Many thanks to Arslan Sheikh for his assistance in preparing this post.

In a decision issued on April 2, 2018 the Supreme Court of the United States held in Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro that service advisors at an auto dealership are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime pay requirement. Most importantly, the Court also rejected the 9th Circuit’s holding and Department of Labor policy that FLSA exemptions should be construed narrowly. Instead, courts should apply a fairness test to determine whether a particular job is covered under the exempt classifications of the act. As a result, employers should be aware of this recent decision and consider how it may apply to them.
Continue Reading Recent Supreme Court decision holds that FLSA exemptions are to be construed fairly

In a landmark decision, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., en banc, became the second federal appellate court to hold that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)), which makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, also prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. It appears that the defendant does not intend to seek Supreme Court review. Therefore, employers subject to Title VII, particularly those in the Second Circuit (i.e., Connecticut, New York and Vermont), should know about this opinion and consider how and whether it may apply to them.

Continue Reading Second Circuit holds that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination

After Republicans regained control of the majority seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the board) for the first time in nearly nine years, the majority has swiftly reset the board’s tone. Recently, the NLRB has been busy taking steps to undo some of the more labor and employee friendly standards and opinions that were implemented under the Obama Administration. The result is a return to what many employers would consider to be a common sense approach.
Continue Reading NLRB discards Obama-era decisions

On Dec. 20, 2017, a D.C. federal judge held that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s workplace wellness program rules – which permit employers to incentivize employees who participate in workplace wellness programs—will be vacated on Jan. 1, 2019. The judge held that the EEOC failed to provide a reasoned explanation for the rules, which he believed violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) without a reason for permitting an exception to the normal rules prohibiting disability-related inquiries, medical examinations and requesting genetic information. The judge further ordered the EEOC to promulgate any new proposed rules by Aug. 31, 2018 and to file a status report on the agency’s schedule for rulemaking by March 30, 2018.

Continue Reading D.C. Federal Judge vacates the EEOC’s Workplace Wellness Program Rules, effective Jan. 1, 2019

The new Republican-led National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has wasted little time in reconsidering decisions made during the Obama Administration. In its Boeing, Inc., decision, announced on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, the board overturned its Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia decision that has guided its evaluation of employee handbook policies for the past 13 years and most recently has come under intense criticism from the employer community for chipping away at common employee handbook policies.


Continue Reading NLRB establishes new standard for evaluating employee handbook policies

Peter Robb is President Trump’s new General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He was confirmed by the Senate in November. The General Counsel is the top lawyer guiding NLRB enforcement activity. Direction from the General Counsel’s office influences how NLRB Regional Directors enforce the law and has a significant impact on legal issues facing union, as well as non-union, companies. In a memo issued on December 1 to all of the NLRB Regional Offices around the country, Mr. Robb signaled his intention to systematically change many of the more controversial labor law enforcement initiates pursued by the NLRB during the Obama administration.
Continue Reading New top lawyer for NLRB signals change

Many thanks to Arslan Sheikh for his assistance in preparing this post.

Presume your workplace is non-union. You are interviewing an employee about facts that might lead to disciplining her. She tells you she wants a co-worker to sit in on the interview as her representative to advise her. The lawyers that advise the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are taking the position that you have to allow it.

Last week, the office of the general counsel to the NLRB issued an advice memorandum that has significant implications for all non-union employers. The memo concludes that an employee in a non-union workplace should be entitled to co-worker representation during an investigatory interview by the company. This is contrary to existing NLRB precedent which holds that representation rights like this do not apply where there is no union representative. As explained below, whether the general counsel’s advice becomes law remains to be seen. But in the meantime, employers are wise to be aware of this advice memo because it will likely influence the way NLRB regional offices act in enforcement proceedings at least for now. Refusing an employee’s request for representation in an interview might result in a local NLRB office issuing a complaint and forcing the employer to fight it out in a hearing.
Continue Reading Non-union employers may have to allow employees “representation” in some investigation interviews

Many thanks to Arslan Sheikh for his assistance in preparing this post.

Last week, President Trump nominated Peter Robb, a management-side labor attorney, to serve as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). As the top lawyer for the NLRB, the general counsel has a great many responsibilities, which include giving advice to the regional offices of the NLRB concerning enforcement issues. The advice is often communicated in advice memoranda. These advice memos are critical because they advise the regional offices on how to interpret and to enforce labor law. It is the regional offices that process unfair labor practice charges and union representation petitions. As a result, the office of the general counsel can have a significant influence on what employers can expect to face in NLRB enforcement proceedings.

If Robb is confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, he will take over when current General Counsel Richard Griffin’s four-year term expires on Oct. 31, 2017. Based on his professional background and experience, there is reason to expect that Robb will take a more employer-friendly position on many labor law issues than his predecessors did during the Obama administration. For example, Robb has been critical of the NLRB’s efforts to shorten the timeframe in which an employer can react to a union election petition.
Continue Reading President Trump nominates Peter Robb to serve as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board

Many thanks to Arslan Sheikh for his assistance in preparing this post.

Last week, a federal judge in Texas struck down a proposed Obama-era rule that would have expanded the number of workers who qualify for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The proposed rule

In 2016, the Obama administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) planned to implement a new rule that would have more than doubled the minimum salary threshold for “exempt” status under the FLSA from $23,660 to $47,476 per year. Under the DOL’s proposed rule, an employee who made an annual salary below $47,476 would have been entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked beyond 40 a week. We last reported on the proposed salary increase in November of 2016, when federal court Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the DOL’s rule. Our blog post outlines the Texas court’s holding and rationale.

What happened this week?

On Aug. 31, Judge Mazzant issued another decision, striking down the Obama administration’s proposed salary threshold rule. As a result, the minimum salary for exempt status under the FLSA will remain, for the time being at least, at $23,600.

Judge Mazzant held that the DOL exceeded its authority by issuing the proposed rule because the department focused too heavily on employees’ salary-levels, rather than their job duties, to determine if they were exempt from overtime under the FLSA. Judge Mazzant struck down the rule, holding that because the DOL’s proposed rule would have doubled the annual salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476, it would have made salary-level the predominant factor in determining who is exempt from overtime under the FLSA. It should be noted, however, that Judge Mazzant did not rule on the general lawfulness of a salary-level test; he only evaluated the salary-level test the DOL proposed in this instance.
Continue Reading Texas district court strikes down Obama DOL’s proposed overtime rule

Recent decisions from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a Rhode Island Superior Court have held that a discharged employee and a rejected applicant, both of whom tested positive for marijuana, may pursue disability discrimination claims under state law. These are among the first decisions issued that address whether employers have a state law obligation to reasonably accommodate the medical marijuana use of their disabled employees and applicants.

Because marijuana use – whether for medicinal or recreational purposes – remains unlawful under federal law, employers have no obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to reasonably accommodate its use by disabled employees or applicants. But what about in states, including Ohio, where medicinal marijuana use is legal under certain circumstances? Is there an obligation to reasonably accommodate marijuana use under state disability discrimination law? Is an employer that takes an adverse action against an applicant or employee who is a medical marijuana user engaging in disability discrimination in violation of state law? It appears that the answer to these questions, at least in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is yes. For the reasons discussed below, Ohio may be different.
Continue Reading Courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island permit medical marijuana users to pursue disability discrimination claims