Legal Alerts Archive
Today, the Supreme Court limited employers’ ability to proactively and inexpensively end class action litigation before it takes off. In a 6 to 3 decision, the Court held that a defendant making a complete offer of relief to a plaintiff does not serve to kill the case, and more importantly, the plaintiff can still move forward with class action litigation. Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co.
Effective January 1, 2017, Spokane will join Seattle, Sea-Tac, and Tacoma as cities in Washington requiring employers to provide mandatory employee paid sick and safe leave. On Monday, January 11, 2016, Spokane’s City Council passed Ordinance No. C-35300, which provides the basic structure for a paid sick leave law that will go into effect next year.
Employers started 2016 by claiming another victory in the ongoing battle against medical marijuana in the workplace. On January 7, 2016, a federal court judge in New Mexico dismissed a lawsuit brought by an employee terminated after testing positive for the drug, finding that state law does not require employers to accommodate medical marijuana use (Garcia v. Tractor Supply Company).
A federal appeals court issued a decision on January 5, 2016 that provides valuable lessons to both human resources executives and the businesses they work for. The court upheld the termination of an HR Director after his employer found that he had committed acts of egregious misconduct. Human resources professionals will want to study this case to learn how not to get fired in the new year, and all managers will want to study this case to glean some best practices when it comes to carrying out terminations (Miller v. Metrocare Services, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals).
Apprenticeship programs will soon face expanded antidiscrimination obligations and additional affirmative action requirements under a proposed rule recently published by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). If you sponsor such a program, the time is now to prepare for the inevitable changes to come your way in 2016.
- All Is Well For Employers: Three Things You Need To Know About Court Ruling In Wellness Program Lawsuit1.6.16
A federal judge in Wisconsin just issued a key ruling upholding an employer’s wellness program despite a challenge from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The decision, published on December 31, 2015, is a definite win for those employers across the country that have established or want to establish such programs (EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc., Western District of Wisconsin.)
Sure, you’ve probably made a list of a few resolutions for 2016 already. Maybe you’re going to dust off that gym membership, cut back on junk food, clean out the garage, save more money, or visit some far off locale in the new year. Those are all fine and good for your personal life, but what about resolutions for your professional life? For all of you HR professionals, managers, business owners, in-house attorneys, or other professionals with labor and employment responsibilities, here is a handy list of the top ten resolutions you should resolve to tackle in 2016.
Amidst the uber-media commotion over the Seattle City Council’s December 14 adoption of a law allowing independent contractor rideshare drivers to unionize, many missed that Seattle also passed a significant bill amending Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave law to give it serious enforcement teeth. Among other new provisions, noncompliance now means facing higher civil penalties and a lawsuit from your employees – with the potential for an award of treble damages.
One Title IX issue that has received considerable attention over the past several months is how colleges and universities should assess the student conduct records of students interested in transferring onto campus. Putting a finer point on it: should a finding that a student engaged in sexual misconduct at a prior school effectively bar that student from transferring to another school?
A number of states and local jurisdictions will raise their minimum wage in 2016; here is the latest information on what to expect in the new year.
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in favor of the enforceability of arbitration clauses, once again communicating the court’s enduring preference for the enforcement of arbitration provisions. Although today’s decision did not specifically involve employment law, it should give a boost to those companies that choose to utilize arbitration agreements with their workforces. DirecTV, Inc. v. Imburgia.
A new case on workplace violence in Missouri demonstrates the practical and legal challenges many employers face in today’s environment. The case shows the risk extends beyond violence by employees to violence by nonemployees – particularly in situations involving domestic abuse.
Last year, an estimated 52% of Americans participated in Cyber Monday and spent over $2.6 billion, easily the busiest online shopping day of the year. The numbers are expected to rise even higher for Cyber Monday 2015. No doubt some of your employees (or most of your employees) will be spending part of today (or most of today) hunting for online deals as they realize the holiday shopping season has kicked off and they don’t want to be left behind.
The Portland City Council passed its own version of a “Ban The Box” law right before the Thanksgiving holiday, which will require most businesses operating in the city to adjust their hiring practices. Under the strict new rules, covered Portland businesses will be prohibited from asking prospective job applicants about their criminal history until after a conditional job offer has been made. This new law will be effective July 1, 2016.
As readers of epic fantasy novels and viewers of a certain cable TV-show know all too well, winter is most definitely coming. Your radio is already playing holiday music, the shiny decorations are already out in malls and retail stores, and your coffee shop is serving you drinks in red cups. The signs are obvious, so what should you do now to prepare your business for the most brutal of all the seasons?
A federal judge in California handed employers a recent victory earlier this week, dismissing a class action lawsuit brought by Apple retail store employees who wanted to be paid for the time they spend waiting for their personal bags to be checked at the end of their work shifts (Frlekin v. Apple, Inc.). Although employers won a similar victory at the U.S. Supreme Court this past summer (see our Alert here), this decision was based on California law and was not a foregone conclusion.
