On January 20, 2017, shortly after Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, issued an Executive Memorandum mandating a 60-day freeze on published federal regulations that have yet to take effect to allow Trump’s appointees time to review the regulations. Although such action is fairly standard during a change of administration, the impact could be significant if certain regulations set to take effect in 2017 are delayed or ultimately replaced. Regulations potentially affected by the 60-day freeze include the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) overtime and fiduciary rules, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) EEO-1 pay reporting requirements. READ MORE
Chris Wilkinson maintains a broad practice in labor and employment, Equal Pay, health and safety, government relations and administrative law.
Chris most recently served as Associate Solicitor for Civil Rights and Labor-Management. In that role, Chris was the senior career civil rights and labor management lawyer for the Department of Labor providing advice on regulatory, policy and enforcement matters for seven DOL agencies including the Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Civil Rights Center and Office of Labor Management Standards.
Chris counseled the Department on a broad array of equal employment opportunity regulatory and policy initiatives and advised on a wide range of constitutional and statutory matters in federal courts including the Supreme Court of the United States. In addition to EEO matters, Chris led the Solicitor Office’s union election and reporting enforcement work, counseled on transit labor certification matters and advised on appellate matters related to labor union practices.
Chris also has significant litigation experience having served as trial attorney and then Counsel for Civil Rights Programs in the Department’s San Francisco region. In those roles, he litigated a number of complex class wage-and-hour, class discrimination, health and safety citations, and Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower matters.
Chris is an active member of the America Bar Association, having presented on numerous federal contractor compliance, LBGT and compensation discrimination topics at the ABA Conference on Equal Employment Law.
Posts by: Christopher Wilkinson
On December 1, 2016, the date that the Department of Labor regulations were set to become effective, the government filed a notice of appeal [link to http://dciconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/DOL-appeal.pdf] of the November 22, 2016 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas’s Order granting a nationwide preliminary injunction “from implementing and enforcing” the DOL’s new overtime regulations. Those regulations would have raised the minimum salary level for exempt employees from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually). The Court’s ruling was based, in part, on its holding that the DOL exceeded its delegated authority by changing the salary basis test at a level that was contrary to Congress’ intent that executive, administrative and professional employees be exempted from coverage of the FLSA. A full copy of the injunction order can be found here. In the wake of the Court’s ruling and now uncertain future regarding the DOL’s new overtime rules, we thought it would be helpful to provide some interim guidance on frequently asked questions we have received since the Court’s ruling. READ MORE
After the Obama administration’s employee friendly policies, employers will have a wish list of changes they believe a Trump administration would favor. Here are ten items that should be at the top and why employers want to see action. READ MORE
On October 24, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Crone of the Eastern District of Texas granted a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining implementation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulations. In addition to enjoining implementation of the reporting obligations, the court also enjoined enforcement of the pre-dispute arbitration ban on Title VII claims.
On September 29, 2016, the DOL released a final rule requiring federal contractors to provide seven days of paid sick leave annually. The rule implements a 2015 executive order from President Obama that we covered in greater detail here. More than 35,000 individuals and organizations submitted comments on the DOL’s proposed rule.
Earlier this year, we predicted that the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) would ramp up investigations directed at rooting out alleged discrimination by information technology companies. Many tech companies have indeed been the focus of increasingly intense and acrimonious investigations in 2016.
OFCCP took its enforcement efforts to the next level this week by filing a formal administrative complaint for violations of Executive Order 11246 (which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors). The complaint alleges that Palantir Technologies – a private software company headquartered in Palo Alto and recently valued at $20 billion – discriminated against Asian applicants for three positions (QA Engineer, Software Engineer, and QA Engineer Intern). Specifically, the OFCCP alleges that the company hired largely based on an employee referral system that resulted in statistically significant underrepresentation of Asian hires, given that the vast majority of applicants for these jobs were Asian. The complaint seeks to debar the company from future federal contracts and require “complete relief” for Asian applicants for these roles, including lost compensation, hiring, and retroactive seniority.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, twenty-one states filed a complaint in federal court in Texas challenging the new overtime rule finalized by the Department of Labor (“DOL”) in May of this year. The States seek to prevent implementation of the new rule, which is scheduled to become effective on December 1, 2016. That same day, fifty-five business groups, including several chambers of commerce, filed a similar lawsuit in Texas federal court to block the rule.
The federal government released the final regulations implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order (“EO” hereafter) this week. The regulatory package contains two parts: amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulations and guidance from the Department of Labor for implementing the regulations. The regulatory package is a central part of the Administration’s aggressive regulatory agenda we have previously discussed and reflects continuing burdens on federal contractors.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301–4335, imposes various obligations on employers with respect to members of the U.S. military returning to their civilian workplace. USERRA differs from other employment laws (e.g., Title VII) in multiple respects. For example, USERRA applies to all public and private employers, irrespective of size. Therefore, “an employer with only one employee is covered….” 20 C.F.R. § 1002.34(a). In addition, USERRA contains an “escalator” requirement that returning service-members are reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service with the same seniority, status, and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority. See 20 C.F.R. § 1002.191. Also, USERRA has no statute of limitations of any kind for claims that accrued after October 10, 2008 (and claims that accrued after October 10, 2004 probably are timely as well). See 38 U.S.C. § 4327(b); 20 C.F.R. § 1002.311.
Another distinction is that USERRA modifies at-will employment by creating a “for cause” standard of discharge for veterans who return to work after a month or more of military service. If a veteran’s service was between thirty (30) and one-hundred and eighty (180) days, he or she may not be discharged except for cause for six (6) months following their return to work. Veterans returning from more than one-hundred and eighty (180) days of service are afforded the same protection from discharge for one year. See 38 U.S.C. § 4316(c)(1) and (2); 20 C.F.R. § 1002.247(a) and (b). To meet the burden—which is the employer’s—of showing “cause,” an employer must produce evidence demonstrating, not only that it was reasonable to discharge the employee for the conduct at issue, but that the employee had notice that the conduct would constitute cause for discharge. See 20 C.F.R. § 1002.248(a). READ MORE
This post was drafted with contribution from Annie Prasad, law clerk.
The Supreme Court has made federal contracting more treacherous by extending the reach of False Claims Act (“FCA”) liability. While the decision related to FCA liability for misrepresentations related to staffing levels, the case may provide a roadmap for federal officials looking to trigger FCA claims against contractors who are noncompliant with federal labor laws enforced by the Department of Labor. Specifically, those at risk of debarment or cancellation of contracts due to noncompliance with Executive Order 11246 or the proposed Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order may be at risk of more serious penalties.