Hobby Lobby Ruling a Potential Slippery Slope

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Inc. case last week, asserting that certain employers with religious objections can deny paying for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

Michael Landen, a partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, shares his thoughts with the Daily Business Review on the ruling, and raises important questions about the full implications of the decision.

He argues the decision is a slippery slope, opening the door for “closely-held” businesses to become involved in private medical issues such as fertility, birth control procedures (such as vasectomy or tubal ligation), psychiatric care and blood transfusions. If a private employer’s religious beliefs can dictate the health care its employers receive, all kinds of health care and medical procedures, some possibly life-saving, may be at risk.

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Obesity as a Disability: What Does This Mean for Employers?

By Michael T. Landen

According to the CDC, over one-third of American adults are obese.  As a result, it is not surprising that employers nationwide are seeing a rise in lawsuits and claims by obese employees who invoke the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming that their employers failed to provide reasonable accommodations for their “disability” in the workplace.

So, this begs the question: is obesity a disability?  It appears that the answer is shifting toward yes.

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EEOC Says Employers Cannot Demand Silence From Their Employees During A Harassment Investigation

By Michael T. Landen

Recently, the Buffalo office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a letter concerning an employer’s instructions to an employee not to discuss a pending investigation.  Excerpts of the letter can be found here.

The EEOC letter raises questions about an employer’s ability to silence employees during an internal investigation into harassment.  Specifically, the letter states, “You have admitted to having a written policy which warns all employees who participate in one of your internal investigations of harassment that they could be subject to discipline or discharge for discussing ‘the matter,’ apparently with anyone.”

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Third DCA Watch

This week Alan J. Kluger comments on the Third District Court of Appeals decision in LaRue v. Kalex Construction and Development, Inc., et. al.

On its face, this case may seem like a run-of-the-mill law school hypothetical – does the statute of frauds apply to an oral employment agreement?  The court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the statute of frauds barred plaintiff’s claim, despite her contention that she fully performed under the contract.  The court declined to apply any exceptions.

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Fired For Wearing Orange?

14 workers at a South Florida law firm were fired for wearing orange. The former employees claim that they would wear orange on pay day so they could be easily recognized during happy hour after the workday was over. Or were they wearing their shirts in protest?  Florida is an “at will” state for employment, which means that an employer can fire an employee for any lawful reason if there is no contract.

Read the full Sun-Sentinel story here.

14 fired at law firm for wearing orange shirts, workers report
By Doreen Hemlock, SunSentinel

Were they wearing orange shirts on Friday to protest management? Or to get psyched for happy hour?

Either way, orange-shirted workers no longer have jobs at the Deerfield Beach law firm of Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A.

A spokeswoman said the law firm had “no comment at this time.”

Four workers tell the story this way: For the past few months, some employees have worn orange shirts on pay-day Fridays so they’d look like a group when they went out for happy hour.

This Friday, 14 workers wearing orange shirts were called into a conference room, where an executive said he understood there was a protest involving orange, the employees were wearing orange, and they all were fired.

The executive said anyone wearing orange for an innocent reason should speak up. One employee immediately denied involvement with a protest and explained the happy-hour color.

The executives conferred outside the room, returned and upheld the decision: all fired, said Lou Erik Ambert, 31, of Coconut Creek, a litigation para-legal who said he was terminated.

“There is no office policy against wearing orange shirts. We had no warning. We got no severance, no package, no nothing,” said Ambert. “I feel so violated.”

Meloney McLeod, 39, of North Lauderdale, said her choice of shirt puts her in a tough spot: “I’m a single mom with four kids, and I’m out of a job just because I wore orange today.”

Janice Doble, 50, of Sunrise,said she wore orange Friday because she was looking forward to happy hour with colleagues after a busy work week.

“Orange happens to be my favorite color. My patio is orange,” said Doble. “My lipstick was orange today.” She said she supervised 12 people who scanned, copied and mailed documents for the firm.

Now she’s worried for relatives employed at the law firm. “I have four kids who work there,” said Doble. “I don’t want them to retaliate and fire my kids.”

Yadel Fong, 21, of Miami, wonders where he’ll find work after losing his job in the mail room. He was not aware of anyone in the group involved in a protest.

Read the rest of the story here.