High court lets Hobby Lobby, others opt out of contraception coverage under ACA

June 30, 2014 - by: Jessica Webb-Ayer 3 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) again this term, and today, it held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) as it is applied to “closely held corporations.” According to the Court’s 5-4 opinion, the mandate “substantially burdens the exercise of religion.”

Under the ACA (and related Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations), many health insurance plans must cover certain preventive services for women without cost sharing (e.g., coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles). These preventive services include contraceptive methods and counseling—or more specifically, “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

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Obama’s three NLRB recess appointments were invalid, Supreme Court rules

June 26, 2014 - by: HR Hero Alerts 0 COMMENTS

On June 26, 2014, the U.S Supreme Court unanimously upheld the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Noel Canning v. NLRB, concluding that President Barack Obama’s three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—Sharon Block, Richard Griffin, and Terence Flynn—were not valid.  Accordingly, since three out of the five members were invalidly appointed, the NLRB lacked a quorum.  That means Board decisions, including union-friendly rulings on social media, confidentiality rules, and off-duty employee access to the workplace, are now affected and likely invalid

In January 2012, President Obama filled three vacancies on the NLRB while the Senate was on its 20-day holiday break. Republicans objected to the president’s appointments, claiming the Senate wasn’t in recess because it was holding pro forma sessions every few days.

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Utah case puts same-sex marriage issue on track to go before Supreme Court

June 26, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage suffered another blow in a June 25 ruling from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that ruling makes it likely that the issue of same-sex marriage will go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 10th Circuit’s decision upheld a December 2013 federal district court ruling that struck down Utah’s ban. The lower court’s ruling was on hold during the state’s appeal to the 10th Circuit.

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Indiana adds veteran protection to Civil Rights Act

by Matthew A. Brown

An amendment to the Indiana Civil Rights Act (ICRA) going into effect July 1 means employers should assess their policies and practices to ensure they don’t discriminate on the basis of an applicant’s or employee’s status as a veteran.

Indiana House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1242 adds veteran status to the protected categories already covered in the ICRA—race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, and ancestry. A veteran under the ICRA includes not only someone who served in the U.S. armed forces but also a member of the Indiana National Guard or a reserves component of the armed forces.

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Supreme Court favors employer in donning, doffing case

January 29, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the employer in a closely watched donning and doffing case.

The high court ruled on January 27 that U.S. Steel Corp. did not have to pay a group of employees for time spent changing into and out of certain protective gear. In Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp., workers sued to be paid for time spent donning and doffing the gear even though the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says that time spent “changing clothes” at the beginning or end of each workday can be excluded from compensable time unless otherwise negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement.

The workers filing the lawsuit claimed the gear was personal protective equipment rather than clothing. But the Supreme Court ruled that the gear in question could largely be considered clothing, and therefore, they didn’t have to be paid for time spent putting it on and taking it off.

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Indiana AG appeals Lake County judge’s ruling that right-to-work law is unconstitutional

On September 5, Indiana’s right-to-work law was declared unconstitutional by a state trial court judge.  On Thursday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a notice of appeal in the case.

Lake County Superior Court Judge John M. Sedia ruled that the right-to-work law violated the Indiana Constitution by requiring unions to provide services without payment. The law prohibits requiring employees to pay dues to a union.  Under federal law, however, unions must represent all workers in a bargaining unit, including nonunion members.  Sedia reasoned that the right-to-work law violated the Indiana Constitution’s provision guaranteeing just compensation for services rendered. Sweeney v. Zoeller, No. 45D01-1305-PK-52 (Superior Court, Sept. 5, 2013).

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Changes to Rhode Island and federal law affect how employers treat same-sex married couples

by Matthew H. Parker

A series of amendments to Rhode Island law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision in United States v. Windsor have changed how most Rhode Island employers must treat same-sex married couples.

Under the amendments, which go into effect on August 1, anyone who is eligible to marry in Rhode Island will be able to marry any other eligible person “regardless of gender.” Also, Rhode Island will recognize valid same-sex marriages from other states.

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Illinois court makes noncompete agreements harder to enforce

by Steven L. Brenneman

In a decision handed down June 24, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, found a restrictive covenant unenforceable because of a lack of adequate consideration (something given in return for the employee’s agreement not to compete). The court ruled there must be at least two years of continued employment to constitute adequate consideration to support a restrictive covenant. Although this isn’t the first time an Illinois court has ruled that two years of employment are necessary, the ruling in this case is remarkable because of the following:

  • The employee signed the restrictive covenant at the time he commenced employment, yet the court rejected the employer’s argument that the employment offer itself was adequate consideration.
  • The restrictive covenant was the product of negotiations between the employee and the employer and included a proviso that the nonsolicitation and noncompete provisions wouldn’t apply if the employee was terminated without cause during the first year of his employment. Yet the court found this protection was insufficient consideration.
  • The employee voluntarily resigned after three months’ employment, but the court relied on previous decisions holding that an employee’s voluntary resignation, as opposed to an involuntary termination, makes no difference to the consideration analysis.

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Court sets bar high for employer retaliation claims

June 24, 2013 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court made its second pro-employer decision of the day in a case involving the standard of proof an employee must meet in retaliation claims.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the question was whether an employee must prove that the only reason his employer retaliated against him was because he engaged in protected activity (e.g., reporting harassment or filing a discrimination charge) or if he must prove that the protected activity was simply a “contributing factor” in the retaliation decision.

The Court held that the “but-for” standard of proof applies to retaliation claims, limiting employers’ exposure to liability. The Court issued its first pro-employer case of today in Vance v. Ball State University, which addressed the definition of “supervisor.”

High court agrees to hear NLRB recess appointments case

June 24, 2013 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in Noel Canning v. NLRB.

In the Noel Canning case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that three of President Barack Obama’s so-called recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were unconstitutional. Without the three appointees, the Board lacked a necessary quorum to act. Thus, the D.C. Circuit’s ruling raised questions about the validity of hundreds of NLRB actions, including union-friendly decisions on social media, confidentiality rules, and off-duty employees’ access to workplaces.

The U.S. Constitution provides that the Senate must consent to the president’s nominees to federal agencies. The Constitution gives the president the authority to fill vacancies that “may happen” during the Senate’s recess that “shall expire at the end of the next session.”

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