Employers Must Use New I-9 Form

Beginning May 7, 2013, employers must use the revised Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 Form (Rev. 03/08/13)N for all new-hires and reverifications. Previously accepted revisions (Rev.02/02/09)N and (Rev. 08/07/09)Y may not be used as of May 7, 2013. 

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FMLA & Facebook: 6 New Lessons for Employers

FMLA & Facebook: 6 New Lessons for Employers

Increasingly, Facebook and other social media postings are entering the courtroom as employers use them as evidence for taking adverse action against employees. Here are two cases regarding Facebook and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which serve as models for employers on this issue and offer six (6) important lessons.

Case Law Overview

Case #1

In Lineberry v. Detroit Medical Center, a federal district court ruled that an employer is entitled to fire an employee if they have an "honest belief" that he or she is abusing FMLA leave.

In the case, Carol Lineberry was employed by Detroit Medical Center as a Registered Nurse. She injured herself on-the-job when moving stretchers, was treated by her physician, and was told not to return to work. As a result, Lineberry received approved FMLA leave from her employer.

While on leave, Lineberry took a vacation to Mexico. The trip was approved by her physician who stated that the vacation would not conflict with her recovery nor would be as physically demanding as performing her job duties. During her vacation, however, Lineberry posted photos on Facebook suggesting that she misrepresented her need for FMLA. Her coworkers saw these postings and complained to Lineberry's supervisor.

When questioned, Lineberry informed her supervisor that she used a wheelchair during her travel, however during a subsequent disciplinary meeting, when reminded that airports have cameras, admitted to lying about using a wheelchair. As a result, Detroit Medical Center terminated Lineberry for dishonesty and falsifying information. Lineberry sued the hospital, alleging that it interfered with her FMLA rights and retaliated against her.

The court considered Lineberry's Facebook postings and dishonesty about the use of a wheelchair as facts which led Detroit Medical Center to reasonably believe that she had misused FMLA leave.

Case #2

A similar case, Jaszczyszyn v. Advantage Health Physician Network, involved Sara Jaszczyszyn, a customer service representative employed at Advantage Health Physician Network. Sara requested and obtained the appropriate medical certification for intermittent FMLA leave as a result of a car accident.

After receiving certification, Sara was absent for a continuous and open-ended length of time. While on FMLA leave, Sara posted pictures of herself at a festival, socializing and enjoying time with friends. Her coworkers viewed these pictures and complained to their boss. Sara was eventually terminated and filed a retaliation claim against Advantage Health Physician Network.

Sara's claim was dismissed by court, primarily because the organization was able to show that it had an honest belief that she was engaging in fraud and relied on facts in its decision to terminate her. Also, the organization conducted a complete and thorough investigation of the issue and inquired about the discrepancy between her claim and Facebook photos.

Employer Takeaways

These two cases have some important implications for employers in terms of managing social media postings and FMLA leave, specifically:

  1. Social media postings may be legitimate evidence, coupled with other relevant facts and evidence from many different sources, to aid in an investigation and substantiate that an employee is abusing or misusing FMLA leave.
  2. Coworker complaints or reports about behavior on Facebook and other social media websites can be taken seriously and may prompt further investigation.
  3. Employers are permitted to properly investigate an employee's FMLA leave if they suspect that an employee is violating the terms of their leave.
  4. It's important to follow your disciplinary policy and procedure. These organizations remained compliant and consistent with their disciplinary policies and procedures, and took steps to obtain the appropriate information prior to terminating the employees.
  5. Organizations should obtain the appropriate information about an employee's medical restrictions under FMLA before taking adverse action on an employee.
  6. Employers should focus on responding to complaints about Facebook and other social media behavior, rather than routinely "spying" on employees' Facebook profiles and social media behavior.

There will undoubtedly be much more case law to glean insights from as Facebook and other social media postings make their way into the courtroom. As these cases unfold, employers should use them as models and lessons for how to manage FMLA and other employment laws.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

FMLA Administration & Services: ERC's Preferred Partner, CareWorks, provides ERC members with discounts on services related to day to day management, tracking, and overall administration of FMLA. CareWorks' approach is outcome-based, streamlined, and cost-effective, and ensures that claims are handled consistently and in compliance with state and federal laws. 

Employment Law Fundamentals: This seminar is designed to provide managers and supervisors with an overview of relevant employment law considerations and to support a proactive, positive work environment. Presented in an interactive style, this seminar can be customized to specific topic areas desired by the employer.

ERC Preferred Partner CareWorks provides Absence Management and FMLA Administration. ERC Members save 5% off per EE per month fee or a $500 discount off Initial Set-up Fee

New I-9 Form Available

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a 2013 revised Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 Form, in both English and Spanish versions, for employers. The Department of Homeland Security has also issued a Notice about the new I-9 Form in the Federal Register. 

According to USCIS, effective March 8, 2013, employers should begin using the new I-9 Form (Rev. 03/08/13)N for all new-hires and reverifications, however, the previously accepted revisions (Rev.02/02/09)N and (Rev. 08/07/09)Y may continue to be used until May 7, 2013. After May 7, 2013, however, employers must only use Form I-9 (Rev. 03/08/13)N.

The I-9 Form is required to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States and the 2013 I-9 Form contains many improvements including new fields, reformatting, and clearer instructions.

Download the 2013 I-9 Form

Source: USCIS

Court: Random Alcohol Tests Not in Violation of ADA

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) case against U.S. Steel Corp., ruled that random tests for alcohol can be performed on probationary employees who work in safety sensitive positions, and that doing so does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the 2013 case, the EEOC argued that the company's policy of conducting breath alcohol testing at random on probationary employees could be considered a medical examination and that ADA restricts employers from requiring such exams unless it meets the standard of being "job related and consistent with business necessity."

Meanwhile, U.S. Steel held that its policy was lawful on several conditions, including that it was job related and consistent with business necessity, that it was part of a voluntary health and safety program negotiated and agreed upon with its union, and necessitated by the company's obligations under federal safety and environmental laws and regulations (Source: SHRM).

The court decision affirms that employers can take reasonable steps, including random alcohol tests, to keep workers safe on the job. Although, employers should proceed cautiously and still heed the EEOC's guidance regarding medical examinations under ADA.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

ADA/FMLA Training Course

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