Employer Law Report

OSHA proposes delay to electronic injury reporting requirement and no mechanism in place on OSHA’s website for electronic reporting compliance

The compliance deadline for Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) electronic injury and illness reporting rule has come and gone, and there is no mechanism in place for employers to electronically report work-related injuries and illnesses. On June 27, 2017, OSHA proposed moving the July 1, 2017 mandatory compliance deadline to Dec. 1, 2017. The window for public comment on the proposed delay closed on July 13th. At present, the “proposed delay” remains a “proposal,” but, even so, OSHA does not yet have the mechanism in place for compliance with the electronic reporting requirement.

For many years, OSHA required employers with 10 or more employees to keep a log of employees’ work-related injuries and illnesses, but most employers were not required to routinely submit them to OSHA. Only certain high-risk industries, such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture, were required to submit their records to OSHA by mail. In 2013, OSHA decided to move to an electronic reporting system and increase the number of employers required to submit their illness and injury logs to OSHA. Had the rule taken effect, establishments with 250 or more employees would have been required to submit their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017. These same employers would have been required to submit all of their 2017 forms (300A, 300 and 301) by July 1, 2018. Smaller employers with 20-249 employees in moderate-risk industries, such as waste collection, residential care facilities and retail sales, would have been required to submit only the 300A on an annual basis beginning on July 1, 2017.

Continue Reading

Full Eighth Circuit upholds employee terminations in Jimmy John’s paid sick leave dispute

In an en banc decision, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned an earlier panel decision, which we reported on here, in MikLin Enterprises Inc. v. NLRB, in which the panel had upheld the NLRB’s finding that a Jimmy John’s franchisee had violated the rights of its employees under the National Labor Relations Act, when it fired them for hanging posters at their shops that suggested that the customers could be eating sandwiches that were made by sick employees in an effort to pressure the franchisee to adopt a paid sick leave policy.

In the en banc decision, the full 8th Circuit refused to enforce the NLRB’s unfair labor practice finding and held that an employer may fire an employee for “making a sharp, public, disparaging attack upon the quality of the company’s product and its business policies, in a manner reasonably calculated to harm the company’s reputation and reduce its income.” The court emphasized that “allegations that a food industry employer is selling unhealthy food are likely to have a devastating impact on its business” and that the fired MikLin employees made a conscious decision maximize this effect by choosing to launch their attack during flu season. The court added:

“By targeting the food product itself, employees disparaged MikLin in a manner likely to outlive, and also unnecessary to aid, the labor dispute. Even if MikLin granted paid sick leave, the image of contaminated sandwiches made by employees who chose to work while sick was not one that would easily dissipate.”

Continue Reading

The return of Department of Labor Opinion Letters

On June 27, 2017 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced it would reinstate the practice of issuing Opinion Letters. The Wage and Hour Division will once again use Opinion Letters to provide guidance to employers and employees on various topics.

Under the Obama Administration, the DOL stopped issuing Opinion Letters in favor of the more broad “Administrator Interpretations.” Between 2010 and 2016, the DOL only published 11 Administrator Interpretations. Two of these 11 Interpretations were recently rescinded, as we previously reported. Continue Reading

Florida federal judge holds that supermarket chain’s website must be accessible to disabled

In the first trial on the merits involving website accessibility, a federal judge in Florida ruled on June 13, 2017, after a two-day bench trial, that supermarket chain Winn-Dixie violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to make its website accessible. Juan Carlos Gil, a blind Florida man who attempted to use Winn-Dixie’s website to locate Winn-Dixie store locations, fill and refill prescriptions, and obtain store coupons, sued Winn-Dixie alleging that he was unable to access these services because the website was not integrated with his screen reader technology. Screen reader technologies such as JAWS read the content of websites to blind users and assist them through voice prompts in navigating websites.

ADA Title III background

 ADA Title III requires that places of public accommodation provide “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” Twelve categories of public accommodations are established in the ADA, 42 USC § 12181(7), and include retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, among other categories of businesses open to and serving the public. Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit decision in EEOC v. AutoZone provides road map to sexual harassment defense

In a decision issued on June 9, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee) affirmed the dismissal of sexual harassment claims brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of three female AutoZone employees. In its decision, the Court reaffirmed some important principles.

