Employees & Volunteering – Is It Work Time?

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By Bari Goldstein

It is becoming increasingly popular nowadays for companies to support charitable organizations and causes through sponsorships, events, and employee volunteer programs. This may contribute positively to the workplace culture and even be considered a perk for some employees…but what is the law in terms of wages for volunteer time?  Laws will vary depending on whether you work in the public or nonprofit sector vs the for-profit, private sector.

In a recently released Department of Labor (DOL) Opinion Letter [FLSA2019-2], the DOL tackled the issue of whether an employee’s time spent participating in an employer’s optional volunteer program, which awarded certain bonuses for participation, was considered hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  This is an important issue for those employers who want their employees to “volunteer” for or at charitable events, but who don’t want to run afoul of an employer’s obligations to compensate non-exempt employees for “all hours worked.”

In this particular situation, the Company (the Opinion Letter did not disclose whether it was a private or public entity) had an optional volunteer program that awarded a monetary bonus to the team with the most community impact.  Specifically: Continue reading

Unintended Consequences – Hospital Drug Theft Leads to Class Action Privacy Suit

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By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

It is a good rule of thumb for businesses to always expect their actions to be reported on page one, above the fold, of the local newspaper.  If you are fine with that, then go ahead with the action.  If not, well that is something to think about.

A recent lawsuit alleges Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego used hidden cameras to secretly record procedure room contacts with 1,800 patients at a women’s health center in El Cajon, California, including hysterectomies, sterilizations and caesarean births.  The cameras also allegedly recorded women undressing.  Lincoln et al., v. Sharp Healthcare, Sup. Ct., San Diego, CA.

How could this happen?  Well, a legitimate underlying concern existed for the hospital.  A listed anesthesia drug, propofol, repeatedly was being stolen from medication carts.  This is a serious problem indeed.  The solution?  The hospital allegedly installed motion-activated cameras as part of an investigation into whether an employee was stealing the anesthesia drug from drug carts in the operating rooms. Continue reading

Leave for Domestic Violence Survivors:  An Issue Whose Time Has Come

By Denise J. Bleau

In the United States, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). This equates to more than 10 million women and men in a year. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Victims of domestic violence may require leave from work to seek safe shelter, seek a protection order from the Court, work with their employer on safety issues in the workplace, or possibly seek new schooling for their children.

Effective April 1, 2019, employers in New Zealand will be required to provide 10 days of paid leave per year to survivors of domestic violence. The leave provides victims with time to heal, go to court, keep their children safe, and escape their abusive situation. This leave is separate from annual holiday or sick leave. New Zealand’s new law also allows victims to ask for flexible working arrangements and makes discrimination against victims illegal. Continue reading

Basics of an Effective Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy

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By Sally Still

With sexual harassment so prevalent in the news lately, employers are rightly asking…what is sexual harassment and what do I need to do about it?  If you’re an employer, let’s walk through your obligations to protect your employees from harassment and address how you should respond should it arise in your workplace.

First, an employer must exercise reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassing behavior.  The way to do this is to have an effective anti-harassment policy, disseminate it to all employees, and swiftly conduct investigations into complaints of harassment when they arise.  Be clear that immediate and appropriate corrective action, including necessary discipline, will be taken whenever harassment has occurred in violation of the company’s anti-harassment policy.  Continue reading

How To Protect Smartphone Apps & Digital Work for Hire Projects

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by Philip H. Ward III, Partner 

For many years, companies have required that employees and independent contractors hired to conduct work execute agreements which include “work for hire” provisions.  These provisions simply mean that the work for which the employee or independent contractor has been engaged belongs to the Employer, not the Employee.  Documents and work product would include engineering drawings, manuals, websites, architectural drawings, and other works.

Software development and smartphone app designs have created new issues for companies.  Recently, we negotiated a contract for a client who is developing a smart phone app.  An independent contractor was hired to design and develop the app.  In most cases, the independent contractor seeks to retain as much ownership as possible.  On the other hand, the owner needs to know that the app is theirs and won’t be copied. Continue reading