Walmart Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Marijuana Screenings for Job Applicants
Workspan Daily
October 14, 2022

Walmart has asked a federal judge in New Jersey to rule that the state's law barring employers from refusing to hire job applicants because of their off-duty marijuana use can only be enforced by the state, and not individual workers, Reuters reports.  

Lead plaintiff Erick Zanetich claims he was offered a security job by Walmart earlier this year, but the offer was pulled after he tested positive for marijuana during a mandatory screening. The lawsuit accuses Walmart and subsidiary Sam's Club of violating the law, which took effect in April, by using positive marijuana tests to screen job applicants. 

Walmart's motion comes as an increasing number of states legalize recreational marijuana use and employers grapple with balancing new legal protections for workers with concerns about workplace safety. 

Walmart said the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which was created by the state law, was given exclusive powers to enforce it. Since the law does not also explicitly allow for private lawsuits, Walmart said, individual workers do not have the ability to sue for violations. 

State and federal judges in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Arizona and other states have said that medical marijuana laws allow workers to sue for discrimination, even when they do not explicitly authorize it. Last week, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law and launched a review of how the drug is classified. 

A provision of the law prohibits employers from firing workers or refusing to hire job applicants because they use marijuana on their own time. The law does allow for workers to be fired if they are impaired on the job. 

Federal Court Orders Boston Restaurants to Pay for Minimum Wage, OT Violations  

A federal court has ordered two Boston restaurants to pay $195,680 for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay minimum wage, failing to pay overtime and failing to maintain complete and accurate records of employees’ hours and pay, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said Wednesday in a release.  

The restaurants — Simco’s Roslindale and Simco’s Mattapan — have also been ordered to pay a $14,980 civil money penalty. The restaurants are also required to cooperate with future investigations and are prohibited from interfering with any employee’s future complaints or cooperation with the DOL.  

“Too often, we find violations like these in the food service industry,” wage and hour district director Carlos Matos said in the release. “Industry employers must understand that failing to pay minimum wage and overtime as federal law requires makes it harder for workers and their families to make ends meet and may have costly consequences for business owners.” 

Matos noted in the release that it’s extremely common for restaurants and other food service operations to run afoul of wage and hour laws. In 2021, food services had far and away the most violations, with DOL logging 4,237 cases — resulting in a total of $34,741,032 in fines and 29,209 employees affected. 

Dutch Judge Rules Remote Employee Wrongfully Fired for Refusing to Keep His Webcam On All Day  

A Florida company is being ordered to pay a remote worker $73,000 after it fired him for refusing to keep his webcam on.  

The employee worked remotely from the Netherlands for Chetu, a U.S. software company. The company told him on Aug. 23 that he'd need to keep his webcam on all day for a virtual training program, the NL Times reported

In response, the employee told Chetu he didn't “feel comfortable being monitored for 9 hours a day by a camera,” according to court documents filed in the Netherlands, where the case was heard

The employee, who wasn't named in the suit, said the company could already monitor his activities on his laptop and that he was also sharing his screen. 

Another employee at Chetu said the requirement for employees to keep their webcams on was “no different” from how an employee would be seen by everyone all day in a physical office, according to the court papers.  

Three days later, on Aug. 26, the employee was fired for “refusal to work” and “insubordination,” the court documents say. 

He took Chetu to court in the Netherlands, saying he wasn't given an “urgent reason” to "justify the immediate dismissal given" and that the company's demand that he keep his webcam on was a violation of his privacy rights. 

In its ruling, the Dutch court sided with the employee, saying the firing was “not legally valid.” 

“The employer has not made it clear enough about the reasons for the dismissal,” the court said. “Moreover, there has been no evidence of a refusal to work, nor has there been any reasonable instruction.” 

Making an employee leave their camera on, the court added, is against the employee’s right to respect for private life. The court cited Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says: "Strict conditions are attached to observing employees." 

It further referred to a European Court of Human Rights' judgment in a 2017 case “that video surveillance of an employee in the workplace, be it covert or not, must be considered as a considerable intrusion into the employee's private life.” 

Portugal Launches a Digital Nomad Visa Program  

Portugal has released the requirements for its “digital-nomad visa,” which allows remote workers who make four times its national minimum wage — approximately $2,750 a month — to live and work in the European nation.  

Starting Oct. 30, remote workers can apply for either a temporary-stay visa of up to one year or a residency permit that can be renewed for up to five years, Business Insider reports.  

Workers can apply at a Portuguese Consulate in their home country or at Portugal's immigration agency, Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras. On top of proof of income for the past three months, applicants must submit tax-residency documents and a contract of employment (or proof of self-employment). 

One of the program's biggest selling points is that recipients can travel visa-free throughout the Schengen Area, a region containing 26 European Union member countries where travelers can move freely without dealing with border control. 

Portugal has had an influx of foreign residents since the pandemic started, many of whom have used the D7 visa, or “passive-income visa,” to set up shop in the country. 

One of the most affordable programs of its kind, the D7 visa requires applicants make only 7,200 euros — or about $7,011 — a year to qualify. But unlike the digital-nomad visa, the income must be the result of passive investment streams, such as real estate or equity in a company, as opposed to a monthly salary. 

The popularity of Portugal among remote workers is due to several reasons, including the low cost of living, mild weather, an abundance of coworking spaces, connections to major European cities, and the country's fluency in English, Joana Mendonça, the head of legal at Global Citizen Solutions, an investment-migration firm with a strong presence in the Portuguese market, told Insider. 

Ezzedeen Soleiman, a managing partner at Latitude Residency & Citizenship, told Insider in May that Portugal was one of the most in-demand "golden-visa" programs for wealthy American investors. 

“Portugal is the next California,” he said. “You have tremendous talent going there, tremendous wealth going there.” 

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