, an emergency action plan (EAP) is intended to facilitate and organize employer and worker actions during workplace emergencies and is recommended for all employers. Well-developed emergency plans and proper worker training (i.e., so that workers understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe worker injuries and less damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan may lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, illness (due to chemical, biological and/or radiation exposure), and/or property damage.

Two OSHA standards (29 CFR 1910.38(a) and 29 CFR 1926.35) require written EAPs. Not all employers are required to establish an EAP but developing an EAP is a good way to protect workers and businesses during an emergency. Emergency preparedness is a well-known concept in protecting workers’ safety and health.

At a minimum, for businesses that are required to to have an EAP, the plan must include:

  • A preferred method and/or procedures for reporting fires and other emergencies (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(1) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(5));
  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas (example shown below) (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(2) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(1));
  • Procedures to account for all workers after an evacuation, such as designating an assembly location (e.g., a safe/refuge area) (29 CFR 1910.38(b)(4) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(3))
  • Names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside the company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(6) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(6));
  • Procedures for workers who remain to perform or shut down critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm before evacuating (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(3) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(2)); and
  • Rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(5) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(4)).
  • Names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside the company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(6) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(6));
  • Procedures for workers who remain to perform or shut down critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm before evacuating (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(3) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(2)); and
  • Rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(5) and 29 CFR 1926.35(b)(4)).

And don’t forget to perform regular evacuation drills so that employees actually know what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency.

Kathleen J. Jennings is an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia and New York. She graduated from Cornell University, College of Arts & Sciences, with distinction and New York University School of Law. She is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. and defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

The materials available at this blog site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Kathleen J. Jennings and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author.

Copyright 2022 by Kathleen Jennings

The “Boy’s Club” Problem

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

It’s Women’s History Month, so it is a good time to talk about avoiding sex discrimination in the workplace.

This topic came to me by way of a personal experience. It recently came to my attention that male opposing counsel in a large litigation matter sent an invitation to join him and his trained dogs on a bird hunt. However, the invitation was sent only to the male members of our litigation team. Mind you, this is a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in employment matters; you’d think he’d know better. But the “boy’s club” mentality can be deeply ingrained. And if you have male managers at your company with the same mentality, you run the risk of losing qualified female workers or worse, drawing a sex discrimination lawsuit.

Here’s what to look for: male groups of managers (we are going to focus on management here) that socialize together inside and outside of work, to the exclusion of female managers. Worse case scenario–the male managers who like to regularly go to strip clubs to socialize or conduct business. As a practical proposition, this type of activity serves to exclude women, and let’s face it, the optics are horrible in the era of #metoo. Less obvious but still problematic–the tight knit group of male managers that keep a secret stash of liquor and sit around and drink and shoot the breeze because they work long hours. Or regularly go out to a bar together after work. Maybe they even make comments about female employees or customers while they are hanging out. They do not invite any women to join them. (This fact pattern occurred in a recent lawsuit filed by a female manager who was denied a promotion). If participating in these activities is the way that people advance up through the ranks at your company, you have got a problem that could eventually result in a lawsuit.

There are other consequences, too. For a time, I worked with a male senior attorney who openly bragged about taking clients to strip clubs as a form of client development. I didn’t complain or file an EEOC charge. I just left the firm for another job. And that’s what a good number of well-qualified women will do if they feel excluded because they are not a member of the “boy’s club.” Or maybe that kind of atmosphere makes them annoyed or uncomfortable. Especially now, it is easier to leave one workplace for another that is more inclusive. In this job market, where employers are competing for good talent, it makes no business sense to have a work environment that essentially repels half of the available workers.

Finally, as for the male managers that tell you the reason that they don’t socialize with women is because they “don’t want to say something wrong and get hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit,” those gents are perfect candidates for anti-harassment and sensitivity training. They are all but telling you that they are lawsuits waiting to happen. boy’s club

Kathleen J. Jennings is an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia and New York. She graduated from Cornell University, College of Arts & Sciences, with distinction and New York University School of Law. She is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. and defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

Copyright 2022 by Kathleen J. Jennings

The materials available at this blog site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Kathleen J. Jennings and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author.