Fridays with Frank – Dec 6, 2019

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Happy Friday!

Don’t tell my wife, but the main reason I volunteer to go shopping at the wholesale club is for the free samples. Last weekend I had cheese, crackers, sausage, chicken, pasta, eggnog, and a cookie for dessert! I also enjoy talking to the people handing-out the delicious morsels (unfortunately, I haven’t seen Gordon Ramsay at my club location). Don’t worry; this will make sense in a minute!


Please, have a seat   Imagine how uncomfortable it is standing in one place for hours, especially if you have a physical disability. There’s a stool, but your employer only allows you to sit for 10 minutes every two hours. It seems uncaring, but is it unlawful? Yep, it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). If you don’t believe me, ask Crossmark, Inc., a sales and marketing company that provides food demonstrators to retailers and warehouse stores. Crossmark will pay $2.65 million, and take additional actions to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit for failing to provide reasonable accommodations to its employees. Of course, that’s peanuts compared to the $12 million Safeway supermarkets will pay for denying chairs to cashiers in its California stores.  

That sounds squirrely   I’ve been getting a lot more questions about employees bringing animals to work. Fortunately, although some have been unusual potential workplace visitors (a pig, a hamster, and a turtle), to date, my clients have not had accommodation requests for squirrels, llamas, monkeys, chickens, snakes, peacocks…you get the picture. The first to know is the difference between a “service” animal and an emotional “support” animal. (Never mind the emotional support clown someone brought to their termination meeting!) Service animals are trained to perform work or tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. More specifically, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a service animal is defined as a dog (and certain miniature horses) that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The work or task(s) must be directly related to the person’s disability. An emotional support animal, on the other hand, is one that has not been trained to perform work or tasks; they provide a benefit to the individual just by being present. Employers should always discuss the request with the employee, using an interactive process to determine if allowing the employee to bring the animal into the workplace may be a reasonable accommodation. If you get a request, give me a call so we can discuss it.

If at first you don’t succeed   The Part-time Worker Bill of Rights Act—a reincarnated and spruced-up version of a 2013 bill by the same name—was introduced in Congress this week. According to a joint press release by the bill’s sponsors, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), this legislation is intended “to strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs.”  Specifically, if enacted, this bill would:

  1. Require large employers to offer available hours to current, available, qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees or subcontractors. Employers of 500 or more workers would be required to compensate existing employees if additional employees are hired instead of assigning new work to available, qualified, existing employees.
  2. Make more part-time employees eligible for family and medical leave. The legislation guarantees any employee who has worked for their employer for at least a year access to federal leave protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  3. Allow part-time workers to participate in their employers’ pension plans. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 would be amended to allow part-time workers to participate in their employer’s retirement plans after working at least 500 hours for two consecutive years. 

So, if I’m reading the first point correctly, an employer would be required to pay a penalty to its existing part-time employees for hiring additional employees without first asking if it’s OK. Wait. What? I need an adult beverage! 

Thanks for spending a small part of your day with me, and have a great weekend! 


Posted by Frank Cania, president of HR Compliance Experts LLC.

Please feel free to contact Frank at frank@hrcexperts.com, or 585-380-1566 with questions or for more information.


Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute a legal opinion, and is not legal advice. The facts of each situation should be considered and analyzed individually. Therefore, you should always consult with competent employment counsel regarding any issues discussed here.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Frank Cania and HR Compliance Experts LLC.

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