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Employment Law Blog

Category: Labor Law

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division Collects Over $185 Million in 2008

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced in a January 2, 2009 press release its enforcement data for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008. In FY 2008, WHD recouped back wages totaling $185,287,827 for 228,645 workers.

WHD touted this statistic as a “40 percent increase over the FY 2001 figure.” The press release notes: “Since FY 2001, WHD has recouped more than $1.4 billion back wages for over two million workers.”

However, WHD has been the subject of recent criticism, and in its press release WHD failed to note that the 2008 figures represent a decrease from 2007. In FY 2007, WHD collected $220,613,703 for 341,624 workers. (Link to 2007 stats.)

Alexander J. Passantino, acting administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, offers the statistics in support of his request for additional funds to increase enforcement measures. “These continued strong enforcement results demonstrate that our comprehensive approach is working. We also urge Congress to provide the funds we have requested in the president’s FY 09 budget to hire additional investigators.”

President-elect Obama is likely to fulfill Passantino’s wishes, although Passantino will probably not be around to see it happen. In July 2008, responding to a Government Accountability Office report , Senator Obama sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, expressing concerns that the Department of Labor is not fulfilling its mission to prevent and remedy violations of federal minimum wage and overtime laws. In his letter, he was critical of Mr. Passantino’s testimony before a Senate committee.

“GAO’s conclusions about how the Department exercises its responsibilities to working Americans raise serious, but addressable, issues. Fixing these problems may require bipartisan cooperation, or in some cases additional funding, but other needed reforms are in the sole discretion of the Department, and can be instituted unilaterally.”

In December 2008, President-elect Obama named Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis of California to serve as labor secretary.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted, Esq.
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Posted by Christopher W. Olmsted on 01/07 at 12:37 AM
Employment LawFLSALabor Law
Friday, December 19, 2008

With Wage Garnishments On The Rise, Employers Must Avoid Retaliatory Discharges

During these tough economic times, as employees fall into debt, employers may see an increase in wage garnishments. Can an employer terminate an employee if the wage garnishments become a nuisance?

The answer is: “It depends.” Federal law, as well as California law, protects employees from termination on account of garnishment for “one indebtedness.” An employer is not restrained from taking adverse action against an employee on account of garnishment for more than one indebtedness.

<u>Federal Law</u>

In the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, found in Title 15 of the U.S. Code, section 1674 prohibits an employer from discharging any employee by reason of the fact that his earnings have been subjected to garnishment for any one indebtedness. A willful violation of the section may result in criminal penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both.

Although the federal act provides a criminal sanction as the only penalty for violation of the prohibition, some federal courts, including in the 9th Circuit have interpreted the law to allow an employee to file a civil lawsuit seeking back pay.

The term “one indebtedness” refers to a single debt, regardless of the number of levies made or the number of proceedings brought for its collection. A distinction is thus made between a single debt and the garnishment proceedings brought to collect it. A creditor, in seeking to collect a debt, may garnish wages on multiple occasions. Yet because the creditor seeks to collect a single debt, the employee would be protected by the federal law.

According to legislative commentary, if several creditors combine their debts in a single garnishment action, the joint amount is considered as “one indebtedness.” In the same vein, if a creditor joins several debts in a court action and obtains a judgment and writ of garnishment, the judgment would be considered a single indebtedness for purposes of this law. Also, the protection against discharge is renewed with each employment, since the new employer has not been a garnishee with respect to that employee.

<u>California Law</u>

The California Labor Code provides similar protection to employees. Section 2929 provides: “No employer may discharge any employee by reason of the fact that the garnishment of his wages has been threatened. No employer may discharge any employee by reason of the fact that his wages have been subjected to garnishment for the payment of one judgment.”

An employee discharged in violation of California Labor Code Section 2929 may continue to collect wages for up to 30 days after the date of termination.

California law is thus more explicit than federal law with respect to a private right of recovery. The legislative commentary associated with Section 2929 states that the civil penalty is intended to aid in the enforcement of the prohibition against discharge for garnishment of earnings provided by the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968. The civil penalty under Section 2929 benefits employees, notes the commentary, by providing a more effective method of securing compliance than the criminal sanction provided by the federal law.