The case involved a store manager who was transferred into an AutoZone store in Cordova, Tennessee. Shortly after arriving, he began to make lewd and obscene sexual comments and propositions to one female employee in particular and also made sexual comments to two other female employees as well. Under AutoZone’s system, the store manager did not have the authority to fire, promote, reassign and take tangible employment actions with respect to store employees (even though he could make some hires). Those responsibilities were reserved for the district manager (who visited the store at least once a week). Continue Reading

Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposes a merger of the EEOC and the OFCCP, prompting concerns over whether the two agencies can effectively operate as one

The Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget includes a merger of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the budget is approved, the OFCCP, which has jurisdiction over federal contractors, would merge into the EEOC, which has jurisdiction over private and public employers; forming a combined super equal employment opportunity enforcement agency.

Background of the two agencies

The OFCCP enforces Executive Order 11246, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503), which together prohibit workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation on the basis of sex, race, national origin, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and covered veteran status for covered federal contractors and subcontractors. Affirmative action is required on the basis of sex, race, national origin, disability, and covered veteran status in all employment decisions. The OFCCP takes a more proactive approach when enforcing nondiscrimination, requiring federal contractors to draft affirmative action plans that provide equal employment opportunities. The OFCCP audits federal contractors and subcontractors and can impose penalties and citations through the administrative process. Once OFCCP finds areas of noncompliance, it engages in conciliation with the contractor.

Continue Reading

Department of Labor rescinds recent joint employer guidance

On June 7, 2017 the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, announced that the US Department of Labor (DOL) was withdrawing its 2015 and 2016 guidance on joint employment and independent contractors. The Obama-era guidance expanded how joint employment was defined to include employers that have indirect or potential control over the terms and conditions of employment, as we previously reported. By moving away from this guidance, the DOL returns to the previous direct control standard. The move also rescinds an Interpretation Letter stating the DOL would broadly define “employee” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and that most workers would be considered “employees” for purposes of that Act, previously reported in 2015. The press release issued by the DOL made clear that the withdrawal of the 2015 and 2016 guidance does not change legal obligations for employers under the FLSA and that the agency would continue to “fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction.”

While employers may have more breathing room under the FLSA, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) still applies the expanded joint employer definition. The NLRB’s new joint employer standard is currently being appealed in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Regardless of the outcome at this level, the decision will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Until there is a final decision as to the expanded joint employer definition, employers should be aware that the NLRB will continue to enforce the broadened standard.

 

Some clarity: The Supreme Court of Ohio definitively decides procedure for abatement of substantial aggravation conditions

In its recent decision, Clendenin v. Girl Scouts of W. Ohio, the Supreme Court of Ohio definitively decided that an Industrial Commission order determining that a pre-existing condition that was substantially aggravated by a work-related incident has returned to the pre-injury level is an issue that may not be appealed to a court of common pleas.

While working for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, Audrey Clendenin (Clendenin) was injured on Oct. 21, 2008. Her claim was recognized for multiple right shoulder conditions as well as substantial aggravation of pre-existing dermatomyositis, a rare inflammatory disease. In March 2013, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) filed a motion to abate the claim for the substantial aggravation condition. The Industrial Commission granted the motion, finding that compensation and medical benefits were no longer to be paid in the claim for the allowed substantial aggravation condition.

Continue Reading

“Can you hear me now?” NLRB judge calls on Verizon to remove restrictive handbook policies

Employers beware…it may be time yet again to review your handbooks to make sure that your policies do not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge recently ordered several Verizon Wireless stores to strike certain employee handbook policies.  In all, the decision means Verizon Wireless must strike 10 employee handbook policies that violated the NLRA because they could be read to chill employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity.

Section 7 of the NLRA grants employees the right to engage in concerted activity for the purpose of mutual aid and protection. Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.

Continue Reading

FedEx employee terminated for using discount to sell on eBay loses USERRA termination challenge but can seek higher pension benefits

Kenneth Savage was terminated by FedEx about a month after a military leave and after complaining about the calculation of his pension benefits due to his military service. That proximity was not enough to establish a discrimination or retaliation claim under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Savage’s case was remanded because FedEx may have miscalculated his pension benefits by failing to account for potential overtime hours he might have worked during periods of military service.

Background

Kenneth Savage was employed by FedEx for eleven years as an aviation mechanic. During that same time, he served as an officer in the Navy Reserve. Throughout his employment, FedEx allowed Savage leave for military duties and permitted him to complete military computer training while at work. In 2012, Savage began complaining about the calculation of his pension benefits as it related to breaks in service for military leave.

Continue Reading

LexBlog