Alabama News & Analysis

  • Unprecedented workplace challenges of 2020 spill into new year

    If we've said it once, we've said it 2,020 times: "That's 2020 for you!" The past year has certainly taught us to expect the unexpected. After all, when is the last time employers encountered a nationwide pandemic, mass economic shutdowns, and a hotly contested presidential election, much less all in the same year? We venture to say your answer is "never!" Unfortunately, given recently increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and a rash of litigation surrounding the election outcome, it seems 2021 may bring on more of the unexpected. But let's take a look at what we can best surmise.

  • ABC's respectful treatment of Jeopardy! host offers valuable lessons

    My husband and I have been grieving the loss of one of our most steadfast companions, someone with whom we spent hundreds of hours over the years but had never actually met. Sadly, Alex Trebek, the long-time Jeopardy! host, passed away on November 8 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Although new episodes of the game show will continue to air through Christmas and a new host will eventually be named, we'll sorely miss Trebek, who made us smarter and helped us unwind each day after work.

  • CDC, EEOC updates keep HR pros, employers on guard

    The year 2020 has batted a thousand in terms of keeping HR pros and employment lawyers on their toes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been at the forefront of the efforts. Though certainly less dynamic than the second and third quarters of the year, the last quarter is doing its best to keep up, with the CDC and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) keeping us engaged. Let's check out recent actions that could affect employers.

  • COVID-19 making it easier for employees to file whistleblower retaliation lawsuits

    Recent class action litigation by New York court police officers shows how long-standing state whistleblower protection laws can lead to litigation against unwary employers during the COVID-19 crisis. As states continue to roll out and revise return-to-work plans with protective measures to ward off the virus, employees who complain employers aren't following the standards to the letter might file "whistleblower retaliation" suits if they're subsequently terminated or otherwise negatively affected at work. As you review and implement the various return-to-work guidelines, be sure to factor in the risk and take steps to mitigate it.

  • Using Zoom improperly can destroy trade secret protections

    With many employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have depended on Zoom or other web-based video conferencing tools to conduct meetings online. Users can choose to record sessions, collaborate on projects, and share or annotate on one another's screens. Unfortunately, the process also can open the possibility of trade secret theft if employers fail to use the platform's privacy and security features, as a recent Delaware case demonstrated.

  • Have clear rules about remote employees buying their own office supplies

    Before the COVID-19 crisis, employees could pop into the office supply closet for the ream of paper they needed to print that 50-page report or a box of staples or pens to refill their dwindling stash. Now, they may be buying office supplies as they work from home. To ensure costs don't spiral out of control and to reduce the risk of potential wage and hour claims, employers should develop or fine-tune their remote work purchasing and reimbursement policies.

  • Initiative 65: medical marijuana in Mississippi and what you need to know

    On November 3, 2020, Mississippi voters not only cast their votes for the presidency but also faced a choice about the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The ballot measure, which passed, amends the state's constitution to provide for the establishment of a medical marijuana program for individuals with debilitating medical conditions. The measure, however, offers little specific guidance or assurances for employers and directs the Mississippi Department of Health (MDH) to issue rules and regulations by July 1, 2021. Let's take a closer look.

  • Another potential COVID-19 casualty: workplace collaboration

    The year 2020 has been a challenging one for our nation and the world. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has faced heightened racial tensions and a deep political divide culminating in a contested presidential election. Emotions have been running high, and fear seems to rule the day. Through it all, our workplaces unfortunately haven't been spared from the turmoil. Millions lost their jobs, and millions of others are working from home, often in physical isolation from their colleagues. If the health crisis doesn't end soon so we can get back together, I worry about the unavoidable loss of collaboration and trust that helped many employers and employees to weather the first round of the outbreak.

  • Promoting workplace diversity: What's legal and what works

    Motivated by a summer of protests as well as a recognition of inequality in their ranks, a number of high-profile corporations recently committed to make their workforces—especially their leadership—more diverse. But those efforts raised red flags after President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) in September that questioned the legality of some of those commitments. Lawsuits aimed at quashing the order soon followed. Even if the order survives court challenges, there's little doubt that as president, Joe Biden will rescind it. But the order, which affected federal employers and private-sector employers that do business with the federal government, left many employers wondering how to best accomplish their diversity goals in a politicized environment.

  • As retaliation claims rise, employers need to be on guard

    A recent report from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) includes a startling statistic about how often employees say they experience retaliation after reporting instances of sexual harassment. The organization found that 72% of workers who experienced sexual harassment said they also faced retaliation. That should be a warning to employers to make sure managers know the seriousness of retaliation charges and how to avoid them.