Excessive garnishments may subject an employee to discipline. The legislative commentary observes: “Some employers have a rule that the employee will be given warnings for the first two garnishments and will be discharged for the third garnishment in a year. Where at least two of the actions relate to separate debts, discharge would not be prohibited by the law since the warning and discharge would be based on garnishment for more than one indebtedness.”

Employers should thus exercise caution before taking adverse action against an employee whose wages have been garnished.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted, Esq.
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Posted by Christopher W. Olmsted on 12/19 at 12:49 AM
California Employment LawEmployment LawLabor Law
Friday, November 14, 2008

The Likely Rise Of Unionization In The New Political Environment

The idea of revamping the National Labor Relations Act in favor of unions has been floating around for some time now, but legislation has stalled. No more. At the dawn of a new political regime, employers are bracing for monumental change.

Political analysts believe that Congress is likely to pass legislation titled the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) sometime in 2009, perhaps as early as the first 100 days of the new administration. The President-elect co-sponsored the legislation, and it is reasonable to expect him to sign it into law.

For those of you who have not been following the legislation, it is time to get up to speed. Generally, the EFCA would change labor law in three ways:

First, if enacted the law would require the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union after union organizers have gathered signed union cards from a simple majority of company workers. Currently, the certification process typically involves secret ballots where workers can vote without the union or employer eyeing their decision.

Second, after the card check certification, the EFCA would give the union and company 120 days to negotiate a new contract. If no agreement is reached, the union and company would be required to enter binding arbitration, where a government arbitrator would set the terms of the contract. Currently, if the union and company cannot agree to terms, the union may call a strike, and the employer may implement its last best offer or lock out workers, until eventually a compromise is reached.

Third, the EFCA would significantly increase penalties for unfair labor practices committed by employers during an organizing drive. Fines would rise to $20,000 per violation, and affected employees would be entitled to treble their back pay if terminated for participating in an organizing campaign.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued numerous statements in opposition to the legislation. “nions are now emphasizing the card check process in their organizing drives, not because they do not win secret ballot election—they win over 50—but because it eliminates any chances of losing. As an open-ended process, they can keep their campaign going as long as necessary rather than resolve the issue on a specific date as with an election. Not only are employees often targeted for intimidation, but the card check process also often leads to other coercive tactics, known as “corporate campaigns.” These campaigns are designed to pressure employers through demonstrations, false and misleading stories in news media, and other public expressions to recognize unions as the exclusive bargaining representative of their employees without having to go through an election. These tactics are how organized labor’s leadership intends to restore its declining membership base in the private sector.”

The Chamber adds: “In addition to its card check provisions, EFCA also contains a provision to impose mandatory interest arbitration of first contracts. Interest arbitration would set all the terms of the initial contract between an employer and a union, including wages and benefits, but also other provisions typically in collective bargaining agreements, such as outsourcing and union security clauses. While sometimes used in the public sector, binding interest arbitration is completely unprecedented in the private sector. The idea of government arbitrators determining contract terms and what business decisions must be taken to meet those commitments is simply beyond the pale.”

“Finally,” observes the Chamber, “EFCA includes provisions to increase penalties on employers for certain violations of the NLRA. The fact that these provisions apply only to employer violations and not to union violations illustrates the bias inherent in EFCA. Union coercion is no less contemptible than employer coercion.”

The US Chamber’s comments can be found here.

Organized labor, of course, has a completely different view. According to the AFL-CIO “Today, CEOs get contracts that protect their wages and benefits. But some deny their employees the same opportunity. Although U.S. and international laws are supposed to protect workers’ freedom to belong to unions, employers routinely harass, intimidate, coerce and even fire workers struggling to gain a union so they can bargain for better lives. And U.S. labor law is powerless to stop them. Employees are on an uneven playing field from the first moment they begin exploring whether they want to form a union, and the will of the majority often is crushed by brutal management tactics.”

“The current system is not like any democratic election held anywhere else in our society. Employers have turned the NLRB election process into management-controlled election process—the employer has all the power, controls the information workers can receive and routinely poisons the process by intimidating, harassing, coercing and even firing people who try to organize unions. On top of that, the law’s penalties are so insignificant that many companies treat them as just another cost of doing business. By the time employees vote in an NLRB election, if they can get to that point, a free and fair choice isn’t an option. Even in the voting location, workers do not have a free choice after being browbeaten by supervisors.”