California employers and any other company that conducts bag checks will want to pay close attention to this decision, as valuable lessons can be learned to keep you out of legal hot water.
Employee walkouts and protests are likely to occur on a massive scale across the country on Tuesday, November 10, spurred on by the union-supported “Fight for $15” movement. Low-wage workers seeking higher pay and possible union status will be the primary participants, but don’t be fooled into thinking the protests will be limited to fast-food workers. It is expected that these protests will include workers across many sectors.
Employers woke up to a surprise on November 3. That’s when we learned that the Federal Budget Agreement, which was quickly worked out behind closed doors and signed the day before, includes surprise provisions authorizing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to increase penalties for the first time since 1990. To the surprise of almost all observers, the amount of the increase could be as much as 82%.
- Three Things You Need To Know: School Ordered To Allow Girls' Locker Room Access To Transgender Student11.3.15
Should anatomically male transgender high school students who identify as female be allowed to use female locker rooms? In what has been described as a “momentous” decision, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights concluded that a school’s refusal to allow a transgender student to use a female locker room violated Title IX.
In late September of this year, the Colorado Department of Labor (CDOL) announced that “use-it-or-lose-it” vacation policies would no longer be permitted pursuant to its enforcement policy. However, mere weeks later, the CDOL reportedly acknowledged to the Denver Post that the materials it issued on this subject were “not clear.”
- Drinking On The Job? Five Things Employers Need To Know In The Wake Of The USC Football Coach Controversy10.20.15
Football powerhouse USC (University of Southern California) fired its head football coach Steve Sarkisian on October 12, 2015, after it was widely reported that the coach had been under the influence of alcohol during several team events. His termination can teach a lesson to any employer who wonders how it should handle the sometimes-touchy situation involving possible alcohol abuse by an employee. This article presents the five things you need to know in order to navigate this problem.
California employers will soon be subject to a new equal pay law that will create a much stricter standard for gender pay equity. Passed by the state legislature with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 6, 2015, this new law is considered the most aggressive equal pay law in the nation. California employers will want to begin preparing immediately for its impact.
New Jersey’s minimum wage will remain at $8.38 per hour for 2016, the state government recently announced.
This morning, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NCAA is subject to antitrust laws and that its payment rules are too restrictive in attempting to maintain amateurism. However, in what can only be deemed a victory for the NCAA, the court also ruled that antitrust law requires only that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student-athletes, and nothing beyond that (O’Bannon v. NCAA).
This case may very well end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, but for now, the NCAA has won this round in its simmering fight with former student-athletes.
The first Monday in October is the traditional first day of a new U.S. Supreme Court term. As always, the 2015-16 term will have several cases that are of particular interest to the nation’s employers.
Tacoma has now joined Seattle as the third city in Washington State to mandate paid sick leave for employees (certain hospitality and transportation workers employees in SeaTac also receive this benefit). The new law will go into effect February 1, 2016.
“Use-it-or-lose-it” vacation pay policies are no longer permitted under Colorado wage and hour laws, according the Colorado Department of Labor Division of Employment’s current enforcement policy.
California employers will soon be subject to a new equal pay law that will create a much stricter standard for gender pay equity. Passed by the state legislature with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September __, 2015, this new law is considered the most aggressive equal pay law in the nation. California employers will want to begin preparing immediately for its impact.
President Obama used Labor Day 2015 to send a strong signal about his domestic priorities, signing an Executive Order which will require federal contractors and subcontractors to provide their workers up to seven or more days of paid sick leave per year. Employers have some time to come into compliance, as the rule only applies to contracts that are solicited or awarded starting on January 1, 2017.
On Thursday, September 3, 2015, a federal judge overturned the NFL’s four-game suspension imposed on star quarterback Tom Brady, ruling that the league couldn’t discipline him for allegedly deflating footballs in order to make them easier to throw. Employers can learn a few valuable lessons from this decision, right in time for the new football season about to kick off.
In a 3-2 decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced yesterday a broad new standard for determining whether two businesses are “joint employers” for purposes of collective bargaining. Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. Under this new standard, joint employment now exists even where one company only has the right to exert indirect or potential control over the terms and conditions of another company’s employees.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that an ERISA plan can’t shorten the deadline for filing a legal action challenging a denial of benefits unless the participant receives written communication of the plan’s altered deadline. Mirza v. Insurance Administrator of America, Inc.
In a narrow 5-4 decision on August 20, 2015, the Washington Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and applied the City of SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage law to all workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently rolled out a pilot program to electronically notify employers of new Charges filed against them. Instead of mailing the Notice of Charge of Discrimination form through conventional means, the EEOC is rolling out a new system that will notify an employer of a pending charge and allow an employer to respond to the Charge through an online portal.
