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Elsewhere in the Courts: Age Discrimination

- A federal appeals court will allow a 58-year-old executive to pursue an age discrimination lawsuit against his employer. The highly praised executive was fired and replaced with a younger man. The court noted that a management consultant had suggested that the company enlist “young, energetic” people, a phrase that the company’s president repeated and wrote out in his notes. (Inman v. Klockner Pentaplast of America, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, No. 08-1882, 2009)

State Legislation: Oklahoma: Firearms

- A new Oklahoma law (formerly H.B. 1025) makes it illegal for employers to ask employees about their ownership of firearms. Under the law, private employees would be barred from asking applicants whether they own or possess a firearm. Violation of the law is punishable by a $1,000 fine.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Whistleblowers

- According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, 16 workers die, on average, every day on U.S. worksites, and more than four million workers suffer workplace injuries every year. To address the topic of how workplace safety laws can be improved, lawmakers on the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on H.R. 2067 (.pdf), which would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) by increasing penalties for violators and boosting protections for whistleblowers.

Workplace Safety

- A construction worker who was severely injured after being shocked by an ungrounded fixture on a worksite sued his employer, a subcontractor. A California appeals court, however, ruled that the subcontractor did not have a duty to protect employees from the hazard it did not create, although it did have a duty to report the incident to the main contractor or the property owner.

Medical Testing

- A federal appeals court has ruled that an employee may pursue his claim against a prospective employer who refused to hire him after learning that he suffered from epilepsy. The court found that a jury must determine whether questions asked after the employee failed a drug test violated federal law against preemployment medical inquiries.

Fighting Corruption

- Several organizations publish helpful guides that provide advice for companies developing an anti-corruption program; among them are PricewaterhouseCoopers and Transparency International. Read both of the organizations’ guidelines online, here and here.

Lawmakers Hold Hearing on the Use of Credit Checks in Hiring Decisions

- Lawmakers on a House Financial Services' subcommittee last week examined amending the Fair Credit Reporting Act to prohibit a current or prospective employer from using credit reports to make employment decisions such as hiring, firing, or promotion.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Sex Discrimination

- A federal appeals court has ruled that a hotel employee may pursue her sexual discrimination suit against her manager. The court ruled that the manager could have discriminated against a female employee when he fired her because she lacked the feminine “Midwestern girl look” he deemed necessary to serve as a front desk employee. The court noted that discrimination is present when gender plays a part in an adverse employment action. (Lewis v. Heartland Inns of America, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 08-3860, 2010)

Elsewhere in the Courts: Sexual Harassment

- Reversing a lower court’s decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that a police department cannot be held liable after a deputy sexually assaulted a woman he had arrested. The woman sued the police department and the sheriff for failing to properly train the deputy. The appellate court ruled that such training is unnecessary because the prohibited actions are so obviously wrong. The court also noted that it was illogical to assume that by failing to tell the deputy that sexual assault was wrong, the sheriff would cause the deputy to engage in that behavior. (Parrish v Ball, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 08-3517, 2010)


- A worker who was terminated after she gave corporate investigators pertinent information bolstering a sexual harassment allegation brought by another woman against her boss has now been awarded $1.5 million by a Tennessee jury. The case had gone all the way to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the woman’s right to a retaliation claim.

Putting Duty of Care on the Radar

- Companies must be aware of their legal obligations to protect employees who are living or traveling abroad for business.

Caring for Patients

- How one medical center created an ambassador program within its security ranks to enhance customer service and create a career path.

Workplace Violence

- A company’s fear of workplace violence was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing an employee who had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, a federal district court has ruled.

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