Asking existing employees about their family medical history might offer safety benefits in the workplace, both by indicating vulnerabilities that might be countered by protective measures, and by helping to distinguish ailments with a strong congenital influence from those that might signal occupational disease. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that such questioning is “genetic discrimination” and unlawful under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which became law in 2009. Fabricut, a decorative fabrics firm, will pay $50,000 to settle charges that it improperly asked about family medical history and also that it improperly engaged in disability discrimination by refusing to employ as a clerk a woman it regarded as having carpal tunnel syndrome. [EEOC press release]
Two years ago the city of Portland, Ore. became the first to adopt a voluntary policy against fragrance use in city offices. (A similar Detroit measure had been taken in response to a lawsuit.) Now Julee Reynolds, a city worker who says she suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), has sued Portland for allegedly not doing enough to enforce the policy. [KOIN; earlier here, here, etc.]
Sometimes, when food choices are not involved, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is actually on the right side of controversies. One instance of that is the series of battles he’s having with the New York City Council on various bills to regulate employers. The Council recently overrode his veto of a bill creating unemployment status as a new protected class, and has pressed a paid-sick-leave bill as well. A third proposal: forbidding employers to consider job applicants’ credit records in hiring. Eight liberal-leaning states have already enacted similar measures but as the Proskauer Rose law firm explains, the NYC proposal goes further:
Unlike the vast majority of laws in effect and in legislation pending across the nation, however, the Proposal does not explicitly enumerate exceptions for managerial positions, or positions with access to bank or credit card information, Social Security numbers, significant amounts of cash, or confidential or proprietary information. Although the Proposal exempts employers required by law to run credit checks on their applicants and employees, its silence as to these other standard exceptions should give New York City employers particular pause should the Proposal become law.
Some eye sleep patterns as the next frontier for government intervention in the name of public health. [Cohen, Prawfsblawg]
National Public Radio is the latest news organization to take note of a very unwelcome, and presumably unforeseen, effect of ObamaCare that has already been covered extensively on the blogs.
A new book and a “60 Minutes” report have brought back into the news the case of the killer nurse who murdered at least dozens of patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with drug overdoses and may have killed many more. There’s plenty of blame to go around among hospitals and others, but readers of this site will recall reason Cullen’s career went on so long: “When hospitals checked Cullen’s resume and previous jobs, they were given positive or neutral reports by his former employers, who feared getting sued if they provided a negative one.” [Asbury Park Press] Earlier here, here, etc.
A survey promoted by the U.S. Department of Labor makes that curious claim, but Jon Hyman’s readers beg to differ [Ohio Employer Law]
A new Oregon law forbids employers “to advertise a job opening if they won’t consider applicants who are unemployed.” [CNBC] Earlier on efforts to make jobless persons into a new protected class under discrimination laws here, here, etc.
A former Bethlehem, Pa. city employee who “was charged with and ultimately pled guilty to harassment” after persistently bothering an ex-girlfriend co-worker has lost his wrongful-termination suit against the city, with the Third Circuit upholding its dismissal on summary judgment. [Eric B. Meyer]
I joined Bay Area public radio host Marty Nemko (KALW) on Sunday for a discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and specifically as it applies to the workplace. I focused on the minuses, while disability rights attorney Claudia Center emphasized the pluses. You can listen here.
To get your power turned back on in the Rockaways, according to a spokesman for the Long Island Power Authority, you’re going to need a pre-inspection for your house not just from a licensed electrician, but from one licensed in NYC — nearby Nassau County, or upstate, won’t do. If occupational licensure makes any sense at all — and Milton Friedman had a thing or two to say about that — it certainly needs to be reconsidered under conditions of public emergency and disaster recovery, or so I argue in my new post at Cato at Liberty.
For more background on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) as a political football, by the way, check out Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post. Also on disaster recovery, why this might be a good time to rethink municipal ordinances barring property owners from removing old trees [Chris Fountain]. And: “Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, but it’s hard to win” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
A widely foreseen consequence of the new health-care law is coming to pass. [WSJ via Adler]
The Department of Labor seems to be taking a new tack against employers of H-1B workers [Stuart Anderson, Forbes] Related: Alex Tabarrok.
More: “the U.S. is inexplicably telling the smartest immigrants to go home.” [Sam Gustin, Time via Alkon]
The California legislature this term chose to pass a raft of exceptionally bad legislation burdening business and employers, and Gov. Jerry Brown, perhaps mindful of the state’s ongoing poor economic performance, last week vetoed many of them [Ira Stoll, NY Sun; Steven Greenhut, City Journal] Among the vetoes: bills widening the rights of housekeepers’, babysitters’ and other domestic workers to sue their employers [earlier here, here]; greatly widening the survivors’ benefits paid for public safety workers [earlier, update]; unionizing grad student research assistants [Daily Californian] and an ostensible farmworker safety measure [Ruth Evans, Fresno Bee]
P.S. “Starts” isn’t really accurate, since, as David Boaz has pointed out, Gov. Brown cast some good vetoes last year.
Yes, you do have to submit to tax withholding on that back and front pay award, says the Second Circuit [Daniel Schwartz]