New rule extends FMLA rights to more employees in same-sex marriages

February 24, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

More employees in same-sex marriages will be able to take leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a result of a new rule taking effect March 27. And while employers in states that recognize same-sex marriage already have been operating under a definition of spouse that includes legally married same-sex partners, employers in other states will need to change their practices.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule that was published in the Federal Register on February 25 that revises the definition of spouse under the law so that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, according to the DOL’s explanation of the new rule.

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Get ready for Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

January 20, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 1 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up the issue of same-sex marriage, employers are weighing the impact a ruling will have.

On January 16, the Court announced that it would consider four cases from each of the states in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals—Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. On November 6, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit issued a decision that allowed state bans on same-sex marriage to stand. That decision was at odds with rulings from other circuit courts of appeal that had struck down similar bans.

After the 6th Circuit’s decision, many predicted that the split in decisions from different circuits would prompt the Supreme Court to take up the issue even though it declined to hear a same-sex marriage case before its term began in October. Now that it has decided to take up the issue after all, it is expected to hear arguments in April and issue a decision by the end of its term in June.

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New circuit ruling complicates same-sex marriage issue

November 07, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The issue of how employers should handle same-sex marriage got a bit murkier November 6 as a divided appeals court panel broke with rulings from four other U.S. circuit courts of appeals by upholding state bans on same-sex marriage.

A three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the 2-1 decision, which allows bans on same-sex marriage in four states to stand. The court’s decision—affecting Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee—differs from other jurisdictions that have recently struck down similar state bans.

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Employers should review policies on same-sex couples in wake of Supreme Court decision

October 07, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

With the U.S. Supreme Court deciding not to take up a case to settle the same-sex marriage issue on the national level, employers need to understand how the Court’s decision affects their policies.

As it opened its new term on October 6, the Supreme Court declined to review one of seven cases from five states up for consideration. The Court’s decision means that rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits will stand. The rulings struck down state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.

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NLRB ratifies some actions taken with recess appointees

August 05, 2014 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has announced that it has ratified some of the actions it took while it was made up of mostly recess appointees who have since been judged to be invalid. However, the ratification likely won’t have any effect on the cases decided during that time, according to John P. Hasman, a partner in the St. Louis office of Armstrong Teasdale.

In a statement released August 4, the Board said that on July 18, it unanimously ratified all administrative, personnel, and procurement actions it took while it was operating with the recess appointees—January 4, 2012, to August 5, 2013.

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High court lets Hobby Lobby, others opt out of contraception coverage under ACA

June 30, 2014 - by: Jessica Webb-Ayer 3 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) again this term, and today, it held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) as it is applied to “closely held corporations.” According to the Court’s 5-4 opinion, the mandate “substantially burdens the exercise of religion.”

Under the ACA (and related Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations), many health insurance plans must cover certain preventive services for women without cost sharing (e.g., coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles). These preventive services include contraceptive methods and counseling—or more specifically, “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

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Obama’s three NLRB recess appointments were invalid, Supreme Court rules

June 26, 2014 - by: HR Hero Alerts 0 COMMENTS

On June 26, 2014, the U.S Supreme Court unanimously upheld the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Noel Canning v. NLRB, concluding that President Barack Obama’s three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—Sharon Block, Richard Griffin, and Terence Flynn—were not valid.  Accordingly, since three out of the five members were invalidly appointed, the NLRB lacked a quorum.  That means Board decisions, including union-friendly rulings on social media, confidentiality rules, and off-duty employee access to the workplace, are now affected and likely invalid

In January 2012, President Obama filled three vacancies on the NLRB while the Senate was on its 20-day holiday break. Republicans objected to the president’s appointments, claiming the Senate wasn’t in recess because it was holding pro forma sessions every few days.

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High court upholds Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in higher education

April 22, 2014 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

Michigan voters’ right to prohibit preferential race-based admissions programs in the state’s university system was upheld today by the U.S. Supreme Court in Schuette v. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN), 572 U.S. ___ (2014).

In the 6-2 opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court upheld Proposition 2, which was approved by popular vote in Michigan. Proposition 2 amended the Michigan Constitution to prohibit race-based admissions preferences in the state’s university system.

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U.S. Supreme Court expands SOX whistleblower protection

March 05, 2014 - by: Holly Jones 1 COMMENTS

In the early 2000s, corporate and accounting scandals involving Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and other publicly traded companies cost investors billions of dollars and prompted federal legislation to reform corporate financial practices. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) covers everything from mandatory financial disclosures to enhanced penalties for white-collar crime to requiring a company’s CEO to sign corporate tax returns. The law also includes penalties for retaliating against whistleblowers who provide information or assist in federal investigations.

Generally, SOX applies only to publicly traded companies. However, in a surprisingly entertaining opinion (at least when corporate governance and ethics are concerned), the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the law’s antiretaliation provisions to some private employers—specifically, to contractors and subcontractors performing work for publicly traded companies.

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Supreme Court favors employer in donning, doffing case

January 29, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the employer in a closely watched donning and doffing case.

The high court ruled on January 27 that U.S. Steel Corp. did not have to pay a group of employees for time spent changing into and out of certain protective gear. In Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp., workers sued to be paid for time spent donning and doffing the gear even though the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says that time spent “changing clothes” at the beginning or end of each workday can be excluded from compensable time unless otherwise negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement.

The workers filing the lawsuit claimed the gear was personal protective equipment rather than clothing. But the Supreme Court ruled that the gear in question could largely be considered clothing, and therefore, they didn’t have to be paid for time spent putting it on and taking it off.

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