Workplace Posters are Free. Really.

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Clients often receive pressing, official-looking notices urging the purchase of mandatory employment law postings. While you do have to post, you do not have to buy. Although some states also try to sell posters which is really cheap, all required postings are available free of charge (keep scrolling).  Please see the links below, from the federal government and states where we practice:

Federal: United States Department of Labor – Wage and Hour Division

Massachusetts: Labor and Workforce Development – Massachusetts Workplace Poster Requirements

California: http://www.taxes.ca.gov/payroll_tax/postingreqbus.shtml

Connecticut: https://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/gendocs/Labor_Posters.htm

Georgia: https://dhs.georgia.gov/department-labor-required-workplace-posters

Illinois: https://www.illinois.gov/idol/Employers/Pages/posters.aspx

Kansas:  http://www.dol.ks.gov/Laws/Posters.aspx

Maine: http://www.maine.gov/labor/posters/

Maryland: https://www.dllr.state.md.us/oeope/poster.shtml

Minnesota:  http://www.dli.mn.gov/ls/posters.asp

Missouri: https://labor.mo.gov/posters

New Hampshire: https://www.nh.gov/labor/forms/mandatory-posters.htm

New York: https://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/employer/posters.shtm

North Carolina:  http://www.nclabor.com/posters/posters.htm

Oregon:  http://staging.apps.oregon.gov/boli/TA/Pages/Req_Post.aspx

Pennsylvania: http://www.hrm.oa.pa.gov/workplace-support/required-postings/Pages/default.aspx

Texas: http://www.twc.state.tx.us/businesses/posters-workplace

Utah: https://laborcommission.utah.gov/divisions/UOSH/RequiredPosters.html

Vermont: http://labor.vermont.gov/

Wisconsin:  https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dwd/posters.htm

As always, should you have any questions including information for additional state postings, please contact us. We can help. Mike@foleylawpractice.com or 508-548-4888

Happy Memorial Day

When-is-Memorial-Day-2017

Happy Memorial Day! For many, this is a day to honor fallen soldiers and also a time to get ready for summer.

Have you done the following?

  • Sunscreen?
  • Summer reading list?
  • Pay Equity Audit?
  • Midyear handbook and diagnostic workplace audit?

If you answered “No” to any one of these questions, we can help!  Read on.

SUNSCREEN

It is outside our wheelhouse but we do like to be helpful.  See the latest list from Consumer Reports. http://www.consumerreports.org/sun-protection/get-the-best-sun-protection/

PAY EQUITY

In 2016 alone, California, New York, Nebraska, Maryland and Massachusetts passed aggressive equal pay legislation. If you are not in this group, the EEOC’s proposed expansion to the EEO-1 reports means more pay data will be required from federal contractors and employers with more than 100 employees.

Do I Need to Buy More Software?

Absolutely not.  By now you may have seen software solicitations touting the importance of statistical analysis to comply with pay equity. Beware.  Sizes matters: unless an employer has a significant number of employees performing the same role and a statistically significant amount are women, a statistical analysis will not produce reliable results. Most of our clients should perform a cohort analysis, which better compares the factors affecting pay.

Why Should I Use Your Pay Equity Audit?  

By partnering with an attorney, the process is protected by the attorney-client privilege. Any pay equity found will be kept strictly confidential.  Moreover, in Massachusetts you create a rolling affirmative defense by conducting an evaluation of pay practices if it is completed within three years prior to the commencement of a wage discrimination claim. We have developed an effective and painless Pay Equity Audit to achieve compliance and create an affirmative defense.

Why Now? 

The effective date of the MA Pay Equity Law is July 1, 2018.  Many of you are planning for 2018 in your budgets and hiring. Include Pay Equity in that list to be compliant and create the rolling affirmative defense against any future claims.

SUMMER READING

Software slamming aside, Bill Gates is a pretty smart guy.  His summer reading list looks terrific.  Check it out!  https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Summer-Books-2017?WT.mc_id=05_22_2017_10_SummerBooks2017_BG-media_&WT.tsrc=BGmedia

 

MIDYEAR HANDBOOK AND DIAGNOSTIC AUDIT

Probably not high on your reading list but terribly important is your employee handbook.  When is the last time you read it? We recommend that you review and update your handbook on an annual basis. Now is a particularly good time given the many local and state law updates.  Marijuana, equal pay, paid family leave, sick leave—many changes have taken place that are probably not properly addressed in your handbook.

Why Worry about the Handbook?

A well-crafted handbook serves many valuable purposes:

  • Define the culture of your business
  • Set expectations
  • Inform employees of compensation, benefits and rules
  • Provide a clear avenue for dispute resolution, a critical road map for staff

Your Handbook are a valuable tool for you and an important resource for employees.

