Ohio Employer's Law Blog | Daily Updates | 01CEEOC offers guidance for Youth@Work>01D plus more

EEOC offers guidance for Youth@Work

Do you employee minors? If so, you should be aware of the wage-and-hour laws for child labor. The Department of Labor, however, isn’t the only federal agency taking a look at your under-18 employees. Recently, the EEOC launched an entire portal devoted to the issue.

The microsite, entitled Youth@Work, is the agency’s education and outreach campaign to promote equal employment opportunity for teenage workers.

Most recently, the EEOC updated its site to include a one-page fact sheet on religious discrimination [pdf]. It provides examples of what religious discrimination looks like, offers some practical “keep in mind” tips, and, most importantly, directs employees on how to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC.

Other facts sheets available at Youth@Work include (in English and Spanish) information on criminal records and employment, disability discrimination, pay discrimination, and sexual harassment. The site also has videos and even classroom materials for teachers and students. 

If you employee teens, or are just looking for a good, basic refresher on employment-discrimination laws, then Youth@Work is worth your time. It’s also worth your attention because, if the EEOC is using its time and resources to build this site, you better believe it is taking these issues seriously when a younger worker enters its office to file a charge.


For God’s sake, think before you email

I have lots of readers. Thousands upon thousands. Do you know who doesn’t read my blog, however? Former DNC Chair (and Congresswoman) Debbie Wasserman Schultz. How do I know? Because, if she does, she would have read this:
Do I really need to tell you not to ever put something like “do we really want an obese Christian” in an email. Some things are better left unsaid, or, more to the point, un-typed. And, for god’s sake, please read those emails (all of them) before you click send. It makes my job a whole lot easier defending you without that smoking gun.
And this:
Unlike diamonds, email messages aren’t forever, but they are pretty darn close. Employers need to train managers and supervisors to be vigilant in their care about what they reduce to writing in emails. Emails, especially those pertaining to the employment (or impending unemployment) of those in a protected class, must be vetted and re-vetted before being sent. Ask yourself this question: “Would I want this email read to a judge or a jury?” Unless the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”, do not send it.
And this:
Email is a powerful communication tool. It’s also very permanent. I’ve been saying this about social media for years, but perhaps it’s time to remind employers that communication is communication, no matter how it’s transmitted. If you don’t want something to appear on the front page of the newspaper, or to be read in front of a judge or jury, don’t put it in writing. Don’t email it, don’t text it, don’t Facebook it, and don’t tweet it.
Please, please, please, please, please … Email should not be your default communication tool. It leaves a trail, and you cannot assume that trail is ever private. just ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz. If anything you are writing gives you any pause at all as to whether it should be in writing, pick up the telephone, or meet for a cup of coffee. You’d think as ubiquitous as email has become we would all know this lesson by now. Debbie Wasserman Schultz reminds us that this is a lesson worth repeating.


Ohio Supreme Court sides with workers’ comp fraud

Ohio has a specific statute that protects injured workers from retaliation after filing a workers’ compensation claim. O.R.C. 4123.90 states:
No employer shall discharge, demote, reassign, or take any punitive action against any employee because the employee filed a claim or instituted, pursued or testified in any proceedings under the workers’ compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer. 
It would seem that for this statute to protect an employee, the employee’s alleged injury must be an actual workplace injury.

Not so fast.

In Onderko v. Sierra Lobo, Inc. [pdf], the Ohio Supreme Court recently held:
The necessary elements of a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge under R.C. 4123.90 do not include proof that the plaintiff suffered a workplace injury.
Lest you think I’m relying on scare tactics, the case actually involved an employee fired after filing a false workers’ comp claim against his employer. The court tried to reason otherwise (“Filing a false claim or making misleading statements in order to secure workers’ compensation is a crime in Ohio. … We resist interpreting the antiretaliation statute in such a way that would vest employers with the discretion to label any unsuccessful claim as deceptive and then terminate the employee.”).

