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December 2013 Archives

Emergency Unemployment Compensation

On December 28, 2013, about 1.3 million unemployed people will lose federal unemployment benefits. Congress is currently on break after letting a program expire that pays federal benefits to unemployed Americans when their state benefits run out. This one hundred percent (100%) federally funded program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (hereinafter "EUC"), was created on June 30, 2008, by President George W. Bush, whereby Congress authorized unemployment compensation to help the jobless cope with the recession. A year later, President Barack Obama signed a law giving the unemployed an additional fourteen (14) weeks of benefits. At the height of the recession, Americans could get ninety-nine (99) weeks of unemployment pay; but that number has since dipped to a maximum of seventy-three (73) weeks.

Colorado business accused of $31 million fraud

A Colorado Springs investment group is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possibly defrauding investors out of more than $31 million. The 59-year-old CEO faces accusations of falsely representing his company and promising nearly a five-fold return on investments. The SEC claims that he took the money from investors and spent it on himself for high-dollar items. Several other codefendants, all from out of state, are also named in the business litigation lawsuit.

FMLA controversy

Colorado businesses may be interested in a current dispute involving the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. A Pennsylvania company is now involved in business litigation from an employee who had asked for time off to care for her fiance, who had cancer. The company granted the request, but the employee didn't use all of the 12 weeks allowed and requested to take the remaining allotted time off in the following calendar year.

Standard in Title VII Retaliation Case

Mr. Naiel Nassar, who is of Middle Eastern descent, held a faculty position at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (hereinafter "The University") and a staff position at the associated Dallas Parkland Hospital (hereinafter "The Hospital"). Mr. Nassar complained that his University supervisor treated him differently than his colleagues, made derogatory comments and tried to delay his promotion. Mr. Nassar requested to only work at the hospital so he was no longer under the University supervisor. The department chair at the University objected to the request citing an affiliation agreement requiring that all physicians working at the Hospital be faculty members at the University. Without the University's knowledge, Mr. Nassar continued to discuss the plan with the Hospital and was offered a position at the Hospital, if he resigned his faculty position. Mr. Nassar submitted a resignation letter in which he claimed he was giving up his faculty position because of the "harassment and discrimination" by his supervisor. However, the University's department chair then met with the Hospital's Chief Medical Officer and the Hospital revoked its offer of employment.

First Amendment Retaliation

Ms. Karen Owens was a school teacher at Bruce Upper Elementary School for seventeen (17) years until she was fired on February 9, 2010. Ms. Owens suffered neck and back pain for a number of years, and in October 2009, took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") to undergo spinal surgery. The principal told Ms. Owens that she could remain on leave until she received her final x-rays. On January 20, 2010, the principal spoke with Ms. Owens to see when she would return to work. Ms. Owens stated that she had a doctor's appointment on February 12, 2010 and if the doctor released her, she may be able to return to work on February 15, 2010. The superintendent sent Ms. Owens a letter stating that her FMLA leave would soon expire and requesting that she provide him with a return date so that her status could be determined. On February 4, 2010, Ms. Owens again spoke to the principal and restated that she had a doctor's appointment later in February. During the same time period, Ms. Owens was in discussions with the principal to secure educational support for her son, a student at the school where she worked. Although some of her son's teachers thought he should receive assistance, the superintendent vetoed the assistance plan. Ms. Owens met with the State Department of Education to complain about the superintendent's failure to provide her son with adequate educational support and subsequently, the State Department ordered the school to provide Ms. Owens son with assistance.

Bible study and the workplace

An employee of the Colorado Department of Education claims she was punished after she stopped attending her supervisor's lunch time Bible study sessions. She says she has emails that show her as a required attendee and felt as if she was in a hostile workplace after she told her supervisor she no longer wanted to attend the bi-weekly sessions. She has since filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

Airline merger moves forward after approval from bankruptcy court

Business travelers in Denver and around the nation are taking note of the decision by a federal bankruptcy court to allow AMR Corp. to complete its business transaction with US Airways Group and merge into a single company. AMR is the parent company of American Airlines.

Religious Accommodations

The clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch requires its employees to comply with a "Look Policy." The policy is intended to promote and showcase the Abercrombie brand, which exemplifies a classic East Coast collegiate style of clothing. Employees must dress in clothing that is consistent with the kinds of clothing that Abercrombie sells in its stores. Notably, the policy prohibits employees from wearing any black clothing or "caps." An employee is subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination for failure to comply with the policy. The store contends that its policy is critical to the health and vitality of the brand because it relies on its in-store experience to promote its products. The store-front employees, called "models," may not wear inconsistent clothing because Abercrombie claims it inaccurately represents the brand, causes customer confusion, fails to perform the essential function of the position, and ultimately damages the brand.