The AFL-CIO’s comments can be found here and here.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted, Esq.
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Posted by Christopher W. Olmsted on 11/14 at 12:34 AM
California Employment LawEmployment LawLabor Law
Monday, November 03, 2008

California Employee Time Off For Voting

In the nick of time for Election Day, below is a FAQ relating to the right of California employees to take time off for voting.

Q: Which employers are covered by this law?

A: All California employers.

Q: When is the leave available?

A: Employees are eligible for paid time off for the purpose of voting in any statewide election only if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. The intent of the law is to provide an opportunity to vote to workers who would not be able to do so because of their jobs. The polls are open from 7am to 8pm. Most employees work shifts that would permit them to vote either before or after work, without taking any time off.

Q: How much time off must be given?

A: An employee is entitled to take off enough working time on the day of the election so that, when added to the voting time available outside of working hours, the employee will be able to vote.

Q: Is the leave paid?

A: Yes, but only a maximum of two hours is paid.

Q: Must the employee give advance notice?

A: Yes, usually. If an employee on the third working day prior to election day knows that he or she will need time off to vote on election day, the employee must give the employer at least two working days’ notice of the need for time off.

Q: Can employees take time off to vote in the middle of a shift?

A: No. Employers may require time off to be taken only at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift

Q: Must the employer post notice of the voting leave rights?

A: Yes. At least 10 days before any statewide election, every employer must conspicuously post a notice at the workplace (or, if impracticable, elsewhere where employees can see it as they come or go to the work site), setting forth the provisions of Election Code § 14000. Most employers simply leave the notice posted all year round. Some “all-in-one” posters include the proper notice among the multitude of other required postings.

Q: Where can I get the required posting?

A: The Secretary of State offers the official posting. Click here for the poster.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted, Esq.
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Friday, October 17, 2008

Politics In The Workplace

As Election Day approaches, politics inevitably seeps into the workplace. What if employees become disruptive, argumentative, annoying, or just plain unproductive on account of politics in the workplace? Does an employer have the right to limit political activities of employees in the workplace?

The answer is: “It depends.” In the private sector, in some jurisdictions, it is unlawful for employers to prevent employees from engaging in political activities or affiliations. But that does not mean employees are free to engage in any kind political activity on the clock, in the workplace.

In California, for example, Labor Code Section 1101 makes it unlawful for an employer to make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy: (a) Forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office. (b) Controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.  Labor Code Section 1102 makes it unlawful to coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.

Retaliating against, or terminating an employee for engaging in political activity may give rise to wrongful termination or retaliation claims. For example, in one California case, a newspaper editor who was fired for publicly criticizing public official outside the workplace was held to have valid wrongful termination claim.

But California law does not prohibit employers from limiting political activity inside the workplace while on the clock. After all, employees are paid to do their job, and typically political activity or discussions are not part of the job description. The two employees arguing about Obama and McCain instead of answering phones, taking sales orders, or doing whatever they are paid to do can be told to knock it off and get back to work.  Neutral policies limiting political campaigning or other political activity in the workplace may be necessary in order to keep employees productive. Policies or practices that are not neutral (for example, a conduct code giving preference to one political view over another) should be avoided. Moreover, policies that limit union activity (which is in some sense political) may run afoul of state and federal law.

Please let me know what your experiences with politics in the workplace have been. You can email me by clicking my name below.

Submitted by:
{encode=“” title=“Christopher W. Olmsted”}
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wage and Hour Division Criticized

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has failed to effectively enforce federal wage laws, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued on July 15th, 2008.

From fiscal years 1997 to 2007, the number of WHD’s enforcement actions decreased by more than a third, from approximately 47,000 in 1997 to just under 30,000 in 2007. The WHD defended the trend. It stated that it decided to enforce fewer, but more time-consuming comprehensive claims. It also states that the decrease resulted from more careful screening out of unmerited claims at the intake stage. WHD admits that part of the decrease is attributed to a 20% reduction in investigative staff.