Earlier today, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) unanimously decided that college football players at Northwestern University cannot comprise an appropriate bargaining unit, squelching their attempt to form the first-ever union comprised of collegiate athletes. The decision by the five-member panel puts to bed this organizing effort – for now.
The combination of a recent unfavorable Supreme Court decision along with dramatically increased federal funding for fair housing enforcement could spell bad news. Businesses that operate in the housing industry and those businesses that provide financing and insurance coverage for the industry should be prepared for a new wave of legal challenges on the horizon.
With some limited exceptions, Washington State wage and hour rules require that workers receive a paid 10 minute rest break for every four hours worked. The Washington Supreme Court has now expanded employer obligations in this regard by ruling that employers must pay piece rate workers additional compensation for the required rest periods. The July 16, 2015 decision in Demetrio v. Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. states that the rest break time cannot be folded into the piece rate, and instead must be paid separately. While this case arose in the agricultural-worker context, its key holding likely applies to all industries that use piece rate compensation plans – plans under which an employee’s pay is based on the number of “pieces” he or she generates or completes.
- Employees Requesting Accommodation Are Now Protected7.21.15
On July 16, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law AB 987, amending the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to reflect what many already believed to be the law: employers and other covered entities cannot retaliate against employees or other persons who request a religious accommodation or an accommodation for a disability. Effective on January 1, 2016, AB 987 establishes that requesting such an accommodation is a protected activity under the FEHA, regardless of whether the accommodation is granted.
California’s paid sick leave law went into effect on July 1, 2015, but soon found itself in the emergency room with many unpleasant side effects. On July 13, Governor Brown signed AB 304 into law, which fixes many of the defects and ambiguities in the original law (AB 1522) that confounded employers as they tried to enact paid sick leave policies by July 1.
The anxiously awaited proposed changes in regulations defining the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s Section 13(a)(1) executive, administrative, professional, outside-sales, and derivative exemptions have been published by the U.S. Labor Department for public consideration and comment.
As has become its custom, the Supreme Court left one of its most high-profile decisions for the end of its term, holding today by a 5-4 vote that the Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. As a result, state bans against same-sex marriage are no longer permissible and all states are required to recognize same-sex marriages that take place in other states. Employers should update their FMLA policies and benefit plans to provide the same coverages for same-sex married couples as for other married couples. Obergefell v. Hodges.
Today, by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) encompasses claims of disparate-impact discrimination. This decision, which marks the first time that the Supreme Court addressed this issue, ensures a broad reading of the FHA and makes it easier for aggrieved parties to bring housing bias claims. It also reaffirms the principle that disparate-impact claims are alive and well in employment discrimination contexts. Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.
Today, in an anxiously awaited opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court preserved key provisions of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), maintaining insurance subsidies despite a stiff challenge from opponents. By a 6 to 3 vote, the Court ruled that health insurance subsidies are available to all qualifying individuals buying coverage in the public exchanges regardless of whether the exchange is established by a state or run by the federal government.
On June 19, 2015, the Massachusetts Attorney General published the final regulations concerning the new Earned Sick Time (“EST”) law that will go into effect on July 1, 2015. These final regulations differ somewhat from the draft regulations submitted in April and provide clarification and additional detail to aid with implementation.
On June 22, 2015, Oregon became the fourth state to enact a statewide mandatory paid sick leave law, following California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The bill, signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, requires Oregon employers to provide up to 40 hours of sick leave to employees per year beginning January 1, 2016, and in most cases that leave time must be paid.
Regulations interpreting the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) become effective for higher education institutions on July 1, 2015. Generally speaking, these regulations contain new reporting, policy, and training requirements for colleges and universities. Here is a brief summary of some of the most important new provisions.
On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court held in a unanimous decision that employers are still free to prohibit employee marijuana use in their workforces, and can still discipline and terminate employees who test positive for the drug, despite state law permitting its recreational and medicinal use. In so doing, the Court issued an employer-friendly opinion that will have wide-ranging implications for all Colorado employers. Coats v. Dish Network.
The Texas Legislature took aim this session at expanding Second Amendment rights by passing “campus carry” and “open carry” bills, which have sparked controversy both in the workplace and at public colleges and universities. The bills were signed into law today by Gov. Abbott, and have raised questions for employers and higher educational institutions. The new laws will not go into effect immediately, allowing time to get up to speed and get into compliance with the new laws.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Revises "Safe Harbor" Provision to Address Part-Time Employees and Publishes Notice Poster6.11.15
On June 10, 2015, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office published a revised Safe Harbor provision concerning the Earned Sick Time Law that made significant changes to the Safe Harbor provision previously issued on May 18 by clarifying the 2015 requirements for part-time employees. The Attorney General also issued the Notice of Employee Rights that must be posted by employers.