Labor and employment attorneys have been in the spotlight since the Sept. 11 attacks as they try to advise companies on how to handle sweeping changes in the workplace over the next few months.

At first it was the immediate concerns, like complying with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, which provides enlisted servicemen the right to return to their place of employment with the same promotions and positions as their colleagues who did not go into service.

"Employers always had this one sentence in their handbook," said Stacey James, an associate attorney in the labor and employment practice group at L.A.-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. "Most employers don't know the ins and outs."

Some employment attorneys have had their hands full with other employer concerns some of which are a little extreme.

Paul Grossman, an employment partner at Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP in Los Angeles, said he's had an unusual number of clients call him on cases of potential workplace violence.

He's talked to a supervisor who is afraid to come to work because a disgruntled employee has a gun collection.

"Employers are taking every rumor seriously," said Grossman, who is also general counsel of the California Employment Law Council. "They're more willing to accept the fact that people do irrational things."

On another front, attorneys who normally work on sexual and racial discrimination cases are now dealing with harassment issues based on religion and national origin, particularly those of Islamic beliefs or Arabic descent.

And some employers are coming up with unusual ways to remedy discrimination like through dress codes.

"Where Arab-Americans will distinguish themselves and have a right under their religious freedom to dress in clothing that might distinguish someone as Arabic, some employers I would imagine would encourage employees not to spotlight those differences," said Jim Kuns, a consultant with the Employers Group.

Singing the Blues

HOB Entertainment Inc., the Hollywood parent company that owns the House of Blues chain, lost a lawsuit against the widow of Blues Brothers actor John Belushi.

The restaurant and concert chain sued Judith Belushi Pisano after she claimed royalties were owed her according to a licensing contract signed more than 10 years ago.

Pisano co-founded House of Blues with Dan Aykroyd.

Pisano said she was owed at least $794,182 in royalty fees, according to a motion she filed to stop the lawsuit.

HOB Entertainment sued her after her royalty claims forced the company into arbitration and disrupted a trademark contract negotiation with Sony Signatures Inc. An L.A. federal judge ruled against HOB's lawsuit, bumping the dispute back into arbitration.

Staff Reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at 323-549-5225 ext. 225 or at

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