Employer Law Report

Changes to the H-1B program under the Trump Administration?

Various news sources have been reporting on certain changes that may be coming to the H-1B program under the new Trump administration.

First, there is a draft copy of an Executive Order titled, “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs.” The draft contains several “orders” directing governmental agencies to propose and develop regulations pertaining to foreign nationals working in the United States. The draft that is currently available does not contain any concrete ideas as to the nature of any proposed or amended regulations. Furthermore, if this Executive Order were to be signed, it would take months for the affected agencies to review, propose and develop such regulations.

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President Trump’s immigration Executive Orders

President Trump issued three Executive Orders during the first week of his administration to fulfill his campaign promises. During the campaign, President Trump promised to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico and to impose a ban on the admission of Muslims until the new Administration could impose “extreme vetting” of all non-citizens admitted to the United States. A third Executive Order seeks to withdraw federal funding for sanctuary cities. The implementation of these Orders has been uneven, instilling fear and uncertainty among travelers, their employers and families, leading to numerous demonstrations in cities and at airports throughout the country.

While the three orders addressed different aspects of immigration, the most impactful order was the third one signed and immediately implemented on the late afternoon of Jan. 27, 2017. This order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” suspended immediately the admission of all refugees for 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and it prohibited the admission of all citizens from seven designated countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) with both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for 60 days. Certain diplomatic visa holders were exempted from the Executive Order. While the Order provided for individual exemptions on a case by case basis, in the national interest, the standards and the procedures to apply for this exemption were not identified in the Order. Continue Reading

EEOC issues proposed guidance on harassment

Following the report of a 16-member task force led by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Commissioners Chai Feldblum (D) and Victoria Lipnic (R) in 2016, last week the EEOC issued proposed guidance for public comment on or before Feb. 9.

In fiscal 2015, the EEOC received 27, 893 private-sector charges alleging harassment, representing more than 31 percent of all charges filed with the EEOC. As Commissioner Lipnic commented, harassment charges “remain a far too dominant part” of the agency’s workload.

The guidance is intended to assist not only EEOC employees, but employers and employees generally to understand the extent of the problem and ways in which harassment can be prevented and addressed. And it pulls that together in one document, superseding five existing EEOC enforcement documents. Continue Reading

Annie get your gun: Expanded rights for Ohio gun owners

Governor Kasich has signed Senate Bill 199, which prohibits employers from creating or enforcing any policy that would limit an employee with a concealed carry license from storing a firearm in the employee’s locked vehicle while on the employer’s premises. The new law, found at O.R.C. 2923.1210 states:

A business entity, property owner, or public or private employer may not establish, maintain, or enforce a policy or rule that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting a person who has been issued a valid concealed handgun license from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition when both of the following conditions are met:

(1) Each firearm and all of the ammunition remains inside the person’s privately owned motor vehicle while the person is physically present inside the motor vehicle, or each firearm and all of the ammunition is locked within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or container within or on the person’s privately owned motor vehicle;

(2) The vehicle is in a location where it is otherwise permitted to be.

Thus, so long as an employee keeps his or her firearm and ammunition in a locked compartment of the vehicle while the employee is away from the vehicle, employers may not take any action against the employee for bringing the firearm or ammunition on the employer’s property. The law takes effect on March 19, 2017. Continue Reading

Employer alert: Revised I-9 Form required beginning Jan. 22, 2017

USCIS recently released a revised version of Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification document. Since November 1986, all U.S. employers have been required to complete and retain the I-9 for all new employees. Employers may continue using the I-9 form dated March 8, 2013 until Jan. 22, 2017, when the use of the revised form becomes mandatory. It remains a 3 page form, but there are minor revisions, including a separate supplemental page for a preparer/translator and an “additional information” box on page 2, but there is also a new user-friendly online PDF “smart” version of the form available at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf.

