As we near the end of the year, now may be a good time to dust off your employee manual and training programs! An annual review of policies is a good best practice that can save your company both time and money in the long run. For instance, have you considered revising your policies or offering trainings in areas that have been the focus of recent legal activity such as: social media, confidentiality, reasonable accommodations, or bullying.
The second program in our Gibbons Employment Academy Webinar Series, focusing on Disability and Reasonable Accommodations, is scheduled for next Wednesday, June 29, from 8:30 to 10:30 am. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and the EEOC’s recently issued regulations explaining and implementing that Act have been widely touted as significantly expanding the definition of disability. It is anticipated that as a result of the Act, more employees than ever before will be considered disabled and will be seeking accommodations. Employers must understand what is deemed a disability under the law and what steps are necessary when employees request accommodations for their disabilities. The webinar will explore these topics as well as provide a survey of accommodations that have been deemed reasonable and those that have not.
As highlighted in our January “Focus on Training in 2011” post, training programs directed to human resources and supervisory employees are a win-win for employers. Whether as a primer or refresher, a legal overview and update on current developments will enable decision-makers to work within the boundaries of the law and reduce costs associated with employee complaints and litigation. Although employees are entitled to various protections under the law, employers must feel that they are empowered to make decisions and manage their employees, from the hiring process through separation.
Despite recent decisions from courts of last resort on State and federal levels, some jurisdictions are not extending full protection to otherwise privileged communications made through work-issued computers and PDAs. We last wrote on this issue after the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an employee did not waive the attorney-client privilege when using a company computer to communicate with her attorney via a personal password-protected e-mail account. Stengart v. Loving Care Agency. A short time later, in Quon v. Arch Wireless, the United States Supreme Court determined that the search of an employee’s text messages on a work-issued pager was reasonable and did not violate the employee’s Fourth Amendment rights. In the wake of these holdings, courts in other jurisdictions continue to make their own path through this new area of law. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, the latest in the line of cases, the California Court of Appeals held that an employee’s e-mail communications with her attorney from her work computer did not constitute “‘a confidential communication between client and lawyer'” under Section 954 of the California Evidence Code.
2011 should be the year in which all companies renew their commitment to training employees. Specifically, all employees should be trained on important company policies, such as the anti-harassment and discrimination policies, and human resources employees and supervisors should be trained on consistently problematic topics such as performance management, accommodating disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act and similar state laws.