Recently, much has been made about the government’s conflicting positions regarding whether sexual orientation is protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC (“Equal Employment Opportunity Commission”) has continued to assert its position that sexual orientation is protected under Title VII as a form of sex-based discrimination under the Supreme Court’s Price Waterhouse decision. At the same time, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has claimed that Title VII does not protect sexual orientation as it is not based on sex. Many have taken extreme umbrage at DOJ’s position as a complete reversal of the previous administration’s position as the Department filed an unsolicited amicus in the Second Circuit. However, as the DOJ’s civil division filed the brief, it presents a rare window into the “Jekyll/Hyde” dynamic within the government. As some agencies broadly seek civil rights protections, the federal government is also one of the world’s largest employers faced with the challenges of limiting countless claims. 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 August 31, 2017, Judge Amos Mazzant of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, issued an order invalidating the Obama-era overtime rules. Finding that the Department of Labor rule exceeded its statutory authority under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the district court appeared to end the saga that had employers furiously determining whether they were going to adjust the pay of a wide swath of their workforces last Fall. However, the decision does not close the books on whether changes to the FLSA white collar exemptions are on the horizon. READ MORE
Earlier this month, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced its intent to rescind the Obama-era regulations regarding persuader activity and reporting requirements pursuant to Section 203(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”). Under the Obama administration, persuader activity was considered activity by anyone engaged to help management discourage employees from forming or joining a labor union, including lawyers hired to advise management on how to discourage union organizing activity. The official rescission of the Rule was published in the Federal Register on June 12, 2017.
Effective June 7, 2017, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) has withdrawn informal guidance on independent contractors and joint employment. The guidance on independent contractors came from an Administrator’s Interpretation released in 2015 and was the result of the DOL’s renewed focus on worker misclassification. In it, the DOL seized upon a broad definition of “employ” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)—“to suffer or permit to work”—to conclude that “most workers are employees under the FLSA.” The DOL’s guidance on joint employment was released in 2016 and also came from an Administrator’s Interpretation. The guidance provided a broad interpretation of joint employment in the wake of the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris decision. It also distinguished between “horizontal” joint employment, which occurs when the employee has an employment relationship with two or more sufficiently related employers, and “vertical” joint employment, which occurs when the employee has an employment relationship with one employer (such a staffing agency or subcontractor), but economic realities show that he or she is economically dependent upon another entity.
In a press release announcing the withdrawn guidance, the DOL noted, “Removal of the administrator interpretations does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, as reflected in the department’s long-standing regulations and case law. The department will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.”
Last week the Sixth Circuit upheld a grant of summary judgment in the employer’s favor on a former employee’s sex discrimination claim, finding plaintiff failed to meet her burden to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.
Dr. Jean Simpson was a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. While teaching at the University, Dr. Simpson started her own private consulting practice doing breast-pathology. Upon learning of Dr. Simpson’s consulting practice, the University instructed her the external employment violated the Conflict of Interest Policy, the Vanderbilt Medical Group (“VMG”) By-Laws and the VMG Participation Agreement and asked her to cease the consulting work. She refused. The University later terminated Dr. Simpson because of these violations. READ MORE
On May 4, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Liberty (the “EO”). The EO’s stated policy is to “vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.” An early version of the Executive Order contained provisions that directed the Department of Labor to begin rulemaking which could have expanded the religions exemptions to federal civil rights laws for federal contractors. While this and other expansive provisions were not included in the current EO, further accommodations of religious exercise in the workplace are not off the table. READ MORE
On Tuesday, the President officially killed the Obama-era Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (“FPSW”) Initiative, which came to be known as the “Blacklisting regs”. The move was widely expected as Executive Order 13673, the Federal Acquisition Council’s Regulations and the Department of Labor’s Guidance were widely panned by federal contractors. However, the Trump Administration’s path to dump this initiative represents how Washington makes it difficult to do even the simplest things quickly. READ MORE
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
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