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Verrill Dana, LLP

Verrill Dana, LLP is one of New England's preeminent regional law firms. With offices in Portland and Augusta, ME; Boston, MA; Westport, CT; Providence, RI; and Washington D.C. Verrill Dana provides sophisticated legal representation to businesses and individuals in the traditional areas of litigation, real estate, business law, labor and employment law, employee benefits, environmental law, intellectual property and estate planning.  The Firm also has industry-focused specialties including higher education, health care and health technology, energy, and timberlands. 

Disclaimer:  The content presented in this blog is for general information only, is not intended to constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by any person as legal advice. While we welcome you to contact our blog authors at hrlawupdate@verrilldana.com, the submission of a comment or question does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and you. 

Thursday
Apr062017

Always Connected

We use the term “always connected” to describe the fact that the technology at our fingertips can connect us quickly to others across the room, across the state, or across the world.  But when employers say we expect you to always be connected, do you expect that to mean microchipped?  Many of us would quickly respond with “absolutely not”.  But the CEO of Epicenter in Sweden may disagree.  Epicenter has embedded a chip into approximately 150 workers.  The chips are approximately the size of a grain of rice and function to open doors, operate printers, and buy products and services with a wave of the hand (where the chips are implanted). 

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Thursday
Apr062017

Seventh Circuit Holds Sexual Orientation Bias Exists Under Title VII

Earlier this week, the Seventh Circuit in an en banc (all member of the court participating as opposed to only three) decision held that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The 8-3 ruling represents the first federal court of appeals ruling to find that Title VII covers sexual orientation bias.

While many state statutes prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, Courts across the country diverge on whether sexual orientation is protected under Title VII.  This decision (Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana) overruled previous Seventh Circuit precedent and makes it much more likely that the Supreme Court will grant review to determine whether Title VII prohibits sexual orientation bias.  Judge Diane P. Wood authored the opinion and noted that the ruling needed to be “understood against the backdrop” of Supreme Court decisions that had discussed sexual orientation including the 2015 decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

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Friday
Mar032017

Your Watch Does What? Wearable Technology in the Workplace… For Better or Worse

From wristwatches that can take pictures to retinal scanners to fitness trackers, wearable devices are becoming increasingly popular in everyday life, including at work. A study found that employees using wearable technology reported an 8.5% increase in productivity and a 3.5% increase in job satisfaction. Although wearable devices can have many benefits, they can also present many challenges for HR professionals. Beth Smith and Ben Ford discuss how to maximize the benefits of wearable technology in the workplace, as well as how to implement policies that can protect employers, and their employees, with HR Power Hour’s host David Ciullo.

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Wednesday
Mar012017

Twist and Shout, or A Small Victory in the Fight Against Creeping Non-Occupational Injury Coverage In Maine Workers’ Compensation

In a decision issued on February 17, 2017 (Fuller v. Hannaford Brothers Company, App. Div. 7-17), the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division revisited the two-pronged “arising out of” and “in the course of” standard necessary for an injury to be work-related.  As many readers know, an injury must both “arise out of” and “in the course of” employment for the injury to fall within workers’ compensation coverage.  Generally speaking, “arising out of” means that the injury must have its genesis in some duty, motion or activity required of the employee in the normal course of her work.  “In the course of” means that the employee must have been at a work or work-related location, performing work or otherwise advancing work interests.  The idea behind the two-pronged requirement is to separate those injuries that the employee may suffer in normal life, but for the fact that the employee just happened to be at work, from those injuries that truly have a cause related to some aspect of the work.  In this manner, workers’ compensation coverage is limited to injuries that are tied to the work, rather than becoming a supplemental form of health insurance.  Anecdotally, Maine, with its aging and deconditioned workforce, has seen an increase in claims that appear to be non-occupational, pre-existing albeit occasionally quiescent conditions brought under the umbrella of work-related injuries due to minor work activity or claimed work events.  Examples include overuse claims when the work performed by the employee is highly mechanized and non-repetitive, or degenerative joint claims when the body habitus of the employee coupled with the employee’s age and work history suggest that there is no link to work.

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Friday
Feb102017

Secret Agent Man with Narcolepsy Lacks Disability Claim

Jacob Abilt (not his real name) was a covert employee for the CIA until his employment was terminated in October 2011.  After his termination Abilt argued that despite having informed the CIA he had been diagnosed with narcolepsy, he was terminated as a result.  The facts are limited, as the court noted: “Many of the basic facts regarding Abilt’s employment with the Agency are classified, as are the job responsibilities and even the identities of most of his former supervisors and co-workers.”  What was made public is that as an accommodation, Abilt requested that he be permitted to take periodic naps; a request which his then-supervisor granted.  Abilt, however, was then assigned to temporary duty yonder (TDY) overseas in a warzone.  He accordingly was assigned a new supervisor. 

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Thursday
Feb022017

The New (Improved?) I-9 Form

On January 22, 2017, employers must use an updated version of the Form I-9, making the previous I-9 form (dated March 8, 2013) obsolete.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued the new version on November 14, 2016.  The core requirements of the Form I-9 remain unchanged, but there are substantive changes including:

  • Increase in guidance in the instructions as to how to complete the form from six pages to fifteen pages
  • Changes to Section 1 (the portion completed by the employee):
    • An employee can no longer leave a space blank, but instead must enter “N/A” in each field that previously would have been blank
    • Foreign nationals can now provide an alien registration number if they are authorized to work in the U.S. or provide a Form I-94 admission number or foreign passport number.
    • Requires employees to affirmatively answer that they did not use a preparer or translator.
  • Changes to Section 2 (the portion completed by the employer):
    • Employer is required to enter the corresponding number of the employee’s attestation of citizenship or immigration status from page 1.
    • Space for the employer to make notes or record additional information.

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