It Might be Mechanical, But It’s Exempt: Court Dismisses Temp Document Reviewing Attorneys’ Overtime Collective Action

A district court in New York dismissed the putative collective action filed by a contract attorney who performed document review for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP (“Skadden”) for fifteen months. See Lola v. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), an employee is exempt from overtime as a professional employee if he or she is “the holder of a valid license . . . permitting the practice of law” and “who is actually engaged in the practice thereof.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.3.  The named plaintiff and proposed class representative, David Lola, was a licensed attorney, and, therefore, the dispositive question was whether he was practicing law such that he qualified for the exemption.

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OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee Discusses Planning, New Initiatives

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (“WPAC”) met on September 3-4, 2014.  David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA, addressed the Committee and discussed recent results and initiatives of OSHA’s whistleblower program.  Some highlights:

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Unpaid Leave (Sabbatical) Triggers Days of Paid Vacation in Germany

Like in other countries, the parties to an employment agreement in Germany are free to agree on a sabbatical – a defined period during which the employment relationship is suspended. The employee is released from his active duties, and the employer is not obliged to pay remuneration and benefits throughout the agreed sabbatical.

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A Dressing Down – Dress Codes in the Modern Workplace?

According to research cited by the British Association of Dermatologists, one in five Britons now has a tattoo.  Amongst US 30 somethings, the estimate rises to about two in five, with facial piercings being almost as common in both countries.  As a result, this is becoming an issue that more and more employers have to grapple with.

Employers may wish to promote a certain image through their employees which they believe reflects the ethos of their organization and tattoos and piercings may well not fit with that image.  So how should this be handled and are there any pitfalls of imposing rules of this nature on employees?

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To Your Health: California Enacts Broad Sick Leave Law

On September 10, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522), making California only the second state to require paid sick leave.  In a press release, the Governor’s office stated that this bill will provide sick leave to about 40 percent of California’s workforce, or 6.5 million workers, who do not currently receive this benefit.

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Calling All California Employers: You Must Reimburse Employees for Mandatory Use of Their Personal Cell Phones Even if They Have Unlimited Minutes

A California appellate court recently held that employers are always required to reimburse employees for mandatory use of their personal cell phones, even if they do not incur any additional expense for doing so.  The case is Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Services Inc., Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Divisions Two, Case No. B247160 (August 12, 2014).  A copy of the opinion can be found here.

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IRS Scripts a New Tune with Final Whistleblowing Regulations

Section 7623 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), added in 1954, authorizes the Treasury Secretary to pay an award as he deems necessary for “(1) detecting underpayments of tax, or (2) detecting and bringing to trial and punishment persons guilty of violating the internal revenue laws or conniving at the same.”  The program was significantly enhanced in 2006 as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act with the addition of Code section 7623(b), which provides that if the Treasury Secretary proceeds with any  action based on information brought to the Secretary’s attention by an individual, such individual will receive as an award at least 15% but not more than 30% of the collected proceeds (including penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts) resulting from the action (including any related actions) or from any settlement in response to such action.  The determination of the amount of such award by the IRS Whistleblower Office, which was created by the 2006 legislation, depends upon the extent to which the individual substantially contributed to such action.

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Let’s Talk About Sex: U.S. Department of Labor Targets Transgender & Gender Identity Discrimination

On Tuesday, August 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a directive to “clarify that existing agency guidance on discrimination on the basis of sex . . . includes discrimination on the bases of gender identity and transgender status.”  This directive follows President Obama’s Executive Order 13672, issued on July 21, 2014, amending existing orders to specifically prohibit federal contractors from discriminating based on gender identity.

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Employers Should Act Now to Avoid Potential Data Minefields: The OFCCP’s New Proposed Rules for Collecting Compensation Data from Federal Contractors

On August 8, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) proposed new annual reporting requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors.  The proposal requires additional pay information and will become effective in early 2015, unless the OFCCP decides to amend them.

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Second Circuit Holds Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provision Does Not Apply Extraterritorially

Last week, in Liu v. Siemens, AG, the Second Circuit held that the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower retaliation provision (15 U.S.C. 78u-6(h)(1)) does not apply extraterritorially, in the first Second Circuit decision to address the international scope of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protections against retaliation.  Liu, a citizen and resident of Taiwan, was a compliance officer for Siemens China Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens AG.  Siemens AG is a German corporation with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  Liu claimed Siemens wrongfully terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting that Siemens China Ltd. employees were making improper payments to Chinese officials in North Korea and China in connection with the sale of medical equipment in those countries, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).

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