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.
On December 1, 2017, two weeks after being sworn in, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb issued his first GC Memorandum. When the General Counsel’s office changes hands from one party to the other, some disruption is expected. Here, Mr. Robb made quite clear that his agenda would not support many of the Obama-era initiatives. In fact, he called into question fifteen significant legal issues that will now be subject to “alternative analysis” (i.e., seeking reversal of earlier precedents that Mr. Robb deems to be wrongly decided), rescinded seven memoranda, and revoked five initiatives.
As Mr. Robb’s agenda continues to unfold, we will track significant developments to explain how these decisions will impact employers. Here is the list of his actions so far plus an added bonus – NLRB decisions overruling Obama-era NLRB rulings:
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.
Trick or Treat! This month’s Bubbler is a cauldron full of hot new developments in employment law … the NYC Salary History law is now in effect … California followed suit and its salary history law will take effect on January 1, 2018, just after Delaware and just before Massachusetts … Employers in New York are preparing to implement the new Paid Family Leave law, joining California, New Jersey and Rhode Island as the fourth state to provide this paid leave through employee-paid payroll taxes … The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the class action waiver case … the NYC Council passed a bill to expand the Earned Sick Time Act … and the Third Circuit cited to a Harry Potter novel in an FLSA decision.
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…
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.
It’s our favorite time of year over at Employment Matters – March Madness! Let’s quickly recap where we’ve been.
Today we offer our last installment in our 2016 Year in Review segment, which will cover the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in California. Prior installments for the DC Metro Area, New York and Massachusetts are available here. In addition, please join us in NYC on April 6, 2017 for Mintz Levin’s Third Annual Employment Law Summit as we address some of the key labor & employment issues impacting employers in 2017. Register here.
In 2016 employers in California had to adjust to compensation and benefits related changes such as a new state minimum wage, a new method of calculating compensation for “piece-rate employees,” and expanded “kin care” benefits. The California Fair Pay Act, aimed at addressing gender wage discrimination also went into effect, modifying existing laws in a few key ways. The legislature also amended California’s Private Attorneys General Act to grant employers a few new ways to “cure” violations.
In 2017 employers should ensure they are complying with “all gender” bathroom requirements and that when making hiring decisions they do not rely on “juvenile offense history.” Employers should also be aware that there is a trend for cities and/or counties to further limit the kinds of information employers may consider in making hiring decisions. Also on the horizon is the probability that the legislature will revisit a new unpaid parental leave law that would impact smaller businesses.