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.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sent its much anticipated final overtime regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review on March 14, 2016. Technically, this move came slightly ahead of schedule. OMB now has 90 days to review, which would put its “due date” in mid-June – ahead of the July regulatory agenda publication date we previously reported. However, as these overtime regulations are a top-line priority subject to intense political scrutiny, there is reason to believe OMB may not complete its review within the 90-day window.
Earlier this month, the EEOC filed its first lawsuits against employers alleging sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII, arguing that Title VII’s protections extend to sexual orientation as a form of gender bias. In the lawsuit against Scott Medical Health Center filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the EEOC alleges that a gay male employee was subjected to harassment, including anti-gay epithets, because of his sexual orientation. In the suit against Pallet Companies d/b/a/ IFCO Systems filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the EEOC alleges that a supervisor harassed a lesbian employee because of her sexual orientation, including making numerous comments about her sexual orientation and appearance. The EEOC alleges that the employers violated Title VII, which extends protection to workers who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. In both cases, the EEOC takes the position that sexual orientation discrimination necessarily entails treating employees less favorably because of their sex, thus triggering Title VII’s protections.
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.
The EEOC seeks public comment on its new Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, which will supersede the agency’s last-issued guidance on the topic from 1998. The updated guidance addresses several significant rulings by the Supreme Court and lower courts from the past two decades. The guidance was also informed by public input on retaliation and best practices that the Commission gathered from its June 17, 2015 meeting on “Retaliation in the Workplace: Causes, Remedies, and Strategies for Prevention.” The 30-day input period on the guidance ends on February 24, 2016.
Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith likes to quip that the Department is “working overtime on overtime.” DOL took a break from the much-anticipated overtime regulations and issued new guidance yesterday on the question of who qualifies as a “joint employer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). The guidance (Administrator’s Interpretation (AI) No. 2016-1) issued by Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Administrator Dr. David Weil, sets forth a broad (and sometimes ambiguous) reading of statutory provisions, regulations, and case law to address joint employment issues under the two statutes. The guidance was not unexpected as some advocates have been asking for the DOL’s position on joint employment since the NLRB’s expansion of joint employment in Browning-Ferris, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015). Notably, the level of coordination between DOL and the NLRB on joint employment issues has been the subject of Congressional oversight and the oversight committee now claims that DOL provided suspect responses to members of Congress regarding interactions between the agencies on the issue.
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.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) role as a strong player in the Obama Administration’s domestic agenda shows no signs of letting up. DOL is poised to finalize big changes in the federal contracting and wage and hour spaces. Employers should be ready to meet the compliance challenges associated with these new obligations.