Bus 250: Business/Employment Law and Ethics

Spring, 2020

*Preferred contact method: Email stan.malos@sjsu.edu [Please be sure to include “Bus 250” in your subject heading!] 


Employment Law for Business (9th Ed. Bennett-Alexander & Hartman; Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 2019; an electronic or rental version of this textbook may be available at lower cost--sorry, but earlier editions simply will not be workable). 


This course will provide in-depth exposure to legal and ethical issues that arise in managing business in general and the employment relationship specifically. A basic understanding of general business and management practices is assumed.

Prerequisite: None; basic knowledge of or experience with employee relations is helpful but not required [don’t worry if you haven’t had it].

Workload: You will learn the basics of the very readable textbook on your own outside of class; our class time will be devoted to discussing legal cases and updates on the nuances of California law. Acquiring substantive knowledge of relevant laws is a minor objective of this course; developing the ability to recognize the often subtle factual situations in which issues occur in practice, and developing the critical thinking and research skills needed to effectively manage, communicate about, and solve resulting problems, will be our primary goal.

Preparation and Participation: Before each class session, read all of the author narrative (general descriptive material) in each assigned chapter, and read and prepare in writing (typed) assigned cases according to the FIRACT format (see "FIRACT" web-link). Participation will be evaluated based on the substance and frequency of contributions to class discussions and written preparation level (you earn points in this category both by submitting written FIRACTs when requested and participating actively in discussions). Instructor and self-evaluations will be used. Note that active participation--usually not an issue--is vastly preferred over solely written submissions (partial credit only; see below).


Grading: Grades will be awarded based upon a weighted combination of the following: 


400 points

At-will Writing Assignment and Ethics follow-up paper

50 points

Class Homework,  Preparation/Participation*

100 points

Web Research FIRACT

50 points

Legal Research Paper** (LRP)

400 points



Total Points Available

1000 points

*The score for this item will be based on instructor and student self-evaluations, with a rough allocation of 60% to the written homework preparation (weekly “FIRACTS”) and 40% to in-class contributions

**The score for this item will be based on 50 points for the quality of the Initial Fact Situation, 50 points for the quality of your peer review(s) of a classmate’s paper, and 300 points for the quality of the paper itself. See separate assignment link for more details. 

Final point totals are converted to percentage scores, and final grades are determined in accordance with the commonly accepted distribution whereby "A"s go to scores in the 90s, "B"s to those in the 80s, and so on. Extra credit may be available through random collection of homework.

Exams: Exams will consist of a combination of multiple choice and true/false/data sufficiency questions, as well as a possible selection of short answer or essay questions. 

Web Research FIRACT: You will screen, download, and write up one recent case [within the last 5 years and NOT in our textbook or on the course website!] from an on-line source. Note that this may be [but does not have to be] one of the cases used in your LRP [next]. 

Legal Research Paper [LRP]: For this project, you will conduct legal research to draft a memorandum to management (1-2 page fact situation of your own creation plus 4 pages of legal case law analysis; absolute maximum of 6 total pages, including facts and legal analysis--see separate "Details" web link for more specifics) directed toward solving a problem in the employment law context. Primary current caselaw (as opposed to someone else's interpretation of it in secondary sources such as your textbook) will be obtained from on-line sources (e.g., Lexis, NexisUni, Findlaw.com, Google Scholar). This legal precedent will used to compare the facts and legal analyses of those cases with your fact situation to predict the outcome and make recommendations to management as to how to handle the situation and improve practices in the future. In this exercise, you will independently investigate, evaluate and resolve your and your organization's potential liability in situations that evolve out of managing the employment relationship on a day-to-day basis.



(1) Introduction to the Employment Relationship and the Regulation of Employment: Employment at Will, Exceptions to Employment at Will (e.g., Implied Contracts, Employee Handbooks, Public Policy, Whistleblowing), and Employment Contracts (e.g., Union, others); Legal Significance of Employee and Employer Status (e.g., Independent Contractor/Outsourcing/Contingent Workforce issues); FLSA “Exempt/Non-exempt” issues; Arbitration, Non-competition, and Trade Secrets Non-Disclosure Agreements [NDAs]

(2) Privacy and related Employee Rights issues, including electronic surveillance; workplace searches; monitoring of telephone, email, and internet usage; drug testing; and regulation of off-work activity.

(3) The Employment Relationship and Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964; 1991; State Fair Employment Practices Acts (e.g., California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act); Disparate Treatment, Adverse Impact, proving and defending discrimination claims in general; Race Discrimination under Title VII.

(4) Legal issues in establishing and managing the employment relationship and related HR processes such as recruitment, affirmative action, selection testing, and performance appraisal

(5) Gender Discrimination under Title VII; Sexual Harassment and Sexual Affinity Orientation Discrimination under Title VII and FEHA 

(6) Religion & National Origin Discrimination and related Immigration issues

(7) Age Discrimination and related retirement benefits issues [e.g., OWBPA; ERISA] 

(8) Disability Discrimination and related issues in Occupational Safety and Health (e.g., OSHA, AIDS, Workplace Violence, Cumulative Trauma Disorders, Ergonomic Standards), Workers Compensation, and the federal Family & Medical Leave Act [FMLA] and state California Family Rights Act [CFRA]