Minimum Wage and Overtime

Lots to talk about in the Labor & Employment world!  The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on April 1, 2018, imposing stricter non-discrimination rules on employers of pregnant workers. The U.S. Department of Labor launched the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program, which encourages employers to self-report wage and hour violations. The Sixth Circuit issued a decision in EEOC v. R.G. & R.G. Harris Funeral Homes, holding that transgendered employees are protected under Title VII, even mounted against an employer’s religious objections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts lost a step in the legal challenge to the contraceptive mandate exemptions in the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that it did not have standing to assert the relief it sought. Still on the federal landscape, Congress added an amendment to the FLSA in the recent omnibus budget bill, providing that an employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purpose. The Supreme Court issued an important ruling holding that service advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements and rejecting the principle that FLSA exemptions should be narrowly construed.   The State of Washington followed suit with many other states, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, becoming the most recent state to add an updated Equal Pay Act, and a “Ban the Box” law.  In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Washington also barred nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment suits.  As always, stay tuned for further updates and more details on these developments which we will be covering more extensively here in the coming weeks, including a post on the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act coming up later this week.

Finally, there’s still time! Don’t forget to register to attend our Fourth Annual Employment Law Summit on April 19.

On Monday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit when it ruled in Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro that auto dealership service advisors are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements. The justices’ analysis led the five-justice majority to conclude that service advisors fall squarely within the applicable exemption for “any salesman, partsman or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(10)(A). This case, however, promises broad national impact because the majority rejected the longstanding principle established through decades of FLSA jurisprudence that exemptions should be construed narrowly.

Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Broadens Construction of FLSA Overtime Exemption

2017 is in the books and 2018 is now upon us.  A dramatic close to 2017 on Capitol Hill ushered in sweeping changes to the tax code that will begin to impact both employers and employees in a number of ways – some more immediately – from employers losing deductions for sexual harassment settlement payouts, to penalties for high nonprofit executive compensation, to tax deferral on exercise of stock options for public company executives, to employee benefit plans.  Wage and leave-related issues are also likely to dominate in 2018, as more states (and employers on their own initiative) increase wage thresholds and broaden employee paid and unpaid leave entitlements (even for some smaller employers).  Salary history bans, such as those already enacted in New York City, Massachusetts, and California, will continue to get traction in 2018 as more states and municipalities jump on that bandwagon.  We also expect to continue to witness a significant shift in the NLRB’s enforcement policy and decision-making; the NLRB’s new General Counsel has already announced a number of changes that are sure to make employers sigh with relief.  Also in 2018, employers could continue to face rising uncertainty with respect to health plans in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate that was central to keeping health plans affordable under the Affordable Care Act.  Finally, so that we can help keep you accountable to the five New Year’s resolutions we made for you over the holidays (that we know you were eager to adopt as your own), we have collected them for you here:  (1) review and refresh your non-harassment policies and training; (2) update your leave policies; (3) make sure your job applications comply with new state ban-the-box laws and salary history inquiry bans; (4) assess the strength and enforceability of your post-employment covenants under changing state law; and (5) make sure your employee benefit plans are compliant.

Last year New York State made significant changes to its wage orders resulting in increases to the State’s minimum wage, white collar overtime exemption salary thresholds, tip, meal and lodging credits, and uniform allowances.  The latest changes go into effect on December 31, 2017.  We quickly summarize the minimum wage and overtime salary threshold changes below, but urge you to visit our prior post here for more in-depth coverage, including best practices for compliance.

Continue Reading Reminder: New York Wage Thresholds Increase on December 31, 2017

As we enter the holiday season, we gather around the bubbler to sing about a few of our favorite (and not so favorite) things in the world of employment and labor law.  Unfortunately, they’re not as sanguine as raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens…

Some retail employers will be on Santa’s naughty list after the Sixth Circuit found that sales employees paid on a 100% commission or draw basis cannot be required to repay outstanding draws after termination of employment.  The Senate decked the halls of the NLRB by confirming a new General Counsel, who will serve a critical policy role and is expected to move away from enforcement of the NLRB’s broadened joint-employer standard.   This could be the last Christmas employees have to visit EEOC offices in person to file discrimination charges after the EEOC launched a new online portal, putting employers on alert of the possibility of increased charge filings in 2018.  It’s a wonderful Christmas time for minimum wage workers in Montgomery County, Maryland, in DC’s metro area, who joined the small but growing ranks of jurisdictions increasing its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour beginning in 2021. Retail employees in New York might get a silent night away from work thanks to new employee scheduling regulations proposed by the New York State Labor Department that will limit “just in time” or “on call” scheduling and require additional pay for employees scheduled on short notice.  While California employers may have longer than 8 nights, they don’t have quite a month to prepare for new regulations that will take effect January 1, 2018, which expressly prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history prior to a conditional offer of employment.

Employers beware.  A recent case serves as a reminder as we wind down the calendar year that employers should closely review their policies and procedures applying to employees paid on a 100% commission or draw basis.  In Stein v. HHGreg Stores, the United States Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit ruled that, while a retail employer’s draw on future commissions to meet minimum wage requirements was lawful, the company policy requiring repayment for outstanding draws after an employee had been terminated was not.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Draws the Line: Draws on Future Commissions and Post-Termination Payback Policies

Employers often struggle over compliance with state wage deduction laws, and these potential violations carry with them considerable penalties. In Massachusetts, for example, employers face triple damages for violations of wage and hour laws. This post uses hypothetical examples to demonstrate how narrow the range of permissible activity is under California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. laws even when a deduction to an employee’s salary appears as a common sense one or otherwise fair to both parties involved. Employers with employees located in these and other states should consult with legal counsel before making any deductions from employee wages, even if the employee authorizes such a deduction.

So, for example, can employers deduct from employee wages for the cost of uniforms? Personal expenses on corporate credit cards? Broken printers? Let’s explore…

Continue Reading Exploring Wage Deductions in California, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, D.C.

What is happening in employment law? We will be providing you with quick employment law updates on a bi-monthly basis in a new series called “The Bubbler.”  It will let you know what’s what and who’s who in the continually-evolving, ever-important, hard-to-keep-track-of employment law world. The Bubbler delivers current events and other important news to our readers without the time or the interest to piece through the recent legislation, the ever-growing release of regulations and other agency guidance and the lengthy court decisions. We’re your colleagues at the water cooler who tell you just enough to pique your interest (but then provide links to satisfy your curiosity). Enjoy!

Continue Reading The Bubbler: September 6, 2017

Short of a successful (but highly unlikely) appeal, the Obama-era overtime rule is now officially no longer.  That rule would have required employers to pay employees a little more than $47,000 annually to qualify under one of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s white collar exemptions.  The rule was already in limbo when a Texas Federal district court judge temporarily prevented its enforcement just before Thanksgiving last year, and now that same judge has struck down the rule permanently just before another major American holiday.

 

Continue Reading Employers Receive Important Overtime Law News Just Before Labor Day

Spurred by a recent change in a Massachusetts wage and hour regulation, plaintiffs’ attorneys are aggressively pursuing class action lawsuits seeking unpaid overtime premium pay on behalf of car salespeople across the Commonwealth. In Massachusetts, successful wage and hour lawsuits entitle plaintiffs to not only unpaid wages, but also automatic treble damages (i.e., three times owed wages) and a payment of their reasonable attorney’s fees. As a result, this recent trend poses significant risks to Massachusetts car dealers.

Continue Reading Class Action Suits Against Massachusetts Car Dealers on the Rise