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Real Life Is Stranger Than Fiction
By: Teresa Shulda

Employment attorneys always tell their colleagues that the best practice area is undoubtedly employment law. HR professionals probably feel much the same way. Every personnel situation is different, it’s never boring, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, you hear about another wild day in the workplace. 2018 was no different, and the following real-life cases prove it.

Georgia man gets a kick in the butt(dial)
James Stephens worked as the Fiscal Officer for the Georgia Subsequent Injury Trust Fund, a state agency. After work one day, Stephens’ boss, Michael Coan, called Stephens at home on his cell phone and they talked about work for a while. Stephens hung up, put his cell phone in his pocket, and went on a rant to his wife for 12 minutes about Coan.
Unfortunately for Stephens, he had inadvertently “pocket-dialed” Coan, who heard the whole rant. When Stephens went to work in the morning, Coan gave him a choice – resign or be fired. Stephens resigned, then he and his wife sued Coan under Georgia’s eavesdropping law and for invading the Stephens’ right to privacy. The Stephens claim that Coan had a legal obligation to hang up when he realized the call was inadvertent rather than listen in to the Stephens’ private conversation.
Coan filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Coan was immune from the suit because he was acting in his official capacity as a state supervisor and had a right to listen to the conversation of a subordinate employee      Continue Reading...
Honus Wagner and Employee-Privacy Rights
By: Boyd Byers

The T206 Honus Wagner is considered the Holy Grail of baseball cards. The card is so rare and coveted by collectors that one in mint condition fetched $2.8 million in 2007.

The American Tobacco Company (ATC) issued the cards in cigarette packs in 1909. But Wagner, one of the best players at the time, had refused to give ATC permission to use his image on the cards. (Most likely it was because he was anti-tobacco, but it might have been because he wanted more money--the exact reason is lost to history.) So Wagner threatened to sue and forced ATC to recall the cards. ATC thus ended production of the Wagner card, but only after 60 to 100 of the cards got out to the public. About 50 of them are known to still exist. That scarcity is the reason for the mind-boggling value of the card.
What does a 103-year-old baseball card have to do with employment law? Kansas has long recognized a common-law action for invasion of privacy. The right of privacy actually consists of several distinct rights, one of which is protection from “appropriation.” The Honus Wagner card is a perfect example of appropriation: one person or entity uses another person’s name or image, without permission, to advertise its business or product. Appropriation claims can arise from the employment relationship if the employer uses pictures of an employee in advertising or promotional materials without consent.  
The Kansas Supreme Court first recognized a cause of action      Continue Reading...
The Worst Boss Ever?
By: Boyd Byers

You’ve heard stories about bad bosses. And you’ve heard stories about workplace wagers.  But have you heard the one about the boss who held a contest in which all employees were asked to predict which of them would be the next one fired, with a cash prize awarded to the winner?

The boss, who owns a convenience store chain, outlined the rules of the game in a memo sent to all employees. It said:

New Contest – Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!! 
To win our game, write on a piece of paper the name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. Write their name [the person who will be fired], today’s date, today’s time, and your name.  Seal it in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope.
Here’s how the game will work:  We are doubling our secret-shopper efforts, and your store will be visited during the day and at night several times a week.  Secret shoppers will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter, and/or a personal car parked by the pumps after 7 p.m., among other things.
If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH.  Only one winner per firing      Continue Reading...

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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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