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Home > Employment Law Update April 2022

Employment Law Update April 2022

Developments in the employment world happened in April that could impact everything from mandatory employee onboarding documents to the price of your favorite cup of coffee.  Read about a few of them below.

Employers should be Aware of Significant Changes are Coming for the Form I-9

The Form I-9, an HR onboarding document used to record employment eligibility verification as required by the federal government, is slated to undergo a significant overhaul when the current form expires on Oct. 31.  The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly attempting to simplify the form, with proposed changes including:

  • Compressing Sections 1 and 2 from two pages to one page to reduce paper use.
  • Moving Section 3 to a separate Reverification and Rehire Supplement, making it a stand-alone section.
  • Updating the List of Acceptable Documents to include a link to List C documents (on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website) issued by DHS. Some List C documents were unlisted.
  • Reducing and simplifying the form’s instructions from 15 pages to 7 pages.

Employers can take advantage of the opportunity to submit public comment by May 31. In the past, DHS has implemented suggestions based on public comments, and therefore interested employers should take advantage.

Pittsburgh Starbucks the First Pa. Cafe to Vote for Union

Starbucks employees in a Pittsburgh café unanimously voted to unionize on Wednesday, becoming the first of the coffee chain’s shops in Pennsylvania to organize.  Five additional Starbucks stores in Pittsburgh are in the middle of unionization efforts, and cafes in Massachusetts, New York, Washington state, Arizona and Tennessee have also recently voted to unionize.  The unionization process has reportedly been tense at times, with employees accusing Starbucks of trying to stifle their efforts.

However, in response to the unionization efforts, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz issued a seemingly positive statement: “We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners, and we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams, upholding the standards and rituals of the company, celebrating partner individuality and voice, and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.”

Time will tell whether the unionization will impact Starbucks’ already-premium prices.

Pittsburgh Commission, Post-Gazette Drop Racial Bias Dispute over Black Lives Matters Coverage

The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations announced will drop its investigation into allegations of racial bias over the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s reassignment of reporters covering Black Lives Matter protests, and the newspaper will drop a lawsuit claiming the First Amendment bars such an investigation, the parties told a Pennsylvania federal court.

The Post-Gazette employee, who is African-American, had claimed in June 2020 that she was barred from covering the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests after she posted a message on Twitter sarcastically comparing property damage from the protests to the trash left behind by a country music concert in Pittsburgh.  The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations had launched an investigation into the Post-Gazette’s actions after the employee complained that she and other reporters who shared her tweet in solidarity had been barred from further protest coverage, which the Post-Gazette justified under the rationale that coverage she could not provide unbiased coverage.  The Post-Gazette and its parent company, Block Communications Inc., then filed a lawsuit against the commission, claiming its reassignment of reporters was an editorial decision protected by the First Amendment and not subject to second-guessing by the commission or courts.

The case is PG Publishing Co. et al. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, case number 2:20-cv-01222, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  The case presented interesting issues in the overlap of First Amendment law and personnel decisions.



Jeff Burke is an attorney at MacElree Harvey, Ltd., working in the firm’s Employment and Litigation practice groups. Jeff counsels businesses and individuals on employment practices and policies, executive compensation, employee hiring and separation issues, non-competition and other restrictive covenants, wage and hour disputes, and other employment-related matters. Jeff represents businesses and individuals in employment litigation such as employment contract disputes, workforce classification audits, and discrimination claims based upon age, sex, race, religion, disability, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment.  Jeff also practices in commercial litigation as well as counsels business on commercial contract matters.