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Posts tagged "Business Formation & Planning"

What's an employer's obligation dealing with sexual harassment?

If you are planning to open a one-person business in Pittsburgh, you might not need to worry too much about the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have a team of people around you, however, that's another story. Business planning that addresses the broad scope of issues is necessary, including establishing employment policies and assigning consequences in cases of sexual harassment.

Whether you hire full or part-time employees or engage independent contractors in your business, there are laws that you need to comply with to protect your workers. In addition to that, you want to avoid the hassle and costly loss of goodwill that can occur when harassment allegations arise.

The necessity of employer vigilance

Considering the headlines that have splashed across the internet news outlets in recent weeks, it's apparent that issues surrounding sexual harassment are coming front and center. The spotlight is not dim in Pennsylvania, either. As recently reported, there are issues at the State Capitol as well.

Something that should also raise the awareness of current and prospective employers is a recent federal court decision out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the matter of Jones v. Pennsylvania State Police, a female trooper is claiming that two corporals in her chain of command failed to take prompt action when they were aware, or should have been aware, of harassment by a fellow trooper. To be clear, the alleged misconduct was brought to a halt, but the claimant alleges that it went on for nearly a year before that happened.

In the course of the discovery phase of the case, the PSP noted that it had acted to end the harassment and asked the court for summary judgment. But the court ruled there is a question of fact for a trial to determine about whether the two corporals were management-level employees and whether they acted promptly enough.

The takeaway from the decision, according to legal observers, is that while the law appears clear on what constitutes sexual harassment, there still can be questions about what constitutes proper and timely management response. This requires employers to remain vigilant which means working with experienced legal counsel, like those at Kisner Law Firm, to create a proactive plan to help prevent and defend against harassment and contacting your legal team if questions do arise. 

NLRB closes out year with major pro-business changes

In the waning days of 2017, the National Labor Relations Board delivered some notable pro-business decisions. Earlier this month, the panel reversed three Obama-era rules on labor over which business owners had bridled. These included:

  • A retrenchment on how a joint-employer is defined
  • Easing the standard by which company policies might be deemed to violate worker collective bargaining rights

The board also rolled back a rule that made it easier for subsets of employees within a company to unionize. Employers had long complained that the so-called Specialty Healthcare rule established during the Obama administration set a standard for challenging such micro-bargaining units that was nearly impossible to meet.

How this happened

Analysts are in general agreement that these reversals are the direct result of the fact that for the first time in many years, the NLRB enjoyed a 3-2 Republican majority. All of the recent changes passed along the party line. Observers also note that the flurry of pro-business decisions came as Republican board chairman, Philip Miscimarra, marked the end of his term. He has not been replaced, and the board now features a 2-2 split among its members.

What it means

The decisions are widely hailed as positive by business advocates. One official of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says they reflect a restoration of "common sense and balance to a board that unfairly favored labor unions over the past eight years."

What the implications are for individual businesses in the U.S., and the Pittsburgh area specifically, is something that deserves closer examination. We plan to dive more deeply into each of the actions in subsequent posts.

While such reversals are undoubtedly welcome by many employers, to be sure of compliance with all employment law, a consultation with experienced attorneys such as those at Kisner Law Firm, LLC, is encouraged.

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