The GAO found that the WHD rarely imposed statutory penalties on employers. WHD assessed penalties for 6 percent of the enforcement actions conducted between 2000 and 2007.

The GAO cited several examples where the WHD found violations of federal labor law, but failed to follow through with enforcement.

In one case, a homeless woman receiving free room and board while working as a night attendant at a nursing home alleged her employer had failed to pay her wages for an entire year. According to the WHD, the employer admitted it had failed to pay any wages to the night attendant and considered the room and board to be pay, but stated it did not have any money to pay the back wages. The WHD dropped the case and advised the night attendant of her right to file a private lawsuit. The employer was still in business as of June 2008.

An another case, the an employee alleged he was not paid for overtime. The WHD investigator did not perform any actions for 15 months citing a backlog of cases. Investigation was dropped after 15 months when the investigator saw a news article showing that the business in question had closed

The GAO further criticized the WHD for focusing on too narrow a range of industries. “WHD focused on the same industries from 1997 to 2007. The agency primarily targeted four industry groups: agriculture, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and health care and social services.” The WHD did not react to information from its commissioned studies on low wage industries in which FLSA violations are likely to occur. The GAO concludes “WHD may not be addressing the needs of workers most vulnerable to FLSA violations.”

WHD’s data tracking hides its inefficiencies. “The extent to which WHD’s activities have improved FLSA compliance is unknown because WHD frequently changes both how it measures and how it reports on its performance,” reports the GAO.  “When agencies provide trend data in their performance reports, decision makers can compare current and past progress in meeting long-term goals.” WHD did just the opposite. “While WHD’s long-term goals and strategies generally remained the same from 1997 to 2007, WHD often changed how it measured its progress, keeping about 90 percent of its measures for 2 years or less.”

As quoted in the New York Times, a Labor Department press release highlighted the pay it has recovered for employees. Recovery of wages “more than doubled to $220,613,703 in 2007 from $96,719,108 in 1997.” The DOL said that 341,624 employees received back wages in 2007, up from 189,244 10 years earlier.”  The DOL added: “The “Wage and Hour Division is delivering pay for workers, not a payday for trial lawyers.”

To view the GAO reports, click here and here.

To view the New York Times article, click here.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted, Esq.
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Posted by Christopher W. Olmsted on 07/17 at 01:42 AM
Employment LawFLSAHuman ResourcesLabor Law
Thursday, July 10, 2008

CA Labor Commissioner Cites Company For Not Providing Lactation Accommodation To Employee

In 2002, the California legislature amended the Labor Code to mandate that employers provide “lactation accommodation.” Yes, we cover it all here in the Golden State. In the six years following enactment of the law, no known enforcement actions had been initiated. Hopefully the reason is because employers have been complying with the law. 

Apparently at least one employer did not take note of the law. The California Labor Commissioner, Angela Bradstreet, has announced the issuance of a citation to a Santa Clara-based International Security Services, Inc. for failing to provide private accommodations for an employee to express breast milk for her newborn.  The citation is the first of its kind since the law took effect in 2002. A fine of $4,000 has been assessed.

“Under the law, employers are obligated to accommodate employees who wish to provide breast milk for their infant children,” Bradstreet said. “This employer failed to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a private room for an employee to express milk for her baby as required.”

The labor commissioner received a complaint—the first lodged as a result of the 2002 legislation—from the employee on March 4, which prompted an investigation. The investigation revealed that the employee was not provided an appropriate, designated room. Initially the room that was provided was computer server room with security cameras. This offered an inadequate level of privacy needed to perform the milk expressing process.

Labor Code sections 1030-1033 became law in 2001 and mandates every employer, regardless of size, to provide a reasonable amount of time to accommodate expressing of breast milk and to make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a bathroom, in close proximity to the employees work area to express milk in private.

Bradstreet urged women who are not being provided appropriate accommodations for milk expressing to contact her office and file a complaint.

“This is not the type of law that we can address with enforcement sweeps and filing a complaint is important so that we can correct the violation and educate the employer,” added Bradstreet.

Find the press release here.

