New Mexico workers’ comp law addresses workers under the influence

by Barbara J. Koenig
Foster, Rieder & Jackson, P.C.

A new law in New Mexico is designed to clear up confusion on how workers’ compensation benefits can be lowered when a worker is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law will go into effect on May 18.

The new law was enacted because New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration (WCA) judges have faced troubling issues raised by two conflicting statutes. One law said a worker found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of an injury wouldn’t be entitled to any workers’ comp indemnity benefits at all. Another law said the judge must reduce benefits by 10%.

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Uber settlement keeps independent contractor business model

April 22, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Drivers for ride-hailing giant Uber will continue to be independent contractors under the terms of a settlement of class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts if the settlement receives court approval.

The settlement, announced on April 21, will require the company to pay drivers an initial $84 million and possibly as much as $100 million. Despite the financial hit, Uber is claiming victory in what it calls the key issue in the lawsuits—whether its drivers should be classified as independent contractors or employees. That question is likely to come up again, according to an attorney following developments affecting the use of independent contractors in the “sharing economy.”

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New Tennessee law ‘bans the box’ for state government jobs

April 18, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Tennessee has joined the list of states passing some form of “ban the box” legislation with the passage of Senate Bill 2440. Governor Bill Haslam signed the measure on April 14.

Many states, counties, and cities across the country have joined the ban-the-box movement by prohibiting job applications that require applicants to check a box indicating whether they have a criminal record.

Tennessee’s law doesn’t affect private-sector employers. Instead, it prohibits state employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on the initial application. The law has an exception for (1) positions that require a criminal background check under federal law and (2) positions for which the commission of an offense is a disqualifying event for employment under federal or state law.

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New York, California gearing up for $15 minimum wage

April 05, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

On April 4, the governors of New York and California signed measures that will culminate in a $15 minimum wage phased in over the next few years.

Champions of the minimum wage increases say they are important to providing workers a living wage, but foes in both states predict job losses and business failures.

New York and California became the first states to pass a $15 minimum wage, but several cities around the country already have laws putting them on the road to a $15 minimum. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

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Mississippi passes broad anti-LGBT law

April 01, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

On April 5, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill that provides businesses, religious organizations, and individuals with legal protection for refusing to provide services to LGBT individuals.

The new law provides “certain protections regarding a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction for persons, religious organizations and private associations” that refuse services to LGBT individuals. Those beliefs or convictions include tenets that say: read more…

Compulsory public-sector union dues survive deadlocked Supreme Court

March 29, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

A 4-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a closely watched case on public-sector unions leaves previous legal precedent intact, effectively sealing a union victory.

On March 29, the evenly split Court issued a one-sentence ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that allows the decision of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stand. If not for the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the ruling may have gone the other way.

“With Justice Scalia’s death, public-sector unions dodged not just a bullet but a cannonball,” Jeffrey Sloan, an attorney with Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP in San Francisco, said after the ruling was announced.

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Effort to push California minimum wage to $15 reported

March 28, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Most California employers will see the state’s minimum wage reach $15 an hour by 2022 if reports of a deal in the state legislature materialize as expected.

Reports in the Los Angeles Times and The Sacramento Bee on March 27 tell of a tentative deal between state lawmakers and union leaders that would phase in the wage hike. Currently, the state’s minimum wage stands at $10 an hour. (The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.) The outlets reported that businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to reach the $15 level.

Mark I. Schickman, an attorney with Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP in San Francisco, said the deal is extremely likely to pass the legislature and gain Governor Jerry Brown’s support. On March 28, the governor’s office issued a statement that Brown would join “a number of other leaders” to discuss the “landmark deal” to raise the state’s minimum wage. The Times reported that lawmakers could vote on the proposal within a couple of weeks.

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North Carolina General Assembly does more than just invalidate Charlotte’s LGBT ordinance

by Richard L. Rainey

On Wednesday night, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 2, which was then signed by Governor Pat McCrory. While HB 2 was prompted by the desire to overturn Charlotte’s recently enacted ordinance that banned discrimination against LGBT people in the provision of public accommodations and allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice, its actual scope is much wider than that. The newly enacted law has the following provisions:

  • The law prevents local governments from imposing any requirement on employers pertaining to the compensation of employees, such as minimum wages, hours of labor, benefits, or leave. This means cities and counties can’t enact “living wage” ordinances or require paid leave, as has been done in other parts of the country.
  • The law prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances that prohibit employment discrimination. Thus, local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or any other factor are not allowed.
  • The law amends the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA) by clarifying that discrimination against a person’s “biological sex” (not just “sex”) is not permitted. Biological sex is defined as the sex that is stated on the person’s birth certificate.
  • The law further states that the NCEEPA, while a statement of public policy, does not create any statutory or common-law private cause of action, and no person may bring any civil action based on it. This provision means that common-law claims for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, which have become quite common in the area of employment law litigation, can’t be based on the NCEEPA. Of course, pursuing federal discrimination claims is still an available avenue.
  • The law prevents local governments from imposing antidiscrimination ordinances with respect to businesses that are places of public accommodation. This is the provision directly targeted at the Charlotte ordinance.
  • The law provides requirements for school districts and government agencies on the use of restrooms. Essentially, an individual must use the bathroom designated for his or her biological sex.

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Supreme Court ruling eases the way for certain class actions

March 22, 2016 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 22 that the use of statistical evidence to create a class action lawsuit against Tyson Foods was proper, an action that may make it easier for employees in certain situations to band together to sue their employers rather than suing as individuals.

The Court ruled 6-2 in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo that the lower court was correct in allowing employees to use a study performed by an industrial relations expert to establish a class of workers at a Tyson pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa.

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New law ‘bans the box’ for public-sector employers in Ohio

by Leigh Anne Benedic

Ohio’s new ban-the-box law prohibiting public-sector employers from asking job applicants about criminal convictions early in the hiring process will take effect on March 23.

The law doesn’t apply to private-sector employers, but when it takes effect, state agencies and political subdivisions will be prohibited from including questions about a job applicant’s criminal background on any form or application.

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