Articles Posted in Employment

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The City of Atlanta has an entire section in its municipal code relating to tree protection. Thomas Coffin used to be the Senior Arborist for the city. Then he reported that some of the arborists were not adhering to the ordinance, and found himself without a job

Mr. Coffin settled with the City of Atlanta today for $165,000 in damages, as well as attorneys fees and a consent order allowing the city to vest his pension rights. Coffin’s case is an example of whistleblowing. All too frequently, employees witness co-workers or supervisors engaged in activities that are harmful or unlawful. Reporting that activity is commonly known as whistle blowing. Frequently, those employees fear retaliation if they report what they’ve seen.
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On November 2, 2010, Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment which allows for much stricter constraints of trade for Georgia workers. The new law allows Georgia courts to “blue pencil” restrictive covenants in employment contracts. In other words, no matter how onerous and restrictive an employer writes a non-compete clause or non-solicitation clause, it will now be enforced to the extent that the law allows. This changes the current law which calls for the entire restrictive covenant to be held unenforceable, if any portions of it were beyond the scope of what was permissible (either overly broad in time, geography or scope).

The new law is suspect because the drafters of Georgia House Bill 173 stated it would be effective on November 3, 2010. However, the Georgia Constitution states that the new laws such as this one must take effect on January 1 of the following year.
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Effective January 1, 2009, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was amended to broaden the number of workers who are protected by the ADA. Under the ADA, workers are “disabled” if they suffer from (1) an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) possess a record of such impairment; or (3) are regarded as having such an impairment.

While this definition has not changed, the amendment instructs the Courts to take a broader construction of this definition, which, in turn, should include more American workers who suffers from impairments. In addition, the amendment instructs the Courts to broaden the definition of “major life activity,” which, once again, should result in more Americans who suffer from significant impairments being protected under the ADA.

The amendments seem to be coordinated to broaden the number of workers covered by the ADA. A welcome relief in these trying economic times. Georgia workers should benefit from this relief, as every Georgia worker is entitled to safe and humane working conditions.