Posted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Posted by Christopher W. Olmsted on 07/10 at 01:18 AM
Employment LawHuman ResourcesLabor Law
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

IRS Increases Mileage Rates Due To Gas Prices

On June 23rd the Internal Revenue Service announced an increase in the standard mileage rates for the final six months of 2008.

The rate will increase to 58.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2008. This is an increase of eight (8) cents from the 50.5 cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2008.

The IRS announced the unusual mid-year increase in recognition of recent gasoline price increases. The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year in the fall for the next calendar year.

“Rising gas prices are having a major impact on individual Americans. Given the increase in prices, the IRS is adjusting the standard mileage rates to better reflect the real cost of operating an automobile,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We want the reimbursement rate to be fair to taxpayers.”

While gasoline is a significant factor in the mileage figure, other items enter into the calculation of mileage rates, such as depreciation and insurance and other fixed and variable costs.

The optional business standard mileage rate is used to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business use in lieu of tracking actual costs. This rate is also used as a benchmark by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage.

To view the IRS announcement, click here: IRS News Release

Employers should consider increasing the reimbursement rates to match the new IRS rate. Generally, employers must reimburse employees for travel expenses incurred in the course of work. For example, in California, Labor Code section 2802, subdivision (a), requires an employer to indemnify its employees for expenses they necessarily incur in the discharge of their duties. Note that in California, paying the IRS rate does not guarantee that the employer has fully reimbursed the employee for actual travel expenses. The California Supreme Court recently addressed employee travel expense reimbursement in a case titled Gattuso v. Harte-Hanks Shopper, Inc.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted, Esq.
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC
San Diego Employment Law Attorneys

Thursday, May 22, 2008

President Signs Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

On May 21st, President Bush signed The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”) into law. According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute, “GINA protects Americans from being treated unfairly because of differences in their DNA that may affect their health. The new law prevents discrimination from health insurers and employers.” (Click here for more NIH comments.)

The new law is the culmination of a decade-long debate and a series of legislative efforts to deal with the specter of genetic discrimination. Supporters of the law cited a few instances of genetic discrimination, but not widespread abuse.

GINA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of genetic information.

The term “genetic information” means information about (i) an employee’s genetic tests, (ii) the genetic tests of family members of an employee, and (iii) the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of an employee.

Employers are prohibited from acquiring genetic information, with certain exceptions. Some exceptions include: (1) where an employer inadvertently requests or requires family medical history of the employee or family member of the employee; (2) indirectly, as part of a wellness program; (3) as part of an FMLA medical certification; (4) where the information involved is to be used for genetic monitoring of the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace; and in a few limited other circumstances.

In the event that an employer does acquire genetic information, the new law requires strict confidentiality, in the manner dictated by the ADA.

Employees who violate GINA will be vulnerable to employee lawsuits and government agency enforcement actions.

Employer advocates complain about the litigation provisions. They have also voiced concerns that GINA further complicates the confusing maze of state and federal medical privacy laws, as well as the numerous state genetic nondiscrimination laws.

Employers and legal counsel have ample time to evaluate the impact. The parts of the law relating to health insurers will take effect by May 2009, and those relating to employers will take effect by November 2009.

According to the NIH, “the law was needed to help ease concerns about discrimination that might keep some people from getting genetic tests that could benefit their health. The law also enables people to take part in research studies without fear that their DNA information might be used against them in health insurance or the workplace.”

Although there are no reports of widespread genetic discrimination, employee medical exams are common. As reported by the AP here, “a 2001 study by the American Management Association showed that nearly two-thirds of major U.S. companies require medical examinations of new hires. Fourteen percent conduct tests for susceptibility to workplace hazards, 3 percent for breast and colon cancer, and 1 percent for sickle cell anemia, while 20 percent collect information about family medical history.”

During the next 18 months, undoubtedly employment law attorneys and HR experts will distill the new law and offer compliance advice. To get a head start, read the text of GINA here.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Litigators Predict Lawsuits Regarding Employee Compensation For After-Hours PDA Emails

Should employees be paid for time spent after hours reviewing business-related emails on their PDAs? The question has probably not occurred to most employers. But wage and hour class actions have been built upon lesser issues.

The general rule is that non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked. If an employee is “suffered or permitted” to work, even though the employer has not instructed or requested that he do so, the time is compensable working time. The rule does not depend on whether the work is performed before or after regular work hours.

