Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Industrial Safety, Soviet Style

A collection of Soviet-era safety posters reveals a lot about the hazards of the industrial workplace. I wonder how many people were injured as a result of walking into moving machines while they were looking at these graphic images?

You can get the translations at the website, but this really is one of those occasions where the picture is worth 1000 words.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ex-Felons and College Coaching

I noted below that the EEOC is now attacking broadly worded employment policies that prohibit the hiring of convicted felons.  The Commission's enforcement guidance is, at least in my opinion, badly thought out and will make it impossible for employers to maintain control over their hiring standards by using and enforcing criminal background checks.

An example of how this silly policy is going to play out arose recently in the college athletics context.  Up until 2011, the NCAA allowed people with nonviolent felony convictions more than seven years old to coach at NCAA-sanctioned youth basketball tournaments. The rule changed, and the NCAA now bars all individuals with felony conviction from coaching in these tournaments.

The rule change had an immediate impact on several youth and high school coaches with nonviolent drug convictions in their pasts. In this latest case, a girls high school basketball coach is suing because the NCAA rule prohibits him from taking his high school teams to NCAA sanctioned tournaments. These tournaments are important because they are frequently the only way that college coaches can see high school kids playing during the summer, a prime scouting period for basketball.

I'm thinking that the NCAA will be able to at least articulate a reason why it does not want felons associating with junior athletes in its sanctioned programs.  The potential liability issue is all too obvious to those of us who have dealt with employers that hired people with felony convictions, only to have that come back and bite the company on a negligent hire or negligent supervision lawsuit. Although not employment cases, how these lawsuits play out may provide some important help for the rest of us struggling with the EEOC guidance.

When Is Putting on Clothing Compensable Time?

The Supreme Court has agreed to take on an issue that bedevils a number of manufacturing operations that require employees to change into safety gear, including protective clothing, before beginning work.

Typically, time spent on changing clothes is considered a so-called "principal activity" when the use of protective clothing or safety gear is an integral or indispensable part of the job. Employee time spent on principal activities is compensable as part of the workday under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But the Act allows a unionized employer to exclude this time from compensable time if the exclusion is negotiated as part of a collective-bargaining agreement. Litigation has now developed over what constitutes "changing clothes" for purposes of this negotiated exclusion. As noted in a previous posting, some employees have argued that donning required safety equipment such as protective boots, head coverings, etc., does not constitute changing clothes under the Act, and therefore cannot be excluded from compensable time even if negotiated away by the union.

The Supreme Court decision has important implications for other industries where so-called "donning and doffing" issues exist, even without the union context. I'll follow with an update when this case is decided.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm Thinking the Law Firm in This Article Can Expect a Visit from the EEOC Pretty Soon

...because its requirement that everyone who works there have a college degree is going to have a disparate impact of some type on protected groups.  I referenced this in an earlier post about the EEOC's attacks on requiring high school diplomas for employment and the disparate impact that has on people with disabilities. I assume the exact same logic applies to the even more onerous requirement of a college degree.

If this employer can't provide a definitive link between a college degree and the job requirements for answering a telephone or filing, then I think the firm's going to have some explaining to do.  Stay tuned.