In Alexander v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16585 (9th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that former Federal Express drivers were employees rather than independent contractors pursuant to California’s right-to-control test. This important decision is likely to reach across all industries and will cause regulators and attorneys to closely examine independent contractor agreements to determine if the employer retains sufficient direction and control over the manner or means by which the work is to be performed. This case teaches that no matter how workers are labeled by the employer, the substance of the work relationship is what controls the classification status.
Most employers recognize that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace and requires private employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious practices and beliefs, subject to limited exceptions. Private employers with 15 or more employees are covered under Title VII. Many state laws also prohibit religious discrimination by private employers, and typically cover employers with fewer than 15 employees.
On September 11, 2014, OSHA announced a new final rule requiring employers to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. The rule, which also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA record-keeping requirements, goes into effect on January 1, 2015.
President Obama recently signed an Executive Order mandating that companies seeking federal contracts must disclose all labor law violations from the previous three years in order to be eligible for such contracts. The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will govern new federal procurement contracts valued at more than $500,000 and provide information on companies’ compliance with federal labor laws for agencies. The Executive Order is expected to be implemented on new contracts in stages, on a prioritized basis, during 2016.
Employees of a Brooklyn medical facility were allegedly exposed to head, eye, face and groin injuries and intimidation and threats during routine interactions with patients and visitors. An inspection by OSHA reportedly found approximately 40 incidents of workplace violence between February 7 and April 12, 2014. These incidents involved employees who were threatened or physically and verbally assaulted by patients and visitors, or when breaking up altercations between patients. The most serious incident was an assault of a nurse, who sustained severe brain injuries when she was attacked while working. As a result of its alleged failure to adequately protect its employees against workplace violence, the medical center faces $78,000 in fines.
OSHA has announced that it will extend the comment period on the proposed rule to improve the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014. The proposal, published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.
On July 22, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation giving interns in New York State protections from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace similar to those given to regular workers. The amendment to the state’s Human Rights Law clarifies the status of interns in the workplace and likely heralds the spread of similar changes in other states and jurisdictions to extend such protections to the growing body of unpaid interns in the workforce.
In 2013, the communications industry was confronted by an increasing number of fatalities involving worker falls from cell tower sites. Alarmingly, OSHA recorded fourteen fatalities, all of which were determined preventable — either a result of an employer’s failure to provide fall protection or an employee’s failure to use the equipment. In the wake of this statistic, on July 17, 2014, OSHA implemented a new directive governing all work activities on communication towers that involve the use of a hoist to lift personnel to or from their workstations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues, marking the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on the subject in over 30 years. This guidance has been issued after several states and cities including New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia have passed laws regarding accommodations for pregnant employees. Importantly, the guidance incorporates significant developments in the law that have transpired over the past three decades and also sets forth suggestions for best practices for employers to adopt with the goal of reducing the chance of pregnancy-related violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As part of an announcement of 14 administration appointments issued by the White House on July 10, 2014, President Barack Obama announced that he was nominating pro-labor Democrat Sharon Block — currently serving as Senior Counselor in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Labor — to a term as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) starting on December 17, 2014. Once confirmed, Block will hold an NLRB term that does not expire until December 16, 2019, and keep the board in the control of pro-labor Democrats until member Kent Y. Hirozawa’s term expires on August 27, 2016.
On July 7, 2014, New York became the 23rd state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize medical marijuana, bringing the number of Americans who may lawfully use the drug with proper medical certification and/or supervision to approximately 100 million. The overwhelming acceptance by Americans of medical marijuana has even made its mark in the nation’s capital, where, in May, the U.S. House of Representatives amended an appropriations bill to prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer dollars to target and arrest patients and providers operating under state licenses.
In a highly anticipated decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___ (June 30, 2014), the United States Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as applied by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to closely held corporations violates the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to require Medicaid home health service personal assistants in Illinois to pay “agency fees” to a public-sector union certified to represent those employees in collective bargaining with the state. While technically a defeat for labor organizations, the high court stopped just short of overruling the 37-year-old precedent established in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), which allows a state to require a non-member public employee to pay a fee for collective bargaining and related services to the union designated to represent this class of employees.
Timely summaries of decisions from across New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey concerning workers’compensation matters. It also provides the latest news regarding litigation, changes in interpretive language used by the courts, permanency determinations, and more.
Despite the heightened scrutiny given to reverse racial discrimination claims, it is difficult but not impossible to prevail under the right circumstances.