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10 of the Strangest Employment Laws in the United States
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

By Joshua M. SmithEmployment Law Lawyer
July 25, 2018

SSP Firm, Blog, subscribe, RSS, Cincinnati

We all know about the typical, common-sense employment laws out there (minimum wage, anti-discrimination/harassment, FMLA, etc.), but here are some of the less common laws in the labor and employment arena. Some of these may benefit you to know, while others are just good trivial knowledge for your next conversation at dinner or happy hour. In any event, here they are:

  1.  Kentucky prohibits discrimination on the basis of…smoking status? That’s right. Kentucky has an anti-discrimination statute which makes it unlawful to refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because the individual is a smoker or nonsmoker, so long as the person complies with any workplace policy concerning smoking. KRS 344.040(1)(a). However, the law explicitly allows for differences in employee health plan contribution rates based upon smoker vs. non-smoker status. KRS 344.040(2)(a).   
  2.  The Fair Labor Standard Act has some very specific (and strange) exemptions from overtime laws. There is a very long laundry list of specific occupations which are exempt from overtime, minimum, or both, under Federal law. Some of the stranger examples include:
  • Employees engaged in the processing of maple sap into sugar (other than refined sugar!) or syrup
  • Employees engaged in outside buying of poultry, eggs, cream, or milk, in their raw or natural state
  • Switchboard operators, but only if their employer is an independently owned public telephone company with no more than 750 stations 29 U.S.C. § 213
  3.  The law against terminating employees on the basis of one wage garnishment…but not two. The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) prohibits employers from firing an employee whose earnings are subject to garnishment for any one debt. BUT, an employee can be discharged because an employee’s earnings are separately garnished for two or more debts. 15 U.S.C. § 1674.  
  4.  No discriminating against Federal employees for political affiliation or marital status. Certain employees of the Federal government are provided appeal rights for adverse employment actions based upon their partisan political affiliation or marital status (i.e., favoring single employees over married employees, or vice versa). 5 C.F.R. 315.806(b)   
  5.  No non-competes for Ohio lawyers. The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct generally prohibit lawyers in Ohio from participating in offering or making an agreement restricting the right of a lawyer to practice after termination of their employment (i.e., non-compete agreements). Ohio Prof. R. 5.6.   
  6.  The National Bank Act and preemption of some State law claims. The National Bank Act pre-empts certain employment claims of bank officers (which can be defined fairly broadly), including claims for breach of contract, intentional tort claims, etc., and sometimes even state discrimination claims. Generally, however, the act does not pre-empt federal discrimination claims (Title VII, ADA, ADEA, etc.). 12 U.S.C. § 24
  7.  No termination of employees who file bankruptcy, but failure to hire is an open question. The Bankruptcy Act prohibits terminating or discriminating against employees who have filed for bankruptcy or are associated with a bankruptcy debtor, BUT some circuit courts have held the Act does not prohibit private employers from discriminating in hiring based upon a prior bankruptcy. 11 U.S.C. § 525(b).  
  8.  Performance evaluations in Virginia can be considered defamation. The Virginia Supreme Court has held that false statements of fact made maliciously in a performance evaluation may be the subject of a defamation claim. The qualified privilege may shield such claims but not if they are made for a malicious purpose. See Hyland v. Raytheon Servs. Co., 277 Va. 40 (Va. 2009)  
  9.  Michigan prohibits discrimination based upon height or weight. Michigan’s Civil Rights Act (the Eilliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act) prohibits discrimination not only on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status, but also on the basis of height or weight. Mich Comp. Laws § 37.2202(1)(a).  
  10.  Non-compete agreements are void in California. California expressly prohibits non-compete provisions in employment agreements, with some limited exceptions (sale of business, partnership arrangements, etc.) Cal.Bus.& Prof.Code § 16600.

If you’d like to explore this topic further, please contact Joshua Smith via email or 513-533-6715.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established. 


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