Judge strikes down Alabama workers’ comp law

by Al Vreeland

In a potentially monumental decision, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Pat Ballard struck down the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act as unconstitutional on May 8.

Specifically, Judge Ballard held that 1989 limits on compensation payments to injured workers and fees for their attorneys were so low that they violated the Alabama Constitution. Currently, compensation payments to an injured employee are capped at $220 per week, no matter how much the employee is paid regularly. Attorneys’ fees are capped at 15 percent of an employee’s award. The judge noted that the compensation payment amount was below the poverty line for a family of four.

The implications are monumental. Although the decision focused on payments and fee caps, the effect would be to strike down the entire Workers’ Compensation Act if the decision holds. If the Act is unconstitutional, employees would be allowed to sue employers for work-related injuries. Employees would be able to recover for medical treatment, pain and suffering, and—potentially—punitive damages.

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States approve minimum wage, paid leave ballot questions

November 10, 2016 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

States with employment-related ballot questions mostly approved them during the November 8 election, and employers have little lead time before many measures will be implemented.

All told, 14 states have new provisions with which companies must comply, some as early as January 1, 2017.

Minimum wage

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Alabama Legislature puts a stop to Birmingham’s higher minimum wage

by Albert L. Vreeland

************************ UPDATE 2/26/16 ************************

As expected, on Thursday, February 25, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill preempting any local legislation (city or county) imposing a higher minimum wage or mandating a minimum level of employee benefits.  The bill was signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley shortly thereafter, rendering the Birmingham minimum wage hike a dead letter.  Now, any changes to the minimum wage for Alabama employers will have to come from Washington or Montgomery—which seems very unlikely in the current political climate.

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New Alabama noncompete law starts in January

by Al Vreeland

A bill signed into law over the summer will significantly strengthen Alabama employers’ ability to enforce noncompete agreements when the law takes effect January 1, 2016.

The state’s old noncompete statute makes a broad statement that noncompete agreements are void. It then creates several exceptions into which courts have shoehorned the modern version of the noncompete.

Alabama courts have generally stated that noncompetes are disfavored, but they can be enforced when they are related to a legitimate interest (e.g., protecting customer relationships or proprietary information) and are reasonably limited in time and geographic scope. That formula gave an enormous amount of discretion to judges to decide whether noncompetes would be enforceable and left employers with uncertainty.

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Appeals court keeps hold on Obama’s immigration orders

May 27, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

No quick resolution is in sight to the uncertainty surrounding President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. On May 26, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift a temporary hold on Obama’s actions, which were designed to ease deportation worries for millions of undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for years.

“Employers will have to wait possibly months, or years, for the courts or Congress to resolve the status of undocumented immigrants who would have been eligible for work permits under President Obama’s executive action,” said Elaine C. Young, an attorney with the Kirton McConkie law firm in Salt Lake City and an editor of Utah Employment Law Letter.

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New Alabama law opens door to erase certain criminal convictions

by Whitney Brown

A new Alabama law taking effect July 7 allows individuals to apply to have certain criminal proceedings expunged, meaning an applicant will be excused from disclosing the offense on employment applications.

Offenses must be misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies, and charges must have been dismissed, been “no-billed” by a grand jury, been dismissed following the offender’s completion of a deferred prosecution program, or yielded a “not guilty” verdict.

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Alabama guns-at-work law takes effect August 1

by Albert L. Vreeland

Beginning August 1, employees with a valid Alabama concealed weapon permit may keep a firearm in their vehicles at work. Also, during hunting season, employees with a valid Alabama hunting license may store an unloaded rifle or shotgun in their vehicles at work. The change is a result of a law signed by Governor Robert Bentley on May 22.

The hunting season provision doesn’t apply to employees who have been convicted of a violent crime or domestic violence, are subject to a restraining order, have been previously committed to a psychiatric hospital, or have committed prior acts of workplace violence or made violent threats.

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Alabama law banning texting while driving takes effect

Alabama’s law banning texting while driving went into effect August 1, meaning you need to be careful not to encourage employees to text and drive while on the job.

House Bill 2 prohibits “any person from operating a motor vehicle on a public street, road, or highway while also text messaging on a handheld cell phone or other handheld wireless telecommunication device.” The new law expands on other legislation that already prohibited text messaging or phone use by those under 18 holding a restricted license.

The law imposes a $25 fine for the first violation, a $50 fine for a second violation, and a $75 fine for a third violation. In addition, a conviction will constitute a two-point violation on the violator’s driving record.

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Categories: Alabama / OSHA

Parts of Alabama Immigration Law Blocked — At Least Temporarily

Alabama employers may see some relief in a federal judge’s opinion on the state’s tough new immigration law even though most of the law was allowed to stand.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled on September 28 that key parts of House Bill 56, which was signed into law June 9, can take effect. But she blocked enforcement of Sections 11(a), 13, 16, and 17.

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Categories: Alabama / Immigration

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