Supreme Court Sides with Baker in Wedding Cake Case

On June 4, 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of a self-described cake artist in Colorado to refuse to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. As framed by the Supreme Court, the issue in the case was, “whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel Phillips [the baker] to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.” In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that Phillips’ religious beliefs were sincerely held, that he was protected under the Constitution’s Free Exercise of Religion Clause, and that he therefore did not violate the state’s public accommodations law.  Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Docket No. 16-111 (U.S. Supreme Court June 4, 2018).

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EEOC, Some Courts Expanding Sex Discrimination to Include LGBT Discrimination

With marriage equality now the law of the land, prohibiting employment discrimination is the new frontline in the quest for full LGBT equality in the United States.   The concern that LGBT Americans can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday is all too real in a majority of states, including Pennsylvania.

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Spike in EEO Retaliation Claims Prompts EEOC to Update Enforcement Guidance Definition of “Protected Activity” Expanded

Most U.S. employers are familiar with their obligations to comply with federal equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of an individual’s personal characteristics, including sex, age, race, religion, national origin, disability, and genetic information. It is also a form of unlawful discrimination for an employer to punish or “retaliate” against an individual for engaging in “protected activity”, such as complaining to a supervisor about discriminatory treatment or serving as a witness in a discrimination lawsuit. Even if the underlying charge of discrimination lacks merit, employers may still have liability if they engage in retaliation against the individual who makes the complaint.

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Can Lawyers SaVE
Title IX? New Rules for Campus Sexual Assault Hearings

There is a “complainant” and a “respondent.” There are investigative reports, forensic evidence, and exchanges of documents between the parties. There is a hearing with the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and deliver opening and closing statements. Finally, there is a process for appeal. Sounds like a usual day at the Lancaster County Courthouse, right? No. This is a description of the adversarial process used by colleges and universities around the country to address charges of sexual assault on their campuses.

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“Wage Theft”: Are You Stealing Overtime From Your Employees? Misclassifying workers as exempt from overtime can lead to costly lawsuits and government investigations.

Are your employees “exempt” or “non-exempt” from earning overtime pay?  The federal law governing this area is the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor and, for Pennsylvania employers, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.1  Many employers mistakenly assume that paying an employee an annual salary automatically removes the legal obligation to pay overtime – defined as one and a half times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a consecutive 7-day period.2  That assumption is costing employers around the country millions of dollars in back pay, additional damages, and, in some cases, attorneys’ fees and court costs as well.3 To attract more attention to this issue, plaintiffs’ lawyers and government agencies have labeled the misclassification of employees for overtime purposes a form of “wage theft” – an emotionally laden phrase that may incite employees to sue and should shock employers into compliance.

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A “Closer” Look at Hobby Lobby

On the last day of its term, the United States Supreme Court held that two for-profit corporations were “persons” within the meaning of a federal statute that prohibits the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion.” Much has already been said and written about this decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (Case No. 13-354; June 30, 2014), which involved national retailer Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Lancaster-based cabinet manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation. Commentators on the right have hailed it as a victory for religious freedom and against intrusive government. The left despairs over its implications for women’s reproductive freedom, employment discrimination, and LGBT rights. It remains to be seen, of course, just how the decision will impact future cases that involve religious expression and corporations. Perhaps all sides can agree, though, that the word that best describes both the result and the reasoning in this case is “close.”

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Religion at Work Balancing Religious Rights and Civil Rights

In less than two months, the United States Supreme Court issued two decisions that have reignited the debate in this country about the separation of church and state and the role of religion in a secular society.  In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court held that two for-profit corporations were “persons” within the meaning of a federal statute that prohibits the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion.”  1  And in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Court allowed public officials in Greece, New York to open their meetings with Christian prayer. 2 While these cases involve clashes between government and religion, employers in the private sector often face challenges in balancing the needs of their business with the religious rights of their employees.

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Basics of “Obamacare” Three Things Every Employer Should Know

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or more colloquially, “Obamacare”) affects virtually all employers – from small family businesses to large publicly traded corporations. The ACA is complex, and there is still some uncertainty about how its implementation will affect the employer-based system of health insurance in the United States. But let’s begin with the basics. Here are three things employers should know about the ACA:

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Workplace Safety & Health

Virtually all businesses are covered by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to provide their employees with a “safe and healthful workplace.” The law is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor. While OSHA standards vary among industries, virtually all employers must maintain records of workplace injuries and illnesses, notify employees of hazards associated with chemicals used in the workplace (including printer and copier toner), and ensure the work environment is free from “recognized” safety hazards (such as blocked employee exits, slick floors, or torn carpeting). OSHA is also the federal agency that investigates employee complaints regarding an employer’s failure to comply with workplace safety standards.

Baulig Law can assist employers in ensuring compliance under the OSHA standards that apply specifically to them. Many OSHA standards require preparation of a written “program” that must be tailored to the employer’s specific needs and must be available upon inspection. A niche area for the firm is assisting physician and dental offices with compliance with the Bloodborne Pathogens standard and other regulations that are often cited during OSHA inspections of health care facilities. OSHA fines and penalties can be significant – up to $7,000 per day per violation – so it makes good business sense to be prepared in case an OSHA inspector knocks on your door.