Wednesday, August 29, 2012 0 comments

Underground utilities - not as deep as you'd think

The recent issue of Damage Prevention Professional Magazine shows photos which point out the need to watch out for buried utility lines hear the surface. While damages which occur in such instances are often blamed on construction contractors who are digging, there's much to suggest that when such damages take place, utility companies and the firms they contract to install underground lines may bear some of the blame.

While all but three states require marks to be within 18 to 24 inches of the actual underground location of buried lines and pipes, not every state's laws speak to the matter of depth of lines. However, a number of states do provide guidance on the matter, as does a federal study, suggesting that it's recognized that lines should be buried deep enough to ensure that light digging or scraping doesn't hit them.
Sunday, August 26, 2012 0 comments

Stalking and violence - legal for labor unions

It's well-known that labor disputes can result in violence against persons and property in workplaces in the United States. But what isn't as well known is that in some cases, the courts and the laws are giving labor unions license to harm and harass companies and workers, according to a report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Workforce Freedom Initiative.

Entitled "Sabotage, Stalking and Stealth Exemptions: Special State Laws for Labor Unions", the report looks at how both courts and some states have turned a blind eye to threatening and dangerous behaviors, going against the growing concerns over combating violence and threatening behaviors in the American workplace.

The report begins by tracing the history of state exemptions to a 1973 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396) which held that ruled that violence in pursuit of union demands cannot be prosecuted under federal law, arguing that violent activities, when used during a strike by workers of the Gulf States Utilities Company, did not meet the standard of "wrongful" conduct needed to convict in a federal extortion case. From there, a number of states are called out for giving unions a pass on threatening and violent conduct in workplaces.
Friday, August 10, 2012 0 comments

New federal EEO expectations for criminal background checks

Criminal background checks can be an effective way to avoid problems in the workplace, but if not done properly, background check processes can create more headaches than they avoid, thus employers should use them with caution. 

A recent 4-to-1 vote by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to approve new guidance for employers conducting criminal background checks is certainly going to raise the bar even higher for employers.While the guidance from the EEOC is not a regulation, it is a warning of growing concern by the Commission and will help inform its field staff when conducting investigations and considering enforcement actions. 

One of the key motivators for this decision was driven by concerns about employers who inappropriately used criminal background checks. The most egregious example was employers who screened out applicants based upon arrest histories, not taking the time to determine if the arrests led to convictions. In too many cases, arrests resulted in dropped charges, meaning people who were found not guilty in the eyes of the law were found guilty in the eyes of an irresponsible employer.