For months, employers have been preparing for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) new Fair Labor Standards Act “white-collar” overtime exemption regulations, which were to take effect on December 1, 2016. Now, in a surprising decision issued on November 22, 2016, a Texas federal court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the regulations. The Court’s decision means that employers no longer have to comply with the new regulations by December 1.
What happens next remains to be seen — The injunction, which has not yet been appealed by the DOL, creates uncertainty as to the future of the regulations, particularly in light of the new incoming presidential administration. Should the DOL choose not to appeal the decision, or should the injunction be held up on appeal, the injunction could forecast the demise of the regulations.
What does this mean for employers? The answer depends on how far down the path employers have gone to comply with the proposed December 1 changes. To the extent that employers have not already increased exempt employees’ salaries or converted them to non-exempt positions, the injunction will at the very least allow employers to postpone those changes. And, depending on the final outcome of this legal battle, it is possible employers may never need to implement them.
Employers who have already implemented changes in anticipation of the new rules or that informed employees that they will receive salary increases or will be converted to non-exempt status effective December 1, 2016, are placed in a difficult situation with managing employee expectations and the changed legal landscape. Whether employers can or should reverse salary increases they have already implemented should be discussed carefully with your legal counsel.
For any questions on the status of the enjoined FLSA regulations or for legal guidance as to how to communicate with employees that those announced changes will not go into effect on December 1, 2016, please contact Amanda Lavis at ALavis@Rhoads-Sinon.com
In light of recent changes by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), employers should conduct a compliance check to ensure they are abiding by federal law posting requirements.
On June 2, the EEOC announced that it is more than doubling the fines for employers that violate notice posting provisions of Title VII and other statutes from $210 to $525 per violation. The EEOC said it was adjusting the penalty for inflation, in accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. Employers covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act must post notices describing the key provisions of these acts in “prominent and accessible” spots in the workplace, according to the EEOC. The requirement applies to private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions employing 15 or more individuals, as well as to federal contractors and subcontractors. The “EEO is the Law” poster, prepared by the EEOC, summarizes these laws and is available for free here in English, Arabic, Chinese and Spanish
In May, the DOL issued a new user-friendly Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) poster. Employers who are covered by the FMLA are required to display a DOL-prepared poster advising employees and applicants of the major provisions of the Act. Employers are still permitted to display the prior version of the poster (dated February 2013) or may elect to use the new poster (dated April 2016). A copy of the new poster is available for free from the DOL here.
On May 20, 2014, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down both Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, and its prohibition against recognition of same-sex marriages legally entered into in other jurisdictions, on the grounds that such laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The ruling in Whitewood v. Wolf now permits same-sex couples to marry in Pennsylvania, and recognizes the marriages of already married same-sex couples. Governor Tom Corbett has stated he will not appeal the decision.
With the decision in Whitewood, Pennsylvania now joins eighteen other states and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage. The Whitewood decision will have a significant impact in employers on a variety of matters, including leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and benefits.
Employers should review their employee benefit plans and handbooks to ensure compliance with the Whitewood decision. If you need assistance in reviewing your plans, handbooks, or policies, or have questions regarding the Whitewood decision, please contact Amanda Lavis.
On January 20, 2014, the City of Philadelphia amended its Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination (“Philadelphia Ordinance”) to require all Philadelphia employers, regardless of size, to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with special needs resulting from pregnancy or childbirth. The new law makes it unlawful for any Philadelphia employer to fail to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, as long as the accommodation does not pose an undue hardship to the business. Reasonable accommodations may include: restroom breaks, periodic rest breaks, assistance with manual labor, maternity leave, reassignment to a vacant position, and/or job restructuring. The undue hardship test closely mirrors the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) undue hardship test, and requires an evaluation of the nature and cost of the accommodation; the overall financial resources of the employer’s facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodations, including the number of persons employed at such facility, the effect on expenses and resources or the impact of such accommodations on the operations of the employer; the number of the employer’s employees and the number, type and location of its facilities; and the type of operation or operations of the employer.
Importantly, the ordinance expands an employer’s obligations beyond those currently required under the ADA. Pregnancy itself is not a disability covered by the ADA, although pregnancy-related impairments such as hypertension, gestational diabetes, severe nausea, and sciatica are disabilities covered by the ADA when they substantially limit a major life activity. The Philadelphia Ordinance, however, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for needs relating to pregnancy and/or childbirth. Current federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of pregnancy.
All current employees and any new employees must be provided with written notice of their rights under the new law by April 20, 2014. Notice must also be posted conspicuously at the employer’s place of business in a location accessible to all employees. A copy of the applicable notice can be found here.
Philadelphia employers should review their equal employment opportunity, reasonable accommodation, and leave policies, as well as related training materials, to ensure that they are in alignment with the new requirements of this Ordinance.