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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Trump administration expands exemptions to ACA contraceptive mandate

October 09, 2017 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

On October 6, the Trump administration released two interim final rules that will vastly expand the availability of exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) rules requiring employer coverage of contraceptives.

The ACA requires employers and insurers that offer group health plans to employees to cover certain approved contraceptive methods—at no additional cost to employees—or face stiff penalties. Previously, there were exemptions for grandfathered health plans (i.e., plans in existence at the time of the ACA’s adoption) as well as for group health plans sponsored by religious employers. “Religious employers” were narrowly defined to include churches and related entities as well as religious orders.

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Sessions memo changes DOJ position on transgender discrimination

October 06, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Transgender snipby Tammy Binford

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement changing his department’s position on transgender employment discrimination marks a change in the legal landscape, but it doesn’t alter employer obligations under various state and local laws or the position taken by other federal agencies.

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Time running out to comment on long-stalled overtime rule

September 14, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

HR News Overtime Rule NearsEmployers and others have until September 25 to submit comments to shape the rule governing which workers are eligible for overtime pay. Once the deadline passes, employers will face a waiting game before learning what changes may be in store.

In late July, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced it was soliciting comments through a Request for Information (RFI) dealing with the long-stalled and much-debated rule aimed at raising the salary threshold in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) so that more workers will be eligible for overtime pay.

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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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New bill latest effort to tackle definition of joint employment

July 28, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

NLRB logoThe definition of “joint employment” may be heading for another turnaround. Legislation introduced in Congress on July 27 takes aim at a 2015 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that raised the ire of many in the business community, especially employers that work with franchisees, contractors, and staffing agencies.

The NLRB’s 2015 Browning-Ferris decision broadened the joint-employment standard so that a business that exercises only indirect control over another employer’s workers still can be considered a joint employer for purposes of collective bargaining. The new bill introduced in the House—dubbed the Save Local Business Act—seeks to clarify the joint-employment standard and provide relief to businesses that are in a relationship with another employer.

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DOJ says Title VII doesn’t apply to sexual orientation discrimination

July 27, 2017 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

Sexual orientation flag snipThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in a case in which an employee claims his employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against him based on his sexual orientation.

The DOJ’s brief asserts that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not extend to discrimination based on sexual orientation. The DOJ’s position is in stark contrast to the position taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which says discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

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DOL seeking feedback on long-debated overtime rule

July 25, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Overtime snipEmployers will get the opportunity to offer feedback on changes to the regulation governing which workers are eligible for overtime pay after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) publishes a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register on July 26.

On July 25, the DOL announced it would publish the RFI and released a preliminary copy. The RFI is the latest action on a rule issued in May 2016 during the Obama administration. Implementation of the rule would have added approximately 4.2 million employees to the ranks of workers eligible for overtime pay of at least 1½ times their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.

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Get ready to switch to another revised I-9

July 14, 2017 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

Immigration snipOn July 17, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will release a new revision of Form I-9—Revision 07/17/17 N—to be used for employment eligibility verification. The new form is available on the USCIS’s website.

Employers will need to use the new version of the form beginning September 18.

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Texas Supreme Court balks at extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples

by Jacob Monty
Monty & Ramirez, LLP

The Texas Supreme Court ruled this week that the City of Houston’s extension of its employee benefits to married same-sex couples goes further than is required by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared same-sex marriage equal in all 50 states. The plaintiffs in Friday’s decision argued that Obergefell didn’t impose on taxpayers the obligation to “subsidize” same-sex marriage. The city argued that the Supreme Court ruling requires it to treat employees in same-sex marriage equally.

In what same-sex marriage opponents are calling a victory, the Texas Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for arguments to be made in light of Obergefell, which was announced only after the parties had briefed the case in the lower court. The court stated: read more…

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