 

What is the Diagnostic Audit?

The Risk Management Diagnostic Audit is a tool we have developed to allow you to identify and respond to the compliance risks at your workplace. This audit targets your organization’s unique vulnerability and provides action items to put you on the path to compliance.  Please check out our website or call 508-548-4888 for the steps and timelines for this popular service. http://www.foleylawpractice.com/diagnostic-compliance-audit.html

Enjoy the long weekend!

Contact us at 508-548-4888 or info@foleylawpractice.com

 

 

 

Why Many Executive Orders are Hot Air

hot-air-balloons-439331_960_720.jpgOn May 4, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.  Could this order allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and women, as feared?   Will this impact the workplace? No. Here is the line to remember: Existing laws cannot be overturned by Executive Orders.

Let’s take a look at this Order as a good example. The portion of the Order that pertains to Federal law is:

_Sec_. _4_. _Religious Liberty Guidance_. In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions can issue guidance until the cows come home: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not answer to him.  The EEOC is an independent federal agency charged with enforcing federal laws against illegal discrimination in the workplace. Laws like the ADA, ADEA, FLSA, FMLA and Title VII are under the purview of the EEOC for enforcement and guidance. Congress may make changes to the laws and the courts can overrule, clarify or uphold the laws.

Executive Orders might be good optics but cannot impact the rule of federal. state or local law in the workplace.

WORKPLACE COMPLIANCE IN THE TRUMP-ERA: IT IS NOT ABOUT TWITTER

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It has been noted politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose.  That may sound too lofty to describe current times, but the sentiment remains: promises made on the campaign trail do not easily translate into law. We have a Republican President and a Republican Congress, which historically has meant a more business-friendly regulatory environment.  Yet as the first 100 days will show, unwinding is neither quick nor easy. The Affordable Care Act has not been repealed and little is on the horizon. The President’s Budget Blueprint for 2018 proposes to slash the Department of Labor’s (DOL) budget by 21%. What does this mean for employers right now, or even over the next year?

In short, not a lot. Meanwhile, state and local governments are legislating like mad to fill the gaps that could be created by proposed budget cuts and executive orders. President Trump is an active Twitter user but as detailed below, that communication belies the actual activity of the federal government. #Realtalk

Are employers off the hook for federal mandates? Not so fast. Most of the federal regulations that govern the workplace remain in place and, given the inability to repeal the much lamented ACA, may not change at all.

Below is a quick overview of the current federal landscape under President Trump. Without actual policy as a guide, we are using the President’s proposed budget as a crystal ball. Please note that many states, including Massachusetts and California, have stricter mandates than the federal laws:

THE FUTURE OF DOL/OSHA/EEOC ENFORCEMENT

The President has proposed $2.5 Billion in cuts to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) operating budget. Because Congress has to approve the budget this is only an outline of the actual budget.  The blue print is short on details, but does expressly call for reduced funding for grant programs, job training programs for seniors and disadvantaged youth, and support for international labor efforts.  It also proposes to eliminate the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (“CSB”) – an independent, federal, non-enforcement agency that investigates chemical accidents at certain facilities.  These cuts account for $500 million dollars of the DOL budget. The blueprint does not specify where the other $2 billion in cost savings will come from, except to say more funding responsibility will go to the states.  If approved by Congress—a big if–the cuts will involve a loss of funds that could be distributed heavily through DOL’s enforcement programs. This will include the EEOC and OSHA. Yet the process by which these agencies collect fines is a valuable revenue generator and unlikely to end easily.

At this point, the likelihood of the final budget looking like the proposed one is total conjecture. Furthermore, even with the expected cuts to the DOL’s enforcement and regulatory programs, it is important to recall that under the last Republican administration—no fan of regulation– the DOL still enforced the law. Moreover, as the federal government delivers more labor enforcement responsibility to the states, employers will increasingly be forced to work to achieve compliance on two fronts, instead of one.

RIGHT NOW

Every administration has used the media as a means of furthering and communicating its chosen agenda, and the Trump administration is no exception.  The choices the administration makes in what it chooses to publicize likely signal the administration’s direction; but also shape the public’s perception of what it is actively doing.  The Trump administration and President Trump in particular use social media and news reports for the purpose of shaping the public’s understanding their activity.  From a compliance standpoint, this actually creates risk for employers.

