On December 14, 2017, the National Labor Relations Board discarded its longstanding rule that facially neutral employer rules are unlawful if an employee would “reasonably construe” the rule as prohibiting an employee from engaging in protected, concerted activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Moving forward, the Board held, it will balance the employer’s justification for the rule against the impact on NLRA rights, and take into account the facts and circumstances including the relative importance of the employer’s justification, the particular work setting or event, and the importance of the NLRA right at issue. This decision overrules 13 years of precedent, and offers some measure of respite to employers stumped by the Board’s past approach to evaluating handbooks, social media standards, technology policies, conduct rules, and other common workplace policies.
As most human resources professionals know, documentation can often make or break an employment lawsuit. A thorough paper record of an employee’s performance problems, complaints, job requirements, attendance, and/or breaks and working time can aid employers when faced with an agency filing or lawsuit. While this paper record may not stop a legal complaint, it can provide critical leverage in settlement negotiations or result in early dismissal of a discrimination or wage and hour lawsuit. A lack of documentation, on the other hand, can result in overtime or vacation wages owed, allow discrimination or retaliation claims to proceed that otherwise could have been resolved swiftly, or constitute violations of recordkeeping laws.
Last November, a Federal District Court Judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction preventing changes to the overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) from going into effect. Among other things, the new rules would have modified the so-called “salary level test,” such that an employee would need to make at least $913 per week in order to fall under the executive, administrative, and professional exemption (the “EAP exemption”). In the months that have passed since the injunction went into effect, there has been great uncertainty about the future of the new overtime rules. However, a brief filed by the Department of Labor on June 30 in its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sheds some light on the Trump Administration’s plans for the overtime rules. Continue Reading DOL Defends Its Authority to Establish a Salary Level Test under the FLSA, but Backs Away From the Amount Set in 2016 Rule
One of the key provisions of the new Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (which goes into effect on July 1, 2018) is that it prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their salary history. The reasoning behind this provision is as follows: if employers are allowed to ask applicants about their salary history, and base compensation on the answers to those questions, applicants who have been on the receiving end of discriminatory pay practices in the past will continue to be hampered by past pay inequity throughout their careers. If employers cannot base pay on what an applicant made previously, so the thinking goes, employers will have to set pay based on what the job is worth.
On June 13, 2017, Uber released to its employees excerpts of a damning independent investigation report authored by independent investigators Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, attorneys with the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP. On February 19, 2017, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing allegations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation at the company during her tenure. She also decried the ineffectiveness of Uber’s policies and procedures in addressing such workplace issues. The very next day Uber hired Former Attorney General Holder and his law firm to conduct a review of the issues raised by Fowler as well as diversity and inclusion more broadly at Uber. Continue Reading Holder’s Advice to Uber: Focus on Tone at the Top, Trust, Transformation and Accountability
On March 24, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the family of a woman murdered by her Home Depot supervisor at a family event could proceed against her former employer(s) on a theory of negligent supervision, hiring, and retention. In so holding, the Seventh Circuit adopted a broad and novel view of employers’ duty to control managers who engage in criminal activity off the employer’s premises and outside the scope of their employment by abusing their supervisory authority. Continue Reading Seventh Circuit: Negligence Lawsuit May Proceed Against Employer Regarding Supervisor’s Off-Site Murder Of Female Subordinate
Last Thursday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) heard oral arguments in a case that asks whether employers can be required to make accommodations for employees’ off-duty use of medical marijuana.
The case was brought by a woman who suffers from Chron’s disease and who treats the condition with marijuana, as authorized by state law. (Massachusetts voters passed an initiative in 2012 decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. In 2016, Massachusetts voters passed a measure decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana is illegal for all purposes under federal law.) After the plaintiff accepted an entry-level job at a marketing company, she was told that she would need to take a drug test. Continue Reading Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Considers Employees’ Use of Medical Marijuana
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court announced that it had decided not to hear the case of Gavin Grimm – the transgender student who sued his school district seeking access to the restroom and locker room facilities that correspond to his gender identity. The Court’s change in course followed the Trump Administration’s rescission of an Obama-era Department of Education policy on the issue of bathroom access. Although Grimm’s suit involves public school students, private employers have been keeping a close eye on the case for any implications it may have on the rights of transgender employees in the workplace. The answer to that question will have to wait. Continue Reading The Problem with Pronouns
One of the most problematic areas for employers is the balancing act which occurs between managing employee productivity and attendance while taking care not to tread on entitlement to Family and Medical Leave (“FMLA”) and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protections. Intermittent and unforeseeable absences are at the top of the list of challenges, and one particularly challenging issue is migraine headaches.
Individuals who suffer from migraines know they are usually 1) unpredictable and 2) debilitating. They often result in employees calling in at the last minute, leaving work midday or being out for days at a time without notice. Continue Reading Are Employee Absences Giving You A Headache?
Yesterday Governor Sununu enacted his first law allowing gun owners to carry concealed loaded guns, without a license – effective immediately.
Prior to the this law, police chiefs and local officials had discretion to decide if someone was “suitable” to carry a loaded gun concealed. Now, if a person is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun, he or she can carry it concealed without a license. This means that an employee, who lawfully possesses a gun, could carry it concealed in her handbag, backpack, briefcase, or jacket, for example. Some employees may view this new law as permitting them to carry loaded concealed weapons into the workplace. That is not true. Continue Reading Conceal and Carry: License to Be Armed at Work?