Supreme Court clarifies employer obligations related to pregnant workers

March 25, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that employers need to treat pregnant employees under job restrictions the same way they treat nonpregnant employees who are temporarily similarly unable to perform their jobs. The Court ruled 6-3 on March 25 in Young v. United Parcel Service, a highly anticipated decision that supports pregnancy discrimination guidance the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued last summer.

“The Court has decided that an employer’s light-duty policy can be challenged as intentional sex discrimination if the policy provides light duty to a large percentage of nonpregnant workers while failing to accommodate a large percentage of pregnant workers,” Richard L. Rainey, an attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, in Charlotte, North Carolina, said after the ruling. “Employers that have policies that, for example, limit light duty to only employees injured on the job will need to carefully assess those policies and their impact on the workforce to determine if they are now legal.”

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Utah passes historic legislation against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination

by Ryan B. Frazier

On March 12, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law newly enacted legislation aimed at preventing employment and housing discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. The monumental legislation amends the state’s antidiscrimination law to prohibit employers statewide from making employment decisions based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the law, a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity cannot be the basis for refusing to hire, refusing to promote, demoting, or terminating him or her. Utah law already banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, pregnancy, national origin, and disability.

The new law also provides safeguards for religious freedoms. The law exempts religious leaders and organizations such as churches and religious schools and their affiliates from the application of the new provisions. It also exempts the Boy Scouts of America or any of its subsidiaries or councils.

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Wisconsin becomes latest right-to-work state

On March 9, a signature by Governor Scott Walker made Wisconsin the 25th state to pass right-to-work legislation. The new law means private-sector workers who don’t join a union won’t have to pay what is known as “fair share” payments assessed on workers who are deemed to benefit from union contracts despite their nonunion status.

The bill represents another blow to organized labor in Wisconsin. Soon after taking office in 2011, Walker spearheaded a drive that cut collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. That effort sparked huge protests and a recall campaign against him. The measure stood, and he survived the effort to remove him from office. In his 2014 reelection campaign, Walker downplayed right-to-work efforts, but when the bill passed, he promised to sign it.

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Seattle’s new minimum wage ordinance takes effect April 1

by Valerie Hughes and Aurora Janke

Seattle’s new minimum wage ordinance goes into effect April 1, meaning employers—regardless of size—must pay employees working in the city at least $11 per hour.

Employers with 501 or more employees must pay a “minimum wage” of $11 per hour, while employers with 500 or fewer employees must pay a “minimum compensation” rate of $11 per hour. The definition of “minimum wage” includes wages, commissions, piece-rate pay, and bonuses received by employees. “Minimum compensation” includes wages, tips, and money paid by an employer toward employees’ medical benefits. Thus, small employers are able to count tips and medical benefit payments to help them reach the $11 minimum compensation rate.

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Ruling goes against Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban

March 03, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

In a ruling that wasn’t a surprise, a federal judge has ruled against Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage. But the fate of the state’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage awaits an appeal to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon issued the ruling on March 2. It is scheduled to take effect on March 9. Almost immediately after Bataillon’s ruling, the state appealed to the 8th Circuit, which is considered a conservative court, according to Mark Schorr, a senior partner at Erickson & Sederstrom, P.C. in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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New York tipped minimum cash wage to rise to $7.50 an hour

by Charles H. Kaplan

Tipped workers in New York will see the minimum cash wage rise to $7.50 an hour on December 31, 2015, following a February 24 order by New York State Acting Commissioner of Labor Mario Musolino.

The order will reduce the tip credit to a $1.50 deduction from New York’s minimum wage of $9 per hour, effective at the end of the year. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo calls the increase necessary to keep full-time tipped workers from living in poverty. However, many employers view the rise in the minimum cash wage as counterproductive.

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Right-to-work bill on the march in Wisconsin

February 26, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Wisconsin is on its way to becoming a right-to-work state. A right-to-work bill passed the state senate on February 25 and is expected to pass the assembly after that body takes it up on March 5. Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign the bill as soon as it passes.

The bill will likely have a negative impact on private-sector union interests in the state. In 2011, Walker eliminated the collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, which resulted in large protests lasting several months in the capitol. The present measure has had little resistance, probably as a result of the timing and the inevitability that right to work will become law.

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Changes to New York’s wage theft act bring good, bad news for employers

by Paul J. Sweeney

An amendment to New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA) removes a requirement that private-sector employers provide wage rate notices to current employees by February 1 of each year.

The WTPA requires private-sector employers to provide written wage rate notices to employees and imposes penalties for noncompliance. Until the change was signed into law on December 29, 2014, the written wage rate notices providing information on employees’ rates of pay or calculation of wages—as well as other wage- and benefit-related information—had to be issued by February 1 of each year.

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Obama takes steps toward requiring paid sick leave

January 15, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Is it a sensible plan to boost productivity and give workers the help they deserve, or is it an unaffordable, unfair mandate on already overburdened employers? President Barack Obama’s announcement of a push to pass a paid sick leave law is likely to garner both reactions.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, launched the effort January 14 with a post on the career-centered social network LinkedIn, a venue chosen because of its high profile with employers.

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South Dakota same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

by Jane Pfeifle

On Monday, a federal judge in Sioux Falls ruled that South Dakota’s constitutional and statutory prohibition on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution. Six same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the governor, the attorney general, the secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health, and other public officials seeking to overturn the ban on gay marriage.

Judge Karen Schreier found that marriage is a fundamental right and that the law violated equal protection and due-process rights without sufficient justification. She postponed enforcement of her decision, however, to allow state officials to appeal to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court that hears appeals from South Dakota.

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