Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Employers Should Be Diligent with Employee Classifications

Does an employer have to pay workers’ compensation benefits to an independent contractor injured on the job?

This is a bit of a trick question.  The short answer is no.  If a worker is correctly classified as an independent contractor, the worker is not a “covered employee” under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act and the employer is not liable for the worker’s on-the-job injuries.  However, as we often blog, the classification of independent contractors is tricky business and if the employer gets it wrong and misclassifies the worker, it may be responsible for the worker’s injuries under at least two different scenarios according to a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals in Elms v. Renewal by Anderson.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For – Maryland’s Highest Court Finds That “For Cause” Provision Trumps At-Will Presumption

The Court of Appeals of Maryland, in Spacesaver Systems, Inc. v. Adam, has held that an employment agreement which contained a “for cause” termination provision, no durational provision, and no “at-will” provision, constitutes a “continuous for-cause” contract.  In doing so, the Court of Appeals embraced, apparently for the first time, the idea of a continuous for-cause employment contract, distinct from a lifetime contract.  Lifetime contracts are required to be established by unequivocal evidence and supported by special consideration, showing that the employer and employee bargained for the lifetime agreement.  In essence, this new form of continuous for-cause contract means that an employer could, unintentionally, be stuck with an employee for his or her lifetime even though it did not bargain for that or receive any special consideration.  


A Reminder to Federal Contractors: The Whistleblower Protections Many Employers May Not Be Considering

Arising out of an uncommon source, for nearly two years, employees of most federal contractors and grantees have had additional whistleblower protections with regard to certain disclosures and employers need to remember these protections when considering adverse personnel actions.  The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law.  Although its name does not conjure up visions of employee protections, the law actually provides for some of the broadest and strongest whistleblower protections to employees of most federal government contractors and grantees.

Employers' Obligations to Accomodate Religious Beliefs

Supreme Court Poised to Address Religious Discrimination in the Case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.

In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court is set to answer the question of whether an employee or applicant must expressly inform an employer of his or her religious beliefs in order to sustain a claim that the employer has discriminated by failing to accommodate the belief.