As we previously reported, the National Labor Relations Board has thrown down some pretty significant roadblocks for employers attempting to conduct thorough and actionable internal investigations. The Board continued those efforts recently when it declared that an employer’s request that a union-covered employee sign his own witness statement at the conclusion of an interview

The National Football League (“NFL”) has hired an outside investigator to handle the complaint made by Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins. The national news media cannot seem to get enough of this story, and the coverage has been relentless. The media, however, seems to have focused on the bullying angle. But for some of us, based on the reports, it looks like there was more than just bullying going on. If the allegations are true there may be violations of the league’s workplace harassment policy as well. Given the dynamics here, and the high profile nature of the situation, we think it makes a lot of sense for the NFL (and the union) to bring in an investigator from the outside.

An employer’s investigation of workplace harassment is often critical to its subsequent defense of any related lawsuits. A good investigation that results in appropriate corrective action typically means a good defense to a claim of workplace harassment. The law encourages employers to be proactive and promptly investigate incidents that occur, and rewards employers who take those steps.
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This post was contributed by Stephen R. Kern, Esq., a Member in the Employee Benefits Practice Group.

The U.S. Department of Labor (the "DOL") has recently enhanced its enforcement activities with respect to group health plans by significantly increasing the number of audits it is conducting. In addition, the DOL’s audit letters contain significant document requests

The Department of Labor (DOL) routinely investigates and audits employers to ensure compliance with a variety of important labor and employment laws. Historically, wage and hour (overtime) compliance under the Fair Labor Standards Act has been the most common subject of the DOL’s enforcement efforts.

Fueled by additional resources, funding and staffing, the DOL is increasing its enforcement efforts both in terms of frequency and scope. This concerning trend means that employers can expect an increase in the number of investigations and that such investigations, once initiated, will cover a broader range of compliance issues and dig deeper into those issues under review. In this regard, our clients are reporting that, in addition to typical wage and hour issues, expanded DOL inquiries as a matter of course now include review of other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, and even the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is also common for DOL investigations to “spread,” resulting in the inquiry ultimately moving into areas other than the initial issue under review.
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The National Labor Relations Board recently issued a decision holding that an employer violates the National Labor Relations Act by establishing workplace investigation procedures, policies, or forms that attempt to prohibit employees from discussing ongoing workplace investigations with their coworkers. Specifically, the Board concluded that such a rule violates Section 7 of the NLRA, which protects employees’ rights to engage in “concerted activities” for their mutual aid and protection.
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In its decision in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson City, the United States Supreme Court considered the scope of Title VII protections from retaliation for employees who act as witnesses in an employer’s internal investigation into harassment. The Court held that an employee’s involvement in the employer’s internal investigation constituted opposition to unlawful employment practices when she responded to her employer’s questions in a manner disapproving of accused harasser’s sexually obnoxious behavior toward her. The Court’s decision unfortunately does not create a bright line standard for employers defining the scope of an employee’s involvement in an internal investigation which can trigger protections from retaliation. Employers should tread very carefully in this area.


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The prevalence of e-mail and texting communications can aid an employer in its investigation of workplace misconduct; provided, the employer’s policy adequately preserves its right to access the data. However, overstepping rights to access e-mail and other electronic communication media can result in criminal prosecution under state and federal law.

Recent high profile firings of Philadelphia