Despite the President’s proposed budget and awaited confirmation of a new Labor secretary, the New York Times reported  that DOL enforcement actions continue.  In a departure from past practice, the department has stopped publicizing fines against companies. As the New York Times points out, the Obama administration used the announcements as an enforcement tool, and a means to influence employers.  However, the announcements also served as an important window for employers into the DOL’s current position on important compliance issues such as wage and hour or OSHA safety enforcement.  If a company in the same industry was recently fined for a practice, that action provided others in the industry with important notice to examine their practice.  Employers no longer have this benefit.  Furthermore, those who believe that the lack of information surrounding DOL enforcement means they no longer have to worry about the threat of an audit do so at their own peril.  At the present, and until the new budget is confirmed months from now, agency enforcement has not changed.  For those inclined to believe the confirmation of the new Labor secretary will change that should keep in mind that DOL audits are a money-maker for the agency.  There seems to be little reason for them to stop.

WHAT TO DO

The last few years have seen a seismic change in the number of employment laws on both the state and federal level.  If it has been a few years since your organization has updated its employee handbook, you have a compliance problem on your hands.  Updating your handbook and policies is an important step to mitigate risk.

And remember, statutes, regulatory guidance and case opinions published by the courts are what impact compliance obligations, not the news. What happens on Twitter does not reflect the actions of the agencies of the federal government. #Really

California Strikes Again

Another day, another blow to employers from the California Court of Appeals.  Earlier this month, the appeal court invalidated a commission-only plan that did not separately compensate non-exempt sales representatives for rest periods. What does this mean for your sales team?  Read on.  If you want to go straight to the source, the case is Vaquero et al. vs. Stoneledge Furniture LLC.

The 30 second summary: Stoneledge’s commission plan paid sales associates by commissions only.  It did not specifically compensate employees separately for breaks. The Company did allow employees to take a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked as required by law, but the rest periods were not tracked or separately compensated.

Although Stoneledge won in the lower court, the appeals court reversed, relying on the plain language of California Wage Order 7: “authorized rest period time shall be counted as hours worked for which there shall be no deduction from wages.”  The court also relied on two prior appeals court decisions, concluding that Stoneledge’s commission-only system violated California law because it did not separately compensate employees for rest periods.

The takeaway: Employers with non-exempt sales employees who are paid by commissions-only must make sure their systems are tracking and paying rest periods separately from commissions.  As a reminder, sales employees who spend more than 50 percent of their time engaged in outside sales are exempt, and this decision will not impact the way in which they are paid.

 

New California Rules Surrounding Employee Rest Periods

The U.S. Senate took a major step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act last week, by voting to approve a budget blueprint that will allow them to essentially dismember the law without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.  Meanwhile, in California, the Supreme Court continued the state’s trend toward increasing employee rights and protections.  For employers, and those of us who spend our days advising them, this sums up what the next four years will likely look like.  The Federal government will roll back employee friendly laws, and revert to a more employer friendly stance, while states California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois will continue to ramp up employee protections.  It is a brave new world, and one where compliance just got a whole lot more challenging, particularly for employers operating in multiple states.

In California, where the rule for some time has been that employers may not generally require employees to remain on duty or on-call during meal breaks, the California Supreme Court recently issued a new decision, Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., confirming that employers have the same obligations regarding rest breaks as they do regarding meal periods:  employees must be relieved of all duties and employers must relinquish all control.

In reaching its decision, the California Supreme Court held: “[O]ne cannot square the practice of compelling employees to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices, with the requirement to relieve employees of all work duties and employer control during 10-minute rest periods.”  The Court expressed concern that employees would need to stay close to the employer’s premises during their rest breaks; and combined with the affirmative duty to be “on-call,” it was sufficient to establish employer control.

Although the Supreme Court holding does not preclude employers from reasonably rescheduling rest periods when needed, or requesting an exemption from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), the Court was clear that placing an employee on call during a rest period is not permissible.

Next Steps

Although the Court’s decision is in line with language in applicable IWC Wage Orders, the Labor Code, and prior holdings, it is a good reminder to employers to evaluate their rest break practices to ensure compliance.  Employers should review their handbooks and policies to ensure they do not require employees to stay on premises or at a certain location, or to carry cell phones or pagers, or perform any duties whatsoever during breaks.  It is common for employers in states outside of California to require employees to remain at or near the premises during rest breaks.  It is important that provisions like these be amended for employees in California.

Who’s afraid of the DOL? Everybody now.

The US Department of Labor (DOL) announced this week that a human resources service provider will pay $1 million in back overtime wages and damages to hundreds of employees.  A DOL investigation found widespread violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  You can find the press release at https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20160418-0 .

How did this happen? The employer made a common but erroneous assumption: salaried employees are not eligible for overtime pay. In this case, the employer raised salaries to avoid OT pay after 40 hours a week. The employees however were NOT EXEMPT because the criteria under the FLSA exemption were not met. (http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17a_overview.pdf) Worth  noting is the mistake was made by an outsource HR provider, which illustrates how legally complicated these matters are. 

