“Acts of Equal Employment Opportunity and Employee Rights” laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee or potential employee in certain workplaces. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 was created to grant family temporary medical leave. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was created to prevent employees from being discriminated against because of age. The Drug- Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires some federal contractors and federal grantees to agree that they provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency. The requirements for organizations are more extensive because organizations have to take comprehensive, programmatic steps to achieve a workplace free of drugs.
In the case, Coleman v. State of Maryland Court of Appeals, Coleman, an employee for the Maryland Court of Appeals, requested time-off for the purpose of tending to serious personal health issues. The request was denied and Coleman was informed he must resign from his position or risk termination. Coleman sued his employer, claiming that by denying him self-care leave the state court was in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. His employer, the state, argued that the case should be dismissed based on the state’s ‘sovereign immunity’. Sovereign immunity is a legal provision that says a government agency cannot be sued unless they agree to be sued. After dismissal by the Federal District Court and the Fourth Circuit Court, the case was heard by the United States Supreme Court.
On March 20, 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that a provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act giving workers time off to care for health related issues such as serious illness, pregnancy, or childbirth, is not enforceable in cases involving state employees (Migdal, 2012). The Court justified the ruling by stating that the lawsuits by state employees permitted under the FMLA would violate the constitutional rule that the “states, as sovereigns, are immune from suits for damages.”
Basically, the Supreme Court ruled that state workers cannot sue the states under the Family and Medical Leave Act, essentially stripping public employees of the job protection otherwise provided by the act. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 protects employees of organizations with more than 50 employees in the case of childbirth, adoption, their own medical care or the care of a family member. The law has several stipulations such requiring 1250 working hours in the prior 12 months, therefore, accurate recordkeeping and a process in place to determine FMLA eligibility and compliance is crucial. An example of a company HR policy regarding the Family and Medical leave Act of 1993 may read:
“Employees employed for 12 months or more and who have worked at least 1250 hours in the previous 12 months, may take an unpaid Family and Illness Leave for up to 12-weeks per year. Employees are required to use all available paid time accrued for the leave period prior to unpaid leave.”
“The amount of Family and Illness leave will be based on the amount taken in the 12 months preceding the request for leave, and in cases of serious health condition, require adequate medical certification.”
“Family and Illness Leave may be taken intermittently, or for less than a full day. If the employee remains out on leave for more than 2 weeks, additional medical documentation may be required as allowed by law.”
“An employee returning to work from Family and Illness Leave shall return to the position held at the beginning of the leave, or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and benefits.” “Employees on a Family and Illness Leave will continue to have the Employer’s portion of the cost for health insurance paid by the Employer during the leave period. It is the responsibility of the employee to make on-time payments for their portion of those benefits while on leave.”
Individuals 40 years of age and older are protected with employment by The Age Discrimination Employment Act. Applicants and employees alike have protection under the ADEA. “The law protects discriminating against an individual with respect to any term of employment, as it relates to age, compensation, benefits, job assignments, hiring, firing, layoff, job assignments, and training” (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2012). Employers who employ 20 or more employees must comply with the Act.
A 70-year-old pharmacist employed by Kmart in Honolulu recently challenged The Age Discrimination Employment Act. The lawsuit charged by the EEOC recognized that Kmart unlawfully discriminated against the pharmacist, and a settlement was reached for $120,000. A Kmart store manager openly “stated that the pharmacist was too old, should retire and was greedy, for continuing to work at the age of 70” (Inside Counsel, 2012). The age discrimination act protects folks for age harassment. In this case the pharmacist was continually distraught with regard to remarks about her age and the hostile work environment that could have resulted.
Employers tend to stereotype older workers as employees’ stuck in their ways, and who cannot adapt to new changes. Additionally, employers believe that training older workers is a cost and not a benefit. The Age Discrimination Act prohibits these scenarios from occurring with people over the age of 40. Regarding the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, certain occupations have an exception to the law if the organization can prove the necessity to enforce an earlier retirement or decrease of job responsibilities.
An example of a company HR policy showing compliance with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 may read something like this: “The Company complies with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and prohibits age discrimination in employment practices of individuals 18 years or older. This policy applies to but is not limited to issues involving hiring, discharge, compensation, terms, conditions, advancement, recruitment, promotion, demotion, transfer, layoff, training, or privileges of employment.”
The Drug-Free Workplace Act “requires institutions that receive grants and certain contracts from any federal agency to certify that it will provide a drug-free work place” (Office Of General Counsel, 2012). The law was enacted in 1988 and it began with federal contracts of $25,000 or more but was later changed to $100,000 or more where it stands today. The court case that has caused the most controversy is Gary Ross v Ragingwire Telecommunications Inc.
After California legalized medical marijuana Ross obtained a prescription for the drug and used it as directed. He was later fired by Ragingwire Telecommunications for failing a drug test as a result of the use of medical marijuana. “The court ruled that drug testing in the state was legal, that firing an employee for use of medical marijuana was not tantamount to discrimination and that employers are not obligated to accommodate the use of medical marijuana—even outside the workplace” (Schwartz, 2010). This ruling is important because while some states have legalized medical marijuana and protect individuals from criminal prosecution, it remains clear that a drug-free workplace is critical to the safety of the entire workforce.
To avoid conflict an organization must establish the guidelines for drug testing and communicate the expectation clearly to employees. The human resources team may establish the process for drug testing and implement a plan to assist employees that test positive on drug screens, such as offering the employee rehabilitation (DeCenzo & Robbins, 2007).
An example of a company HR policy showing compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act may read something like this: “The possession, use, or sale of illegal drugs while on Company property is strictly prohibited. The misuse of any illegal drugs and/or alcohol while on Company time or during breaks or meals, is strictly prohibited.
Any employee under the influence of alcohol or drugs that may impair judgment, performance, or the safety of the employee or others while on Company property, Company business, or during work hours, is subject to discipline up to and including termination.
The Company conducts post-accident drug and alcohol testing of employees when an accident occurs during company time as allowed by law. The Company reserves the right to conduct random drug and/or alcohol testing at their discretion for performance or behavior issues. A positive result from any testing conducted may result in immediate termination, or unpaid leave to enter an approved rehabilitation program at the Company’s discretion. These conditions are by no means established as a right of the employee, and may be rescinded at any time without prior notice by the Company.”
Migdal, A. (2012). Blog of Rights. Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights-
reproductive-freedom/not-so-secret-war-moms-how-supreme-court-took-protections Swanton, Mary, Inside Counsel, EEOC Wins Settlements in Age Discrimination Cases Involving Senior Citizens, retrieved on December 1, 2012 from website, http://www.insidecounsel.com/2010/03/25/eeoc-wins-settlements-in-two-age-discrimination-cases-involving-senior-citizens U.S. Equal Employment Commission, retrieved on December 1, 2012, from website, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/age.cfm Schwartz, S. K. (2010). The Drug-Free Workplace v Medical Marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/id/36179669/The_Drug_Free_Workplace_vs_Medical_Marijuana Office of General Counsel. (2012). Retrieved from http://counsel.cua.edu/copyright/index.cfm Sue Shellerbarger, “Work and Family,” The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2001. Retrieved 11/29/2012. http://www.benefitslink/buying-time-off/policy/hr/whitman/press.org http://www2.cortland.edu/offices/hr/affirmative-action/policy-on-the-age-discrimination.htm http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm