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NFL is tackling off-duty conduct to reduce COVID-19 spread. Can your business, too?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses across the country, employers are faced with the difficult question of how to keep their workplaces safe. Some employers are attempting to restrict off-duty employee conduct to limit high-risk behavior.

The National Football League (NFL) is one employer taking steps to regulate off-duty conduct to reduce risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL has apparently reached an agreement with the players’ association that restricts the players’ off-duty conduct in some surprising ways. Players are prohibited from attending indoor night clubs, concerts, and even indoor religious services that allow attendance above 25 …

Employer responses to union organizing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic

It is difficult to imagine another time when uncertainty and concern in the workplace have been at a higher level. The COVID-19 pandemic has led many states to issue stay-at-home orders, mandating that non-essential businesses shutter and implement telework and essential businesses operate under restrictions. As states “reopen” essential and non-essential businesses, employees will be called back to workplaces different than the ones from which they were furloughed or laid off. There will be new rules and restrictions, new working conditions and, in some places, a new concern about workforce reductions for economic reasons. Workers’ concerns about job security, safety …

Department of Labor’s Q&A page provides new information about enforcement of Families First Coronavirus Response Act

As the April 1, 2020 effective date for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act quickly approaches, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) continues to release guidance via a Q&A page through which the DOL illustrates how it will enforce the Act.

Some of this guidance has been discussed in earlier posts which you can find here and here. In addition, the DOL has provided the following new information.…

COVID-19 and OSHA: Commonly asked questions

Below are answers to three common questions about COVID-19 and employer obligations under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA):

Is there any OSHA standard or regulation that covers workplace exposure to COVID-19?

No. OSHA standard applies specifically to workplace exposure to COVID-19. However, the OSHA General Duty Clause requires all employers to provide a workplace free from known hazards. That includes known exposure to infectious diseases. So, OSHA does expect employers to take reasonable measures to protect workers from workplace exposure to COVID-19, including taking reasonable hygiene and sanitation measures and taking reasonable precautions in the event it …

Ohio expands unemployment compensation protections in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Ohio Governor Michael DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently announced that the state has expanded unemployment compensation benefits to workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19. By way of background, Ohio’s unemployment insurance system provides 50 percent of a qualifying worker’s former average weekly pay, subject to caps based on the number of dependents in the household.

Governor DeWine has issued an executive order that expands unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. Moreover, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has published a series of questions and answers related to the order. Here are the highlights:…

NLRB shift on two important issues for union companies

Continuing a trend towards reversal of case precedent, the NLRB has issued two decisions important to companies with union contracts. In Valley Hospital Medical Center, the Board considered whether an employer has the right to stop making dues deductions from employee paychecks after a collective bargaining agreement with the union expires. Dues deductions in collective bargaining agreements are common. Unions bargain aggressively for them because these provisions require the employer to automatically deduct union dues from employee paychecks and submit them directly to the union.…

HR 6201 could provide employees with COVID-19 relief while changing the landscape of labor and employment law for employers

On Saturday, March 14 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), by a bipartisan vote of 363-40. The bill now proceeds to the Senate, which is currently on recess but will return this week. The bill could be voted on as early as today. President Trump has signaled his approval for the bill, so it is likely to pass Congress in some form or fashion. The bill will take effect fifteen days after enactment. It will remain in effect until it expires under a sunset provision on December 31, 2020.…

Active NLRB is reversing many trends; union and non-union companies need to be aware

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) governs certain rights of workers in union and non-union workplaces. NLRB cases impact such things as employee rights to complain about working conditions on behalf of oneself and others and the right to communicate to co-workers about interest in unionization. As a result, trends in NLRB decisions are important to all companies, union and non-union.…

The new NLRB joint-employer rule

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a final rule governing joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act. This rule, published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2020, will take effect in late April 2020.

To be a joint employer under the final rule, a business must possess and exercise substantial direct and immediate control over one or more essential terms and conditions of employment of another employer’s employees.…

Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act creates federal “Ban the Box” law for federal contractors

Cropped shot of a man and woman completing paperwork together at a deskEffective Dec. 20, 2021, the federal Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act will prohibit federal contractors from inquiring-either directly or through a background screening process-into an applicant’s criminal background until after the contractor extends a conditional job offer to the applicant. The law will only impact those applicants seeking employment in positions related to “work under” the federal contract.

Furthermore, the law will not prohibit pre-offer criminal background inquiries related to contracts where criminal background checks are otherwise required by law, where the contract requires an individual hired to work under the contract to access classified information or to …

A holly jolly holiday party: Keeping this year’s gathering fun and safe for all

A diverse group of coworkers celebrate with an office holiday partyTo borrow a line from a well-known Andy Williams song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The months of November through January are known for office holiday parties. All of this fun brings an increased risk of liability for employers, and for that reason it is important to be proactive and create a plan to avoid risks so that your company is not left dealing with any headaches in the New Year.

Decking the halls: Employment law considerations for planning your holiday party

A number of religious groups celebrate significant holidays during the month of December. Federal and …

NLRB invites businesses to provide feedback on when an employee’s offensive comments should lose the protection of federal labor law

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) invited interested parties to submit feedback about when an employee’s offensive or inappropriate workplace comments should lose the protection of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Specifically, the NLRB is inviting employers and other parties to submit briefing about whether it should reconsider its standards for determining whether Section 7 of the NLRA protects employees who make “profane outbursts and offensive statements of a racial or sexual nature…during the course of otherwise protected activity.” By way of background, Section 7 of the NLRA gives employees the right to engage in “concerted activities …

DOL increases salary threshold for white collar exemptions to $35,568

After more than 15 years, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is updating the overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA entitles most employees to minimum wage and overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. However, employees who meet the salary threshold and the relevant duties test qualify for the executive, administrative, professional exemption (white collar exemption), and are not entitled to overtime pay. On Sept.24, 2019, the DOL issued a news release announcing its final rule regarding overtime regulations.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the new salary threshold for white collar exemptions …

NLRB sides with Kroger’s action to remove union representatives from company property

On Sept. 6, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) granted a significant win to employers, ruling that businesses can lawfully limit the rights of nonemployee union supporters to access company property that is otherwise open to the public. In a 3-1 decision, the Board ruled that Kroger did not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it removed nonemployee union supporters from the parking lot of a Kroger store. The decision overruled a 2016 ruling by an NLRB administrative judge that Kroger had illegally barred two nonemployee representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union from petitioning …

Misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” does not violate NLRA

The decision to classify a worker as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee, carries significant legal implications. Misclassifying employees as independent contractors can result in employer liability for unpaid payroll taxes, unpaid unemployment and workers’ compensation premiums, and responsibility for failure to provide the various rights afforded under employment laws to employees but not to independent contractors. A careful approach, including legal advice, is always wise in evaluating whether a worker can properly be classified as an independent contractor. However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken one element of risk out of the decision.

In a …

Kentucky’s new pregnancy accommodation law goes into effect

Kentucky recently enacted the Pregnant Workers Act, which amends the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to provide accommodations to pregnant and lactating employees. The law goes into effect on June 27, 2019. Below are the important implications of the Pregnant Workers Act, which will affect employers that operate or maintain business locations in Kentucky.

Who does the law cover?

Covered employers are those that employ 15 or more persons during 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Employees limited by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, including lactation, are eligible for reasonable accommodations under this …

Multi-state employers: Be prepared for July 1 minimum wage increases

On July 1, 2019, the minimum wage will increase in several locations throughout the country. While the federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 per hour since July 2009, many states, cities and counties have adopted their own minimum wage laws which provide for a higher rate. In areas where minimum wage laws overlap, employees are entitled to receive the highest applicable rate.

The following minimum wage increases will become effective July 1, 2019:

 

California

  • Alameda, California: $13.50 per hour
  • Berkeley, California: $15.59 per hour
  • Emeryville, California: $16.30 per hour for all businesses (the rate is no longer differentiated by

United States Supreme Court makes it easier to get discrimination cases into court

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that Title VII’s administrative exhaustion requirement – whereby an employee must file a claim with the EEOC prior to filing a lawsuit – is not a jurisdictional rule. This means that the employee’s failure to file a charge does not automatically mean the case cannot go to court. Instead, the employer must raise the “failure to file” issue as an affirmative defense and do so in a timely fashion. The case is Fort Bend County v. Davis.

Facts

Lois Davis filed a charge against her employer, Fort Bend County, with the Texas Workforce …

Supreme Court to determine if Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender identity

This fall the Supreme Court will hear the case of EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, in which it will decide whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The case is on appeal from a 2018 decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. In Harris Funeral Homes, a former employee of a funeral home was terminated after she transitioned from male to female. The Sixth Circuit ruled that, while transgender status is not specifically protected under Title VII, alleged discrimination based on

Standard for religious accommodation requests may get Supreme Court review

Requests for religious accommodations at work can involve a wide range of issues including schedule changes, relief from weekend or overtime work, breaks to accommodate prayer or other religious practices, dress code accommodations and even tattoos. Religious accommodations must be granted if they are “reasonable.” Currently employers have a pretty low hurdle to cross when arguing that a requested accommodation is not reasonable. The U.S. Supreme Court is sending signals that hurdle may become higher.

“Undue burden”

In religious accommodation cases, just like disability accommodation cases, to show that a requested accommodation is unreasonable an employer must show it will …

DOL seeks to limit joint employer liability for wage and hour claims

On April 1, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule to narrow the definition of a “joint employer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Because joint employers are jointly and severally liable for wage and hour claims brought under the FLSA, the change could have a significant impact on wage and hour litigation as we know it, offering franchisers and businesses that hire workers through staffing firms a shield from liability for some minimum wage and overtime pay violations.

Proposed regulation

Image depicting stack of wage and hour claims

Part 791 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains the DOL’s

Employer’s good faith offer to reinstate employee as part of settlement negotiations in exchange for dismissing a lawsuit is not considered retaliation

In a recent case, Bresler v. Rock, 2018-Ohio-5138, an employee incongruously argued that an employer’s offer to reinstate his employment in exchange for dismissal of his pending lawsuit was a retaliatory action.  The Ohio Court of Appeals soundly rejected that contention. Rather, employers can continue to negotiate settlements of discrimination allegations and include conditions of dismissal of lawsuits and releases of all claims and courts should not consider it a retaliatory action.

At the age of 60, after working for Anchor Hocking for over 41 years, Darrell Bresler was terminated. Earlier in the year, the company shut down its operations …

Ninth Circuit holds that inclusion of state law disclosures violates the FCRA’s “stand-alone” Requirement

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers who obtain a consumer report on a job applicant to provide the applicant with a “clear and conspicuous disclosure” that they may obtain such a report (the “clear and conspicuous” requirement) “in a document that consists solely of the disclosure” (the “standalone document” requirement) before procuring the report. Because neither of these requirements are defined in the statute, they have been the subject of almost constant litigation in recent years. Most notably, the 9th Circuit has led the way in finding that an employer’s inclusion of a liability waiver in its disclosure …

NLRB overrules Obama-era precedent for independent contractor test

On Jan. 25, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) addressed its independent contractor test in a case involving airport shuttle drivers for the franchise, SuperShuttle. The SuperShuttle DFW, Inc. decision overruled the NLRB’s 2014 decision in FedEx Home Delivery, which the Board criticized as incorrectly limiting the significance of a worker’s entrepreneurial opportunity for economic gain in determining independent contractor status.…

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