In 2015, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) proposed substantial changes to the minimum salary level requirements, sought input on whether bonuses and incentives should be included in meeting the salary level test and considered changing the duties test to establish overtime eligibility. Taken together, these proposed changes would have had a drastic effect on the obligation of employers to pay overtime. On May 18, 2016, DOL issued its Final Rules and employers have until December 1, 2016 to comply. Overall, the changes strike a middle ground as DOL declined to adopt the more restrictive California 50% duties test. However, doubling the salary level threshold and other changes present significant economic and compliance challenges for employers. Below is a summary of key takeaways and steps employers should consider to address these changes and ensure compliance.
Lisa Lupion, an associate in Orrick’s New York office, has experience litigating a broad range of employment issues, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge and compensation claims before state and federal courts and administrative agencies.
Lisa also has significant experience defending wage-and-hour class and collective action claims under state and federal laws, including claims for overtime, minimum wage, meal and rest break penalties and expense reimbursements. She regularly conducts internal wage-and-hour audits and advises on misclassification issues in a variety of sectors including financial services, media and publishing, nonprofit entities and startup companies, among others. Recent wage-and-hour engagements include:
- Advising clients facing claims of independent contractor misclassification before the Department of Labor, both in the context of individual claims and Department of Labor audits.
- Defending off-the-clock claims in national FLSA collective actions in federal court and in arbitration.
In addition, Lisa has significant experience defending clients before AAA, JAMS and FINRA. Recent arbitration experience includes:
Successfully defending global investment banking firm against claims for allegedly unpaid bonus based upon purported oral promise for formulaic bonus compensation.
- Representing global financial institution in a nine-day hearing before a FINRA Panel that rejected claims for unpaid compensation.
Lisa regularly advises clients on a variety of employment-related issues, including human resources policies and procedures, offer letters, severance agreements and employee termination. As part of her counseling role, she creates and conducts training programs for her clients. Lisa also has significant experience conducting internal investigations.
Prior to joining Orrick, Lisa served as a law clerk to the Hon. Peter Leisure in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
After agreeing last week on a 2016-17 Executive Budget that includes several key labor and employment provisions, New York State Independent Democratic Caucus Leader Jeffrey Klein declared that “[t]his truly is the Year of the Worker.” The ground breaking bills include an increase of the New York State minimum wage over the next few years to $15 per hour and paid family leave for employees for up to 12 weeks when caring for an infant, family member with a serious health condition or to relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. The New York City Council was also busy on the employment front last week, passing several changes to the New York City Human Rights Law that impact New York City employers. These recent State and City legislative developments are summarized below.
Whether a Human Resources Director will be deemed the “employer” and held individually liable for alleged violations under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) should be left to the jury, according to the Second Circuit’s recent FMLA decision. In Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, et al., 15-888-cv (2d Cir. Mar. 17, 2016), the Second Circuit found that there could be a viable claim for individual liability under the FMLA and it also announced the standard for what could be considered unlawful “interference” with FMLA rights.
While the Supreme Court in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo dashed employers’ hopes that the Court would broadly preclude statistical evidence and severely limit wage and hour class actions in a fashion similar to its restriction of discrimination class actions in Wal-mart v. Dukes, the Court was also clear that this type of evidence will not be appropriate or probative in all wage and hour claims. In ruling for the class action claimants, the Court affirmed a $2.9 million jury award for overtime claims related to donning and doffing at an Iowa pork processing plant. In so ruling, the Supreme Court refused to adopt the position advanced by Tyson Foods and several of its amici that class actions cannot be resolved by reliance upon representative evidence or statistical samples. It also refused to embrace Tyson Food’s reading of Wal-mart v. Dukes as standing for the proposition that representative sample is an impermissible means of establishing class-wide liability. But the Court also made clear whether statistical evidence could be used for liability depends on the claims asserted and the particular evidence. While the decision is not unsurprising after oral arguments, it seems likely that employers will see an uptick in plaintiffs aggressively relying on “representative” statistical evidence in wage and hour collective and class cases. There are, however, several “lessons learned” based upon the majority’s decision.
The Department of Labor (“DOL”) continues its regulatory dash to fulfill the President’s domestic agenda. The agency issued proposed rules, that seek to make President Obama’s Executive Order 13706, Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors signed on September 7, 2015, into a reality. The DOL solicits any comments on the proposed rules on or before March 28, 2016. Once effective, employees of certain federal contractors would be entitled to paid leave akin to the leave now in place in 4 states, the District of Columbia, and 27 other localities that are entitled to paid sick leave.
On January 5, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that added “caregiver” to the list of protected classifications under the New York City Human Rights Law. The law, which takes effect on May 4, 2016, seeks to protect employees and applicants from discrimination because of their status or perceived status as a caregiver. Carmelyn Malais, the Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights vowed that “the Commission will vigorously enforce this much-needed protection” for “every parent and family member caring for a loved one.”
From coast to coast, as the calendar turned to 2016, a host of new employment laws became effective. States and local government are imposing broad obligations on employers well above what federal law requires. This patchwork of legal requirements will continue to bedevil employers. As you begin implementing your resolutions for 2016, here’s our take on the major changes that went into effect across the nation last week:
In the latest in a series of laws directed at New York City employers, effective January 1, 2016 non-governmental employers with 20 or more full-time non-union employees in New York City are obligated to provide full-time employees with the opportunity to use pre-tax income to purchase qualified transportation benefits. The law will be enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”), which is the same agency responsible for enforcing the New York City Paid Sick Leave Law. The DCA’s published Frequently Asked Questions on the Commuter Benefits Law are available here.
After more than 30 years, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) has concluded that it was time to change the standard for determining when companies are to be considered joint employers under the National Labor Relations Act. On August 27, 2015, with its much-anticipated decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., the Board issued a new joint-employer standard that will examine whether an employer has the potential to exercise control over employees’ working conditions and reversed the previous requirement that a joint employer must exercise direct and immediate control over the employees in question.
In Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House, Inc., the Second Circuit held that without the approval of a district court or the U.S. Department of Labor, parties cannot secure a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice of an FLSA claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). In practice, this holding will prevent parties to an FLSA litigation – where there is a bona fide dispute as to liability – from reaching a privately negotiated settlement that includes a joint stipulation of dismissal of the case.