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.
With the summer drawing near and many high school and college students looking to bolster their resumes, a new set of eager-to-please interns will appear in offices around the country, bringing some youthful exuberance to the office. For most, the addition of interns roaming the halls will be a positive experience for all involved. For others, however, in particular employers who may view interns as little more than “free labor,” costly litigation could be lurking right around the corner.
In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., No. 12-2484 (6th Cir. April 22, 2014) has dealt employers a blow regarding the extent to which a company must reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability. In this particular case, the employee sought a four-day-per-week telecommuting arrangement. Even though Ford found in its business judgment that this was not a workable arrangement, the court disagreed, noting that due to modern technology, the types of jobs where employees can fulfill all essential requirements while working remotely has significantly increased.
Employers, take note: The U.S. Department of Labor is watching your adherence to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), so be cautious — especially if you are on TV.
Life, Health, Disability, and ERISA provides a summary of decisions from across the country concerning life, health, and disability policies, including those governed by ERISA. Following your review of Life, Health, Disability, and ERISA kindly feel free to contact attorneys and co-editors with any comments you may have, or with any topics you would like to see in upcoming newsletters.
Connecticut recently became the first state in the country to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by the year 2017, the same rate that President Barack Obama has been seeking for the federal minimum wage. Connecticut lawmakers passed the historic bill on March 26, 2014, and it was signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy the following day. Connecticut had just voted to increase the minimum wage last year, to its current level of $8.70 per hour.
It has been a difficult last few years for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Not only are hundreds of decisions of the agency in limbo due to a Supreme Court challenge involving President Barack Obama’s purported recess appointment of several members of the agency while the U.S. Senate was still convening in regular pro forma session, but several of the agency’s rulings have been invalidated by various Circuit Courts of Appeal. The board recently managed to win one, however, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a board decision that a company’s employee confidentiality policy was an unfair labor practice in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The case serves as a reminder to employers to review their own employee confidentially policies.