The U.S. Department of Labor released its highly anticipated proposed rule on the Fair Labor Standards Act white-collar overtime exemptions today, along with a fact sheet summarizing the proposed rule. The proposed rule more than doubles the salary requirement to qualify for the executive, administrative, professional, and computer employee exemptions from the current level of $455 per week to an amount that is expected to be $970 per week by the first quarter of 2016, and significantly increases the salary threshold to qualify for the “highly compensated employee” exemption. The proposed rule also includes a procedure to automatically raise the minimum salary levels to qualify for the white-collar exemptions from year to year without further rulemaking. The USDOL estimates that nearly five million employees who are currently classified as exempt will immediately become eligible for overtime pay if the proposed rule is adopted as the final rule. Continue Reading
The New York State Department of Labor (“NYSDOL”) recently proposed new regulations governing the payment of employee wages via payroll debit cards – a growing practice among employers. These draft regulations, which are not yet final or effective, also set forth new requirements governing the payment of wages by direct deposit. Continue Reading
On June 10, 2015, the New York City Council passed the Fair Chance Act, which amends the New York City Human Rights Law to prohibit most employers in New York City from making any inquiries about an applicant’s pending arrest or criminal conviction record until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. The law is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and will become effective 120 days after it is signed. Continue Reading
On June 1, 2015, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers. OSHA stated that the “core principle” of the Guide is as follows: “All employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.” The Guide serves as an extension to OSHA’s longstanding rule that, as a matter of health and safety, all employees must be provided a sanitary toilet facility in order to avoid “the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them.” Continue Reading
On June 1, the Supreme Court issued an 8-1 decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship, even if the applicant has not actually informed the prospective employer of the need for a religious accommodation. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granting summary judgment in favor of Abercrombie, and remanded the case back to the Tenth Circuit for further consideration. Continue Reading
On April 20, 2015, the Acting Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) Whistleblower Protection Programs issued a memorandum to all Regional Administrators clarifying the standard which should be applied to whistleblower claims at the agency investigatory stage. The guidance was issued because there was some concern that the standards contained in OSHA’s Whistleblower Investigations Manual were “ambiguous.” The clarified standard is that “after evaluating all of the evidence provided by the employer and the claimant, OSHA must believe that a reasonable judge could rule in favor of the complainant.”
A few points about the clarification are noteworthy. First, the agency made it clear that “the evidence does not need to establish conclusively that a violation did occur.” Second, “a reasonable cause finding does not necessarily require as much evidence as would be required at trial.” Finally, the memorandum does note that “although OSHA will need to make some credibility determinations to evaluate whether a reasonable judge could find in the complainant’s favor, OSHA does not necessarily need to resolve all possible conflicts in the evidence or make conclusive credibility determinations.”
While it is too early to tell whether the newly clarified standard will result in more (or less) reasonable cause determinations, employers need to take the guidance into consideration when they are involved in any future whistleblower investigation.
In follow-up to our April 21 post, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law on May 6, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of “consumer credit history.” The amendment makes it an “unlawful discriminatory practice” for an employer to use an applicant’s or employee’s consumer credit history when making hiring and other employment decisions, and to otherwise discriminate against an applicant or employee on the basis of his or her consumer credit history. The law goes into effect on September 3, 2015, and applies to most private sector employers in New York City. Continue Reading
On April 20, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a proposed rule to amend the regulations and interpretive guidance implementing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as it relates to employer wellness programs. The EEOC also issued a Fact Sheet for Small Business and a Q&A regarding the proposed rule.
By way of background, Title I of the ADA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability. This non-discrimination provision applies to compensation and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment, including fringe benefits, whether or not administered by the employer. It also limits the medical information that employers may obtain from employees and applicants. The ADA, however, does permit employers to conduct medical examinations and inquiries, including voluntary medical histories, when it is part of a voluntary employee health program. The EEOC’s proposed rule is intended to provide guidance to employers on the extent to which the ADA permits employers to offer incentives to employees to promote participation in wellness programs that are employee health programs. Continue Reading
Conducting workplace investigations is one of the most challenging and most important duties that Human Resource professionals must take on. With the slew of existing laws, how Human Resource professionals respond to complaints about harassment or other misconduct can have huge legal and practical implications for the employer. Unfortunately, Einstein’s definition of insanity — doing things the same way and expecting a different result — all too often is at play when it comes to conducting effective investigations. Unfortunately, employers make the same mistakes time and again, exposing themselves to potential legal liability. These common mistakes often result in lawsuits being filed by the complaining employee or by the employee who is fired or disciplined. Here is a list of 10 common mistakes Human Resource professionals should avoid to minimize unnecessary legal exposure. Continue Reading
On April 16, 2015, the New York City Council overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law that would bar most city employers from using credit checks as part of their hiring process. Supporters of the bill argue that in most cases, an applicant’s consumer credit history has no direct correlation to their job performance, and an employer’s use of credit checks in hiring could have an adverse impact on minority job applicants, who are more likely to have poor credit histories. Continue Reading