Employment Law for Leaders

eCornell

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  • online
  • on demand

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eCornell

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Who should attend

  • Business professionals
  • Professionals in heavily regulated industries
  • Compliance professionals
  • Risk management professionals
  • Business owners
  • Contract administrators

About the course

From the hiring process to privacy and compensation, employment law is a critical component of the relationship between organizations and workers. Contrary to popular belief, however, the law does not have all the answers to today’s tricky business situations. This certificate program draws attention both to the aspects of the law that involve specific legal protections and constraints, as well as to the zones of discretion within which employers and employees can act. You will start in the first course by developing a solid foundation in U.S. employment law: what you need to know and what you need to keep in mind in your business in order to avoid litigation. Subsequent courses cover specific areas of interest in the workplace, such as employee privacy, wages and benefits, anti-discrimination policies, and intellectual property rights. In each of these courses, you will begin with the basic outlines of the most important laws that relate to the topic under discussion. After you gain a baseline understanding, you’ll go beyond it to explore the discretionary areas within the law. This program gives you the opportunity to study real-world cases which challenged and in some cases divided the courts. You’ll read the cases, compare your assessments with those of your peers, then read the judges’ decisions. Throughout the program, projects will give you the opportunity to explore how each topic area relates to your own workplace.

For the best experience in this program it is strongly recommended that you start with the first course, Employment Law in Practice.

The information provided in this course should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.

Employment Law in Practice

All of us in the workplace are governed by laws, but these laws are rarely taught as part of professional training or covered in any onboarding process. In many cases, we don't know about the laws governing the workplace until something goes wrong. This course provides a foundation for understanding the range, boundaries, and goals of employment law, and offers opportunities for you to apply these concepts to real workplace situations.

This course begins with the concept of at-will employment and its exceptions. What are the different categories of workers and which laws apply to each of them? What do you need to know to help steer your organization clear of lawsuits related to employee status and wrongful termination?

Because the situations we encounter in life are not always straightforward, this course focuses on cases of complicated — but not uncommon — employment situations. Through your coursework, you will examine the various and sometimes conflicting goals of employment laws at play in your industry and organization, ranging from protecting the weaker party from exploitation to creating win-win rules for the workplace. By the end of this course, you will have gained a more nuanced awareness of these issues that you can apply to the situations that may arise in your workplace.

Employee Privacy in the Workplace

As an employer, how much control or influence do you have on what your employees say or do at — or outside of — the workplace? What does it mean to defame someone in the context of the workplace and how can you avoid doing so? And where is the line between an individual employee's rights and the rights of workers to advocate as a group for better employment?

Using case studies, this course explores the tension between an employee's rights to privacy and autonomy and the employer's business interests through examination of the legal concept of privacy in the workplace. You will have the opportunity to apply your understanding of this and related concepts to actual cases and compare your assessments with those of the judges.

By the end of this course, you will be better able to make informed decisions as you develop and implement appropriate employee privacy policies that fall within the zones of legal discretion available to your organization.

It is recommended to only take this course if you have completed Employment Law in Practice or have equivalent experience.

Anti-discrimination Principles

We like to think that behaving decently at work and respecting others will protect us from discrimination cases in the workplace. To a certain degree, that is true; however, good intentions are not always enough. It's important to be able to recognize the legal underpinnings of anti-discrimination principles, including where these principles come from and how they have been interpreted by the courts.

In this course, you will delve into crucial background information regarding the origin of today's anti-discrimination laws as you're guided through tricky cases — involving issues around race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability status — as well as their implications for today. Sometimes it can be challenging to know how to approach these situations in the workplace. Through a combination of activities and readings, you will become better prepared to manage issues in the workplace in a way that does not leave your organization open to legal action.

Note: The information provided in this course is for academic purposes and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.

It is recommended to only take this course if you have completed Employment Law in Practice or have equivalent experience.

Wage and Benefit Regulations

Employee wages and benefits account for a significant percentage of the operating expense budget of most workplaces. Wages and benefits are highly regulated and there is considerable detail involved. This course will give you the background you need to anticipate and avoid potential pitfalls surrounding the wage and benefit laws that affect your organization.

This course cuts through a mass of available information and provides what you need to know about these topics within the context of employment law. You will explore wages and employer-provided benefits, including health insurance, vacation, sick pay, and retirement. Through your coursework, you will have the opportunity to investigate how these concepts apply to the organizations with which you are familiar. At the end of this course, you will be better positioned to assess workplace situations so you can determine when and why you might need to consult with an HR professional or an attorney, and you will be better prepared to discuss issues with these professionals.

Note: The information provided in this course is for educational purposes and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.

It is recommended to only take this course if you have completed Employment Law in Practice or have equivalent experience.

Employee Duties and Promises

How can you protect your company from having former employees divulge trade secrets or take customer relationships to competing firms? How does the law regard inventions and copyrights; who owns them?

Answers to these questions will vary depending on the status of the employee. There are specific protections for rank-and-file employees, as well as certain expectations of executives when it comes to misappropriation of company assets and non-compete contracts. This course will help you understand the rationale behind these laws and how they play out in real-life situations.

You begin with a focus on the employee's obligations to their employer: When is it acceptable to compete with a former employer, when is it not acceptable, and how can you tell the difference? The course proceeds with an exploration of the variety of contracts that employers can use to protect themselves from employees competing in various ways. You will have a chance to evaluate restrictive covenants and reflect on the question of what constitutes legitimate business interests. You will gain familiarity with aspects of the reasonably tailored tests. The course ends with a look at the legal responsibilities that apply to copyrights and inventions and introduces the role that a well-crafted holdover clause can play in protecting the interests of a business.

It is recommended to only take this course if you have completed Employment Law in Practice or have equivalent experience

KEY COURSE TAKEAWAYS

  • Assess the goals and boundaries of employment law that affect an organization and its practices
  • Develop, inform, and implement appropriate employee privacy and autonomy policies
  • Conduct all activities consistently with the federal prohibitions on workplace discrimination as well as state and local laws
  • Anticipate and avoid potential pitfalls surrounding wage and benefit laws
  • Protect your organization from having former employees divulge trade secrets

Experts

Stewart Schwab

Stewart J. Schwab is the Jonathan and Ruby Zhu Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, and was its Allan R. Tessler Dean from 2004 to 2014. He has been a member of the Cornell Law School faculty since 1983. A native of North Carolina, he obtained his J.D. as well as a Ph.D. in Economics from the...

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Employment Law for Leaders at eCornell

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