Plaintiff attorneys might argue that it doesn’t matter whether the employer expected the non-exempt employees to monitor after-hours emails or whether the employees did so on their own initiative. Time was spent on work-related emails and the employees should be compensated, they would argue.

Social norms play a role. Late phone calls and meetings may be seen as an intrusion, but few see sending an after-hours email as a violation of etiquette. Add to that the seemingly irresistible impulse driving some people to constantly check emails on their PDAs. The use of some devices have been jokingly compared to crack cocaine addictions.

Attorneys in various legal forums have been discussing the topic lately. The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog recently addressed the topic here. The topic has been discussed on other internet forms, including here and here.

So far there have been no reports of wage and hour litigation involving PDAs, but it would be prudent for employers to take precautionary measures. Some commentators recommend that employers require employees to obtain permission prior to using the PDAs after hours. Others recommend giving PDAs to exempt employees only. All would agree that employers should not ignore the issue and they ought to devise an employee policy regarding the use of PDAs.

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

San Diego Employment Law Attorneys

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

U.S. Department of Labor Releases New elaws Tool To Help Employers Comply With Federal Law

On May 6, 2008, the Department of Labor issued the press release below concerning a new online tool that may be useful to determine which federal laws apply to the employer. The online tool takes the user through a series of questions regarding industry, size, geographic location, and other issues. Then the guide lists particular laws which may apply to the employer, complete with links describing posting requirements and other information regarding the applicable laws.

The U.S. Department of Labor today unveiled an elaws advisor that helps employers determine which of the department’s recordkeeping, reporting and notice requirements apply to them.

The new FirstStep Recordkeeping, Reporting and Notices elaws Advisor has been integrated into a FirstStep suite of advisors that also includes the revised and expanded FirstStep Poster Advisor and FirstStep Employment Law Overview Advisor.

“These Internet tools will make it easier for small business employers to learn about and comply with the federal laws that apply to them,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

The elaws advisors are free, Web-based tools designed to help employers and workers understand the department’s major employment laws. By asking a series of questions, the advisors simulate a conversation with a Department of Labor expert and guide users to customized information explaining the requirements of each law.

By asking questions such as size of business, location and type of industry through multiple choice or yes and no questions, the FirstStep Employment Law Overview Advisor determines which federal employment laws apply to each user. The advisor then provides information from the Labor Department’s Employment Law Guide on the basic provisions of these laws.

The new FirstStep Recordkeeping, Reporting and Notices Advisor summarizes the paperwork requirements for each law. The FirstStep Poster Advisor, which can be used to download and print off Labor Department posters for free, was revised to include information on where the posters must be displayed in the workplace, and what size and language requirements apply to each.

This suite of FirstStep elaws advisors is available at

The department offers more than 25 other elaws advisors covering a wide range of employment law topics, such as minimum wage and overtime, child labor, veterans’ workplace rights, health and retirement benefits, and workplace safety and health. For more information, visit

Submitted by:
Christopher W. Olmsted
Barker Olmsted & Barnier, APLC

Posted by Christopher W. Olmsted on 05/06 at 01:08 PM
Employment LawFLSAHuman ResourcesLabor Law
Friday, February 16, 2007

HR 800 - Employee Free Choice Act - Reported Out of Committee

The Employee Free Choice Act, HR 800, is the bill that would require the National Labor Relations Board to certify unions as bargaining representative based on a “card check.”  This means unions can sign up employees via signed authorization cards which are easier to obtain than votes in a secret ballot election. Under current law, the employer can reject a card check as proof of the union’s representation, and demand the election, which is typically conducted by the NLRB.  The new Bill also would impose civil penalties for certain unfair labor pratices.  Finally, the Bill would set short timetables for negotiating a firist contract, with “interest arbitration” required if the parties do not come to agreement within a specified time. The Bill was just reported out of committee on February 14.  (“Happy Valentine’s Day, Unions!”)  Passage is likely in the House.  Unclear what will happen in the Senate.  According to this Reuters article, Vice Pres. Cheney says the President will veto the Bill if passed.

Posted by Patrick Della Valle on 02/16 at 11:01 AM
Labor Law
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