Employers’ flu worries go beyond germs, attendance

January 17, 2018 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

This year’s influenza outbreak has sickened millions of people across the country, leaving employers struggling to cover for employees who are out sick and searching for ways to prevent others from coming down with the flu. But dealing with germ control and sick days is only the beginning. Legal issues also can come into play.Flu concerns

This season’s flu virus is more widespread than usual, according to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and it’s hitting children and young adults harder than usual. The CDC reported that as of the week ending January 6, 2018, the number of child fatalities attributed to this season’s flu outbreak hit 20. The CDC’s report for the week ending January 6 also showed “widespread” flu activity in every state but Hawaii, where flu activity was described as “regional.”

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DOL’s reissuance of 17 opinion letters called step in right direction

January 11, 2018 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) decision to reissue 17 opinion letters first issued during the George W. Bush administration is a welcome move and “a step in the right direction,” according to an attorney who represents employers.

On January 5, the DOL announced that it was reissuing the opinion letters. The move follows the DOL’s announcement last summer that it was returning to the practice of issuing opinion letters, a practice that was discontinued during the Obama administration in favor of issuing “administrative interpretations” of the DOL’s views on issues related to laws and regulations enforced by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD).

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New policy on internships puts DOL, courts on same page

January 09, 2018 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

EntertainHR intern movieThe U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) announcement that it is nixing its 2010 guidance on unpaid internships in favor of a less-rigid test puts the agency in line with recent appellate court rulings on the issue, according to an attorney following the matter.

Matthew H. Parker, an editor of Rhode Island Employment Law Letter and attorney with Whelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder & Siket LLP in Providence, Rhode Island, says the new policy isn’t “a sea change in how to classify interns” but does align the DOL’s standard with recent appellate court rulings.

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Catch-22 on marijuana laws continues with new Justice Department policy

January 05, 2018 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Hero Line marijuanaU.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ action rescinding an Obama administration policy on marijuana enforcement may signal a tougher stance against the substance, but it isn’t expected to have a major impact on employers.

On January 4, Sessions rescinded the “Cole memo,” which was issued by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013. The memo told federal prosecutors to focus their enforcement efforts against organizations trafficking drugs to children, engaging in violence, or selling pot in states where it remains illegal. States that legalized marijuana and enacted regulations regarding its use were less of a threat, according to Cole. Therefore, he wanted to leave enforcement to local authorities instead of federal prosecutors.

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Tax reform raises questions on employee classification

December 27, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

HRDA independent contractorNow that President Donald Trump has signed the bill overhauling the U.S. tax code, employers are on a tight timetable to react to the new law before the bulk of it takes effect on January 1, 2018. Besides requiring employers to deal with new payroll forms (including the IRS’s W-4) and other changes, the new law sparks many other questions for employers. Among them: How might current employees wish to change their classification status?

William C. Foley, an attorney with Axley Brynelson, LLP, in Madison, Wisconsin, says employers certainly will be interested in new forms and guidance from the IRS and how the new tax law will affect their fourth-quarter financial statements. But it’s unclear when the IRS will be able to issue revised forms, and relief may be available on financial statements. But there’s a different issue—related to the employment relationship—that also requires thought and planning, Foley says.

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Bill takes aim at forced arbitration of sexual harassment complaints

December 08, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Arbitration, long a favored method of handling workplace disputes, would be removed as an option in sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases if a new bill introduced in Congress becomes law.

Often, employment contracts contain arbitration clauses that require disputes to be settled through arbitration instead of litigation. Also, complaint settlements frequently include nondisclosure agreements that keep claims out of the public eye. The new bill, called the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, is intended to keep harassers from settling claims in secret and then continuing to harass.

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New General Counsel expected to set new probusiness agenda for NLRB

November 09, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

A much more business-friendly atmosphere is expected at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) now that the U.S. Senate has confirmed Peter B. Robb as the Board’s General Counsel.

Robb, a management-side attorney with a Vermont law firm, won confirmation on a 49-46 party-line vote on November 8. He is President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Richard F. Griffin Jr., whose term as General Counsel expired on October 31. Griffin, nominated by President Barack Obama, began his tenure on November 4, 2013. Before Griffin, another Democratic nominee, Lafe Solomon, held the post.

With Robb on board as General Counsel, the five-member NLRB not only has a Republican majority of members, but it also has a Republican “quarterback,” says Kevin C. McCormick, chair of the labor and employment section of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P., in Baltimore, Maryland, and editor of Maryland Employment Law Letter. As General Counsel, Robb will set the tone for the NLRB since the General Counsel is responsible for selecting cases the Board will hear.

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New Executive Order seeks to expand health insurance options

October 12, 2017 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

After several failed legislative attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Donald Trump is now taking matters into his own hands.

On October 12, Trump signed a new Executive Order (EO) designed to “expand choices and alternatives to Obamacare plans and increase competition to bring down costs for consumers,” according to a White House press release.

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New guidance shifts federal policy on religious liberty in employment

October 10, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

New guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on religious liberty in employment “signals a shift in federal employment law and policy,” according to an attorney who focuses on employment law.

Sessions issued the new guidance to all administrative agencies and executive departments on October 6. It identifies 20 principles that administrative agencies and executive departments are to use “to ensure the religious freedoms of Americans are lawfully protected,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

J. Steven Massoni, a contributor to Kansas Employment Law Letter and attorney with Foulston Siefkin LLP in Wichita, Kansas, says the new guidance, which purports to expand the religious exemption in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, represents a change at the federal level. However, he says “it remains to be seen” what effect the DOJ’s guidance may have on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) position in cases involving religious liberty in employment. The EEOC interprets and enforces Title VII, which, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on religion.

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Suit filed over Trump’s phaseout of DACA: what employers should know

September 06, 2017 - by: Holly Jones 0 COMMENTS

On September 5, President Donald Trump announced that the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be phased out over the next six months.

In response, 11 states and the District of Columbia have filed suit, alleging that the repeal of DACA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

As observers await the next steps, the DACA controversy is rapidly becoming reminiscent of the travel ban efforts from earlier this year.

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