A recent decision from the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board serves as a warning to federal agencies against overreaching in their efforts to identify alleged employment discrimination. It also serves to highlight the heavy burden that plaintiffs—whether government agencies or private litigants—must carry in cases alleging a pattern or practice of disparate treatment.
The prognostication efforts are going into high gear as employers seek to forecast and prepare where the Department of Labor may land on its final overtime rules. As with all rules in the post-comment phase, government officials have not given any indication on when the final rules will be published (and become effective) or what they will contain. Our insight is the final rule will be published ahead of schedule before the July regulatory agenda date, perhaps as soon as later this month. The Congressional Review Act deadlines (described here) strongly indicate that the DOL will seek to avoid the prospect of any effective congressional action on the final rules. As to the final rule’s content, we believe that the Office of Management and Budget and DOL are taking into account the political winds and other considerations before making a final decision. Once published, however, the DOL can set the effective dates as early as 60 days which would give employers a very difficult compliance burden.
Members of the Fair Labor Standards Legislation Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law recently met. The meeting includes employer and employee advocates, as well as government officials. The meeting often highlights not only the present status of regulations, policy and pending litigation but also provides a window into coming trends that may be important for employers. We highlight a few takeaways.
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.
In Morton v. Vanderbilt Univ., 2016 WL 52439 (6th Cir. Jan. 5, 2016), the Sixth Circuit recently held that, for purposes of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN Act”), employment does not end at notice of termination, but rather the employment relationship continues as long as the employee continues to be paid wages and accrue benefits.
As you brace for the New Year, don’t forget that California’s minimum wage will reach $10 per hour on January 1, 2016. This latest increase is the final stage of the two-step legislation that increased the minimum wage from $8 to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014, and now to $10 per hour effective January 1, 2016.
Sportswear-inspired designs, bold prints, and gingham aren’t the only things trending for Spring 2015 in the fashion world. Judging from a recent wave of lawsuits, wage and hour class actions are trending as well. Over the past few years, class action lawsuits over unpaid internships have been on the rise, with this most recent wave of filed lawsuits serving as a powerful reminder to employers that intern programs can’t simply be viewed as a way to recruit free labor.
As employers in New York were gearing up for distribution of the annual wage notices in January 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo finally signed the amendment to New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act that was passed by the legislature back in June and repeals the annual wage notification provision. While the other amendments to the Act will not take effect for 60 days, the Governor’s December 29, 2014 signing statement and the New York Department of Labor make clear that employers are not required to distribute wage notices to their employees this January. The amendment, however, does not relieve employers of their obligation to provide all newly hired employees with wage notices at the time of hiring. In addition, although not specifically addressed in the amendment to the Act, it would be prudent for employers to distribute a revised wage notice when an employee receives a new position with a different compensation structure during his or her tenure with the employer.
On December 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its final rule barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The final rule implements an Executive Order signed by President Obama in July 2014 amending Executive Order 11,246 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases of employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors.
On November 12, 2014, the Fifth Circuit affirmed a Department of Labor finding that Halliburton retaliated against a whistleblower by including his name in a document preservation notice. The court also held that emotional distress damages are available under SOX.
In Halliburton, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board, the whistleblower, Anthony Menendez, claimed that he was ostracized and isolated in violation of SOX after Halliburton’s General Counsel sent out a litigation hold notice stating that the SEC had opened an investigation into concerns raised by Menendez about alleged accounting improprieties. Menendez had previously raised these concerns internally to management.