Iowa News & Analysis

  • Don't make same arguments sports teams use to defend Native American imagery

    The sporting world has been abuzz recently with news the Washington NFL team is changing its name and logos to move away from their overt Native American imagery. Cleveland's Major League Baseball team is considering a similar move. Looking at how the teams have defended their names in the past, we've identified a few lessons for employers that may be facing hostile work environment claims of their own.

  • Justice Gorsuch: Person's gay or transgender status 'not relevant to employment decisions'

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's ban on employment discrimination "based on sex" applies to discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 15, 2020. In the surprise 6-3 decision written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Court said the federal civil rights law is clear: "An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law."

  • Tips for making websites more accessible to applicants, employees

    With the increasing use of online platforms for hiring, employers must bear in mind the accessibility and accommodation requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and (for federal contractors) Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains, "As an employer, you are responsible under Title I of the ADA for making facilities accessible to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities as a reasonable accommodation, unless this would cause undue hardship." In addition, the ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability.

  • Former employee's harassment claims snuffed out by her own conduct

    For current or former employees to claim they are victims of unwelcome and unlawful workplace harassment in the workplace, the conduct must be both unwelcome and offensive to the individual asserting the charges. In a recent decision out of Nebraska, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld the lower court's dismissal of the former employee's sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation claims, relying in large part on her own conduct in the workplace, including her violation of the company's policy prohibiting sexually suggestive pictures or written words, slurs, or innuendos. Let's examine the decision.

  • 5 trade secret protection risks to consider during pandemic

    In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, companies have changed their core business operations and instituted new practices and procedures in the blink of an eye. The changes, perhaps unknowingly, have created risks that could jeopardize the protection of valuable trade secrets. A trade secret, as defined by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), is information that derives independent economic value from not being generally known or readily ascertainable by others and that is the subject of reasonable efforts under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. Here are five ways the pandemic and its effects could threaten trade secret protection.

  • Racial tension coupled with COVID anxiety challenging workplaces in new ways

    It has been a long and tragic spring and summer for employers as well as society at large. The coronavirus pandemic sent legions of workers to the unemployment rolls, and others had to learn how to do their jobs remotely—all while dealing with the threat of an all-too-often deadly disease. Then, on May 25, came news of another black person dying in police custody, the latest in a string of such deaths. The viral video of George Floyd handcuffed on the ground with a white officer's knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes sparked outrage that erupted in massive protests across the country and abroad. Inequality and prejudice—not new issues in the workplace—came to the forefront, leaving many employers wondering what actions they should take.

  • Looking ahead after pandemic: Employers likely to see enduring change

    What's the world of work going to look like in the weeks and months ahead? Some workplaces in some parts of the country will be farther along the road to recovery than others, but few will go back to being just like they were before words like coronavirus, pandemic, and COVID-19 became all-consuming thoughts. The months of business shutdowns, remote work, and uncertainty have changed employee attitudes and employer practices—changes that are important for management to understand as employers move forward.

  • Cutting-Edge HR

    #RecoverStronger Initiative urges inclusive economic recovery. JFF, a nonprofit focusing on driving change to bring equitable economic advancement, in June announced its #RecoverStronger Initiative, which calls on "impact employers"—organizations focused on talent strategies that make a positive impact on workers and communities—to be leaders. The companies involved, including Microsoft, Walmart, Postmates, and other large employers, have committed to business values and practices that prioritize worker well-being and economic mobility in response to COVID-19. The members of the founding coalition also have vowed to stand against the forces of systemic racism. JFF's announcement says strategies include more inclusive hiring practices, development programs that help employees prepare for and thrive in a shifting labor market, total rewards programs that create greater job security and stability, and ethical offboarding strategies that help workers position themselves for new opportunities in growing fields.

  • Federal Watch

    DOL issues new wage and hour opinion letters. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced in late June five new opinion letters addressing compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The opinion letters are FLSA2020-6, addressing whether salespeople who travel to different locations to sell products using their employers mobile assets qualify for the outside sales exemption; FLSA2020-7, addressing whether an auto manufacturers direct payments to an auto dealerships employee may count toward the dealerships minimum wage obligation; FLSA2020-8, addressing whether salespeople who set up displays and perform demonstrations at retail locations not owned, operated, or controlled by their employer to sell the employers products qualify for the outside sales exemption; FLSA2020-9, addressing whether emergency-management coordinators employed by a county government qualify for administrative exemptions; and FLSA2020-10, addressing the application of the retail or service commission sales exemption.

  • Employers mulling mandatory COVID-19 testing, vaccinations as employees return

    Many employees were allowed to telecommute temporarily during the COVID-19 crisis. Others were furloughed or laid off. As some of them begin to return to the workplace, employers may be considering whether to conduct mandatory coronavirus testing. If a vaccination is developed, can you require employees to take it? And what is your recourse if an individual refuses? Let's look at the measures you can adopt to protect your workforce.