Introduction:  A lot has happened in the public employment law area in the last year. This Post focuses on a few important cases that have affected public policy. This Post collects in one place  a handful of selected cases that present problems or present opportunities to improve HR policies by being proactive.   For the convenience of the reader, there is a short summary of  the topic so the reader can easily determine if he or she is interested in the topic. If interested, the reader can click on the link for a  discussion of the topic in more detail.  Regular subscribers to my Blog are forewarned that except for how to handle requests for ADA assistance no new analysis has been added. Subjects that impact local government in this Post are as follows:

Requests for ADA assistance – Are your police and other employees prepared to handle requests for ADA assistance? The arrest of a person who ran a stop light would seem like a pretty straightforward matter, yet it literally became a federal case.  Bahl, who was legally deaf ran a stoplight, was stopped, arrested, charged and convicted of the offense. From the outset Bahl – a person who was a “qualified individual” under the ADA – asked for assistance in trying to communicate and understand what was happening.  Do police officers have to provide ADA assistance during an arrest? How do you handle a request for ADA assistance after the arrest? For information concerning ADA assistance click here. 

Duty to bargain in good faith – One of the most significant changes in Missouri local government law in the last 60 years has been three Missouri Supreme Court decisions two of which were handed down in November of 2012.  The first case in 2007 held that public employees had a constitutionally protected right to engage in collective bargaining.  The two most recent 2012 decisions build on the earlier decision holding that the constitutional right to engage in collective bargaining implies that there is a duty to “bargain in good faith.” What does the duty to “bargain in good faith” mean? Can you be required to recognize a union that has police officers and sergeants in the same bargaining unit? For information about this important new development that will shape how you negotiate with your employees click here.

Sex harassment in the workplace and government facilities – How to deal with sex harassment in the workplace and government facilities is a critical issue for local government. Failure to properly handle these difficult problems can create untold liabilities for local government and can literally topple governments. Two recent cases that directly impact Missouri local government are discussed and provide some insights on how to handle these problems. For more information click here.

Computer use policy – A recent case highlights the importance of having good procedures to control the improper use of computers by government employees. How can you assure that employees are informed that city policy prohibits the use of city computers in a manner that is harassing, embarrassing, indecent, profane, obscene, or intimidating to other personnel or members of the public?  For information showing how a good computer use policy can help stop improper use of government computers, click here.

Social Media Policy – To have or not to have a social media policy is the question?  There are no easy answers. Without a social media policy, employees may feel emboldened to comment in the social media about public officials and public policy. Many times social media comments by employees are simply sideshows distracting from the primary business of local government. At other times revelations in the social media may shine light on illegal and despicable behind the scenes activity. No matter how it comes out public employers need to be prepared to deal with these situations. How extensive can a social media policy be without violating the employees right of free speech? For information concerning the pros and cons of developing a social media policy click here.

Public policy exception – The public policy exception to the at-will-employment doctrine can create a dilemma for the employer because the courts have not yet fully defined the extent of the public policy exception. Many public employees are at-will-employees, which means they do not have a property right in their job.  A recent case expanded the public policy exception to the Missouri employment-at-will doctrine by creating a new exception for persons who are organ transplant donors. In this case the old adage that bad facts make bad law was turned on its head.  The employer could not dismiss the employee because he took leave to be an organ transplant donor.  How does an employer determine if the employee is protected by the public policy exception?  I do not think it is always easy.  For more information, click here.

If you have any questions, concerning the above, you may contact me at 417-569-0386, e-mail me at or contact me at Carnahan Evans Cantwell Brown where I serve as “Of Counsel.”

Howard Wright @ 2013

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