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Eleventh Circuit rejects EEOC position regarding reassignment as a reasonable accommodation

Rejecting the EEOC’s position that an employer must reassign a qualified individual with a disability to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation so long as the individual was minimally qualified for the position, the 11th Circuit on Dec. 7, 2016 held that even disabled workers in need of a reasonable accommodation must compete with other qualified employees for the vacancy. In EEOC v. St. Joseph’s Hosp., Inc., the plaintiff was a nurse who needed a cane for mobility. Because the cane posed a safety hazard in the psychiatric ward where she worked, she was given the opportunity to apply for other jobs, but was not given any preference due to her disability. When she did not obtain any other position at the hospital, she was terminated and the EEOC brought suit on her behalf.

After a jury trial resulted in a defense verdict, the trial court entered an injunction order requiring the hospital to mediate, which failed to result in reinstatement. On appeal, the 11th Circuit expressly addressed the question, “Does the ADA mandate noncompetitive reassignment?” The court concluded that the ADA does not require such preferential treatment of the disabled. In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on the statutory language that includes “reassignment to a vacant position” as part of a non-exhaustive list of items that the term reasonable accommodation “may include.” According to the court, the use of the word “may” implies that reassignment will be reasonable in some circumstances but not others. Continue Reading

New CDL rule offers smoother transition to civilian careers for veterans and opportunity to address driver shortage in transportation industry

The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates that the for-hire trucking industry faced a driver shortage of nearly 48,000 drivers at the close of 2015. The effects of this shortage can be felt across nearly every sector of the U.S. economy with roughly 70 percent of all freight moving by truck. Industry advocates have noted that even a modest improvement in the economy could increase freight volumes and further exacerbate the shortage. Continue Reading

The door may be open for county or municipal government “right-to-work” laws in Ohio

Right-to-work laws limit the “union security” a union can achieve in a collective bargaining agreement with an employer. In states with no right-to-work law, unions can bargain for contract provisions requiring that, as a condition of continued employment, employees must either join the union or at least pay monthly fees to the union for its collective bargaining efforts. In states that have right-to-work laws, that sort of union security provision is illegal. There are 26 states with right-to-work laws currently. Ohio does not have a right-to-work law. Continue Reading

OSHA retaliation rules are going forward

On Monday, a federal judge in Texas refused to issue an injunction stopping OSHA from enforcing certain aspects of controversial “non-retaliation” rules. We reported on the proposed OSHA rules on Oct. 27, 2016. Briefly, the most controversial aspects of the rule are on two points:

  1. The rule would effectively prohibit incentive programs under which bonuses or other rewards are conditioned, at least in part, on the frequency of reported injuries. OSHA says that programs like that are a disincentive to reporting injuries.
  2. OSHA takes the position that drug testing programs that call for drug or alcohol testing automatically after an accident are improper. Instead, OSHA says that to be proper post-accident drug testing must be limited to circumstances where the facts at least suggest the possibility that alcohol or drug abuse played a part.

These two provisions had employers scrambling to review incentive and drug testing programs, and evaluating whether to make changes. Then a number of business interest groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas seeking an injunction to stop these aspects of the rule form being enforced. Continue Reading

EEOC issues new guidance on national origin discrimination

On Nov. 21, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its new and updated Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination, replacing its 2002 guidance on the subject.

In the guidance, the EEOC defines national origin discrimination as “discrimination because an individual (or his or her ancestors) is from a certain place or has the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group.” This includes discrimination because of an individual’s “place of origin” such as a country, a former country (e.g., Yugoslavia) or a geographic region closely associated with a particular national origin group (e.g., Kurdistan). Further, a “national origin” or “ethnic” group is a “group of people sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, race and or other social characteristics,” such as “Hispanics, Arabs or Roma.”

Under the guidance, discrimination includes treating persons less favorably because they do not belong to a particular ethnic group, as well as because they do. Employees are also protected from discrimination because they associate with someone of a particular national origin (e.g., by marriage). The EEOC also takes the position that national origin discrimination can be based on an individual’s “perceived” status as a member of an ethnic group. However, as we explained in a recent blog based on the Longoria decision in the Northern District of Ohio federal court, few courts (including none in Ohio) have recognized such a theory of liability. Continue Reading

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