Employment Law Archives

Password Sharing May Be A Crime

Amid the flurry of recent news about computer hacking and data breaches, a recent lawsuit quietly wound its way up to the steps of the United States Supreme Court. In that case, a former employee left his employer to open a competing business. After he left, he asked his assistant at his old firm to lend her login credentials to him so that he could access his former employer's database. He then used her password to log into his old firm's database. His former employer launched an investigation and reported him to the authorities.


A vexing problem for employers is the period of time it must allow for leave. A very recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit demonstrates that courts and administrative agencies continue to disagree regarding an employer's obligation to provide extended leave beyond that mandated by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, No. 15-3754 (7th Cir. Sept. 20, 2017) (Sykes, J.).


A very recent decision in a federal district court case highlights the risk of off-the-clock wage claims. Andrews v. Weatherproofing Technologies, Inc., C.A. No. 15-11873-TSH (D. Mass Sept. 28, 2017) (Hillman, D.J.). In that case, a Massachusetts roofing contractor employed roofing technicians who inspected and repaired roofing systems that the employer installed for its customers. The technicians were typically in the field during the day and claimed that at night they would complete paperwork related to the day's work.


The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently awarded unemployment benefits to an employee who was fired for posting disparaging comments about his boss on Facebook. Although the worker was already on thin ice due to a host of issues, the employer ultimately fired him after his boss saw the Facebook post. The post was not defamatory or terribly inflammatory, but it was apparently the last straw leading to the employee's termination.

RI General Assembly Seeks to Restrict Employers in Their Hiring and Pay Practices

The Rhode Island General Assembly is poised to consider a new law that would prohibit prospective employers from asking candidates about their wage and salary history before making an offer of employment to them. The bill seeks to level the playing field between potential employees and employers so that employees would be free to negotiate and agree upon a wage or salary without their prior compensation setting an arbitrarily low basis for their new salary. On the flip side, however, the bill expressly permits potential employees to disclose their wage and salary history during negotiations. Therefore, if employees believe that their prior wage or salary will help them in negotiations, they are free to disclose that information to the prospective employer.

Notice of an Employee's Rights under FMLA Must Include Job Protection Rights

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit highlights the importance of proper notice to employees of their rights and responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). (Vannoy v. Fed. Reserve Bank of Richmond, 4th Cir., No. 14-2375 (6/28/16)). In that case, the plaintiff, who suffered from major depression and alcohol dependency, sought medical leave from his employer under the FMLA to attend an in-patient treatment program. While the employer granted the leave, its notice to the plaintiff of his rights and responsibilities lacked a critical component: information concerning job protection rights.

Employers Must Diligently Investigate Reports of Employee Misconduct

Imagine you receive an email from a customer stating that one of your employees engaged in serious misconduct. However, it's not clear from the email whether the customer is merely disgruntled at your company's service, or if your employee indeed engaged in wrongdoing. Your first instinct would be to open your investigation by asking the employee about the customer's email. This is a good start, especially because the email is vague and lacks details, but you cannot end there. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently reminded employers that they often must go one step further by asking the complaining customer for more details, especially in cases where the allegations are vague or unclear. 

Essential Business Practice: Effective Record Retention Policy

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that parties "may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense [...]," but may not obtain discovery of electronically stored information from sources that are not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. Having an effective record retention policy may be the solution to saving thousands of dollars in the event of a lawsuit. The example below demonstrates just how important this essential business practice can be.

Prepare Now for Sweeping Changes to Rhode Island's Identity Protection Law

On June 26, 2015, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed the "Rhode Island Identity Theft Protection Act of 2015" ("Act"), substantially reworking Rhode Island's 2005 data breach and identity protection laws. Although it does not formally take effect until June of 2016, it is important for businesses to be aware of the Act's key provisions and to take proactive measures to ensure timely compliance.The Act generally applies to any business, person, entity, or municipality that collects and stores "personal information," such as a person's first name (or initial) and last name in connection with the following types of additional data:

The Supreme Court of the United States holds that ERISA plan fiduciaries have a continuing duty to monitor the prudence of plan investments in pension and 401(k)/defined contribution plans

A decision issued last week by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has significant implications for both ERISA plan fiduciaries and plan participants.

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