School’s out! So what’s with this summer employment law quiz?
June 24, 2016
No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks . . . except for one little quiz on employment law issues that come up during the summer.
Don’t worry about your score – I’m told that Teacher already has her flip-flops packed and is on her way to Cancun.
No. 1. You are the office manager for a conservative accounting firm. Now that the weather is getting warmer, you are having a problem with some women wearing skimpy sundresses with insufficient “foundations.” You are not having this problem with your male employees. What can you do?
A. Tell the women to stop dressing like floozies. Then, document it, because you know what they say: “Document, document, document!”
B. Issue a dress code that spells out in detail the requirements for men and women, including that men must wear suits and ties, and that women must wear dresses or skirts, or tailored pants and blouses with sleeves, or a sweater that covers their arms, and pantyhose, and heels. And everyone has to wear gender-appropriate underwear, which for women includes bras, panties, and slips if the dresses are thin.
C. Issue a dress code that says all employees are expected to wear appropriate business attire and that arms and chests should not be “exposed.”
ANSWER: C. A will be great if you want all of your female employees to hate you, and if you want your “dress code” memo to go viral on Twitter. B is too explicit, and may not be legal in all jurisdictions. For example, New York City’s Human Rights Law now prohibits employers from having gender-specific dress codes. C is probably the best you can do these days, even though you may have some men who start wearing skirts after they notice that you didn’t say anything about bare legs. (See illustration above.)
2. Today is “Take Your Dog to Work Day.” (It really is!) You have one employee, Louise, who has documented cynophobia. You have another employee, Marva, with a documented vision impairment who uses a service dog. Louise asks you to please tell Marva to keep her dog far away from Louise, but that isn’t really possible because your office is small. You engage in the interactive process with Louise, who confesses that she isn’t afraid of Marva’s dog after all these years (although she is afraid of other dogs) but doesn’t like to be around Marva’s dog in the summertime because the dog gets smelly and has fleas. What do you do?
A. Tell Marva that she can’t bring her dog to work any more as a reasonable accommodation to Louise.
B. Tell Louise that she has to put up with Marva’s dog as a reasonable accommodation to Marva.
C. Throw up your hands in despair.
D. Tell Louise that because her problem with the dog is not related to her cynophobia, you are going to let Marva continue bringing her dog to work, but you will talk to Marva about the smell-flea problem and try to get that resolved.
ANSWER: C and D are both correct.
3. At the company picnic, William drinks too much beer and makes a pass at Flo, his co-worker.
A. We’ll let it slide this once. After all, it’s a picnic, and we served the beer.
B. That is sexual harassment. William needs to get a reprimand at least, and maybe something more severe.
C. That may be sexual harassment. I need to investigate and take appropriate action. The fact that William was intoxicated would not be a defense if he sexually harassed Flo.
D. Next year, we’ll make sure we serve enough beer so that William passes out and then he won’t be able to hurt anybody unless he falls on them.
ANSWER: C. It could be that William and Flo have a consensual relationship, in which case his behavior was inappropriate for a work-related function but not sexual harassment. Drinking too much is not a defense to an allegation of sexual harassment. Precautions against substance abuse and related misconduct should be taken in your summer festivities just as they would during your holiday parties in December.
4. Your company has a men’s softball team in the community league. Your shortstop, Eddie, is beaned by a line drive and spends weeks in the hospital. Eddie files a claim for workers’ compensation. Your insurance company denies the claim on the ground that softball injuries aren’t work-related and therefore aren’t compensable. Who’s right, Eddie or the insurance company?
A. Eddie, because this was a company team.
B. The insurance company, but only if participation on the team was not mandatory and not “in the course and scope of Eddie’s employment.”
C. The insurance company, because Eddie was on a “frolic” away from work.
D. Eddie, because he was in the hospital for such a long time.
ANSWER: B. Assuming Eddie’s participation was voluntary, his injury would probably not be covered by workers’ compensation. (Check your own state’s laws to be sure.) On the other hand, he would be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act if he is otherwise eligible, and to short-term disability benefits if you offer them, and of course his group health insurance should take care of his medical bills.
5. Your employee, Kendra, wants to have the day off because she is a Wiccan and wants to celebrate the summer solstice. You say “No. If I let you off for the longest day of the year, I’ll have to let everybody do it.” Kendra no-shows that day, and you fire her. What is the likeliest outcome?
A. Kendra will file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that you failed to accommodate her religious beliefs, and the EEOC will probably agree with her, and you will have to reinstate her and pay her back pay.
B. Kendra will move on, and will be secretly grateful to you for prompting her to go to work for an employer who is more respectful of Wiccan beliefs.
C. Kendra doesn’t have a leg to stand on because she no-showed for work after you specifically told her she had to come in. That’s insubordination.
D. Kendra will convert and become a Baptist after her experience.
ANSWER: A. Kendra wanted the time off because of her Wiccan beliefs, so you would be expected to accommodate her if you could reasonably do so. (The summer solstice this year was June 20 – sorry I’m a few days late with this one!)
5 correct: You are a certified beach bum! Enjoy your summer vacation — you deserve it!
4 correct: Very good! You get a free soft-serve ice cream cone and a boogie board!
3 correct: Not bad. You get a tube of SPF 30 sunscreen.
2 correct: Meh. You get a tube of sunscreen (SPF 8), slightly used.
1 correct: That is not cool. But now that I’ve told you the answers, you can retake the quiz and get 100%! Summer is fun!
Robin Shea is a Partner with the law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and has more than 20 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act), the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act; and class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage-hour laws; defense of audits by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs; and labor relations. She conducts training for human resources professionals, management, and employees on a wide variety of topics.