Yes, these are real cases involving real people.
Everyone in Southern California Would Need to be Accommodated If This Were a Disability
A former employee in New Jersey sued her employer for wrongful termination after she requested an accommodation for her disability: an inability to drive in rush hour traffic due to anxiety and depression. According to the employee, her condition was aggravated by heavy rush hour traffic. (I think we can all relate!) When she asked for a schedule that would allow her to avoid rush hour traffic, claiming she needed an accommodation due to her disability, the company approved shorter work days. Not long after the company agreed to accommodate the employee, she received a poor performance review, demotion, and ultimately was terminated. Oddly, she may have a case if she is able to prove retaliation or disability discrimination. Based on the employer’s decision to accommodate the employee, it is reasonable to infer that the employer accepted that she was disabled or regarded her as disabled. In California, when an employer “regards” an employee as disabled, it has the same legal effect as if the employee actually was disabled—the employee can sue for, among other, things disability discrimination and failure to accommodate.
Don’t Mix Dune Buggies and Alcohol Because Workers’ Compensation May Not Be There For You
Evidently, dune buggies still exist and consist of large wheels, wide tires, and are for use on sand dunes. Alcoholic beverages may impair your ability to drive. A “traveling employee” (not to be confused with gypsy Travelers) is covered by workers compensation in all places while traveling for work. If an employee is pursuing “normal creature comforts and reasonably comprehended necessities,” he may be covered. But, if he engages in “strictly personal amusement ventures,” he has left the scope of employment. When an employee was injured after wrecking a dune buggy while driving intoxicated, workers compensation was denied because driving a dune buggy while intoxicated was not a normal or reasonably comprehended necessity during work travel. Go figure.
You Will Have a Positive Attitude At Work! Or Not.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that a company could not have a policy that required employees to “maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships.” The union complained that the policy was too broad and vague and would inhibit employees from complaining about working conditions. The NLRB agreed, striking down “the rule to restrict potentially controversial or contentious communications and discussions” because employees may fear that “the [employer] would deem [such discussions] to be inconsistent with a ‘positive work environment.’” However, this is not to be confused with the employer’s right to have work rules that prohibit insubordination or a negative attitude that is disruptive to the workplace.
Come on Down! The Price is Right!
An important tip for employees—don’t tell your employer that you are unable to stand, sit, kneel, squat, climb, bend, reach or grasp, but then spin the big wheel on The Price is Right, twice. The former postal worker, who had been on workers’ compensation for several years before her appearance on The Price is Right, raised her arm above her head, grabbed the wheel, and sent it spinning. Hopefully, she won prizes because she is going to need them after she pled guilty to workers compensation fraud. She also probably should not have gone ziplining while on a cruise. Workers compensation fraud is serious and employers should be proactive in working with the claims administrators to recognize potential fraud.
An Employee’s Argument Unbelievably Has Come Down To This…
The general rule is that employees are entitled to receive a legal defense from the public agency employer if they acted within the scope of employment. Not surprisingly, when a jail guard thought it would be funny to serve a “penis-tainted” sandwich to an inmate, he was subsequently sued by the offended inmate. The guard demanded that his employer provides him a legal defense in the lawsuit. You may be wondering, what did he argue? This is a good one.
The guard said it was common for jokes and pranks to occur in the jail and, while not condoned, such acts were not discouraged. The guard claimed he was just playing one of those “jokes and pranks” when he took a sandwich, opened the sandwich, had an inmate place his penis in the sandwich, photographed the inmate’s penis in the sandwich, and served the sandwich to a different inmate. The genius then showed the penis photograph to the inmate who had eaten the sandwich. Isn’t he hilarious? The guard also claimed he was entitled to a defense because he was acting within the course and scope of his employment by giving a sandwich to an inmate. The court disagreed with the guard, stating that “[a]lthough serving food to inmates is part of [the guard’s] job duties . . . the meal served was one plainly unauthorized by [the employer] and obviously outside of [his] authorized duties.”
Until next year!