Nevertheless, the facts of Onderko are what they are. The employer fired Onderko for his “deceptive” attempt to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for a non-work-related injury. He injured his knee while pumping gas on his way home from work, and falsely tried to claim that the gas-pump injury was an exacerbation of an earlier work injury.

We should all be troubled by a judicial decision that discourages employers from terminating dishonest employees. Sadly, only one of Court’s justices was similarly troubled, writing the following in dissent:
A court should not construe the statute in a manner to encourage fraudulent claims for workers’ compensation benefits, and here, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation determined that there was no workplace injury. The evidence therefore supports the trial court finding that Sierra Lobo, Inc., fired Onderko for filing a fraudulent claim. 
Nevertheless, we are left with Onderko as the law in Ohio. It no longer matters whether the workers’ compensation injury underlying a retaliation claim is legitimate or illegitimate, or the employee filing such a claim is truthful or a perpetrator of a fraud. And, sadly, that’s no lie.


WIRTW #422 (the “Pikachu” edition)

The story of the week? Not the RNC, but Pokémon GO!, something about which I (happily) know very little. What does the blogosphere have to say about this phenomenon?

Here’s the rest of what I read this week:


Social Media & Technology

HR & Employee Relations

Wage & Hour

OSHA & Safety


Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of public Wi-Fi?

According to Politico, an IT company set up various fake Wi-Fi networks around the RNC with names such as “Google Starbucks”, “I vote Trump! free Internet”, and “I vote Hillary! free Internet”. The goal was to see how many people would join the unsecured networks. The answer: 1,200, with 68 percent compromising the information on their devices.

“I use public Wi-Fi all the time,” you say. “After all, wireless data is expensive. What’s the harm in using a public network?”

Watch this video, and then let’s chat about how to discuss this important security issue with your employees.


As I’ve mentioned before, your employees are the biggest risk to the security of your networks. And, as the RNC experiment illustrates, one of the biggest dangers they pose is exposing your data on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. 

So, what’s the solution? Let me offer 5 suggestions, each of which boils down to training and cyber-education.

1. Knowledge. Ensure that your employees understand the risk and act with caution. They need to know that public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure, that any device that connects to public Wi-Fi (laptop, smartphone, or tablet) is at risk, and that they should treat all public Wi-Fi links with suspicion.

2. Avoidance. Your employees should avoid public Wi-Fi when possible, and use a cellular connection instead. They should also beware what they share, and avoid accessing certain websites—those that expose sensitive information (bank accounts or credit-card information), and those that expose personal information that cyber criminals can use for phishing or social engineering (e.g., social media).

3. Confirmation. If your employees must use public Wi-Fi, they should not do so without first confirming the legitimacy of the link. As the RNC experiment illustrates, they cannot assume that “Google Starbucks” is a valid Wi-Fi network. Cyber criminals often try to scam users by using bogus links with a connection name deliberately similar to a legitimate coffee shop, hotel, or other venue. They should not connect until they can confirm the legitimacy of Wi-Fi access point via the connection’s name and IP address with an employee at the location that is offering the public Wi-Fi.

4. Protection. Consider offering your employees a virtual private network (VPN) to use. A VPN establishes a private pipeline that encrypts all data that passes through the network. This can help to prevent cyber criminals from intercepting data, even on public Wi-Fi. If a VPN is not available, they should at least use SSL connections (connecting via “https” instead of “http”), which will add an extra layer of encryption to transmitted data. It’s far from perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

5. Disconnection. Your employees should turn off Wi-Fi on their devices when not using it. Even if you are not actively connected to a network, the Wi-Fi hardware in your device is still transmitting data. And if you’re transmitting, you are attracting cyber criminals to snoop. If you don’t need the Wi-Fi connection, turn it off. Bonus—much longer battery life.

The 1,200 conventioneers who connected to the bogus hot spots exposed bank account information, emails, and messaging apps, but the content they accessed the most? Pokémon Go. Employees—you can’t live with ‘em; pass the beer nuts.

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