Whether an employee is actually exempt under the law—and not determined by past practice or a job description—has enormous ramifications for a business.  In this case an HR provider made a very costly error, which occurs easily with back pay, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees allowed under the Act.

Between the upcoming changes in the overtime rules (https://wordpress.com/post/workplacelawhelp.com/419 ) and cases like this, committing resources to a comprehensive audit by Foley & Foley PC is a good investment. We can get your employment classification and wage and hour matters in compliance and you can go about your business.  We can help.

Get Ready to Update Your Discrimination Policies, California.

 

No this is not a cruel April Fool’s Day joke. As of April 1, revised California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) regulations will take effect, with new anti-discrimination and anti-harassment obligations for California employers. If you have not already updated your Discrimination and Harassment Policies to track the amendments to FEHA, now is the time.

Our office has already updated and drafted a number of Harassment and Discrimination Policies in response to these new regulations. Feel free to contact us at any time.

The new regulations make it mandatory for every California employer employing five or more employees (regardless of location) to have a written anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation policy. This means that out of state companies with 1-2 California employees may now be sued under FEHA.

Discrimination and Harassment policies must now include all of the following:

List all protected categories covered under the FEHA. These include:

  • 4o Age (40 and over)
  • Ancestry
  • Color
  • Religious Creed (including religious dress and grooming practices)
  • Denial of Family and Medical Care Leave
  • Disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS
  • Marital Status
  • Medical Condition (cancer and genetic characteristics)
  • Genetic Information
  • Military and Veteran Status
  • National Origin (including language use restrictions)
  • Race
  • Sex (which includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding)
  •  Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression
  •  Sexual Orientation

Specify that the law prohibits unlawful conduct by coworkers and third parties, as well as supervisors and managers;

Set forth a complaint process, that includes:

  • Timely investigations and response to complaints;
  • Impartial investigations by qualified personnel;
  • Means for tracking progress of investigation;
  • Appropriate remedial actions and resolution; and
  • Timely closure.

Provide a complaint mechanism that does not require an employee to complain directly to his or her immediate supervisor. Complaint options should include:

  • Direct communication, either verbally or in writing, with a designated company representative, another supervisor or complaint hotline, so that the employee has options outside of his or her immediate supervisor;
  • Access to an ombudsperson; and/or
  • Identification of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as additional avenues for employees to lodge complaints;

Instruct supervisors to report all complaints of misconduct to designated company personnel.

Indicate that when an employer receives allegations of misconduct, it will conduct a fair, timely, and thorough investigation. If misconduct is found, appropriate remedial measures will be taken.

Specify that confidentiality will be maintained to the extent possible, although the policy should not indicate that the investigation will be completely confidential.

Clearly state that employees will not be retaliated against for lodging a complaint or participating in any workplace investigation.

Employers must distribute the updated policy through one or more of these methods:

  • Hard copy to all employees with an acknowledgement form for the employee to sign and return;
  • Email to employees, along with an acknowledgement return form;
  • Post on the company intranet, along with a tracking system that ensures all employees have read the policy and acknowledged receipt;
  • Discuss the policy with new hires or during orientation sessions; and/or
  • Other distribution methods that ensure employees receive and understand the policy.

Employers whose workforce at any facility or establishment contains 10 percent or more employees who speak a language other than English as their primary spoken language must translate the policy.

For employers with 50 or more employees:

The new regulations also update training and record keeping requirements under California’s existing supervisor harassment training provision. The following now apply:

  • Training must instruct supervisors of their obligation to report complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation to a designated company representative, and must review with supervisors the steps necessary to take appropriate remedial measures to correct harassing behavior.
  • The training must cover “abusive conduct,” including the definition of abusive conduct, the negative impact of abusive conduct, the elements of and examples of abusive conduct, and the fact that a single act will not constitute abusive conduct unless it is sufficiently severe and egregious. The regulations state that there is not a specific amount of time that must be spent on abusive conduct in the training but it should be covered in a meaningful manner.

o Employers must maintain training documentation for a minimum of two years.

  • Documentation includes names of the supervisors trained, training date, sign-in sheet, certificates of attendance or completion, type of training, copies of written or recorded training materials, and the name of the training provider.
  • For webinar training, employers must also retain a copy of the webinar, written materials used by the trainer, written questions submitted during the program, and written responses or guidance that the trainer provided during the webinar. For e-learning training, employers must retain written questions received and written responses or guidance provided.

 

Other updates to the FEHA regulations include:

New definitions of gender expression, gender identity, sex stereotype, and transgender;

  • “Gender expression” means a person’s gender-related appearance or behavior, whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s sex at birth.
  • “Gender identity” means a person’s identification as male, female, a gender different from the person’s sex at birth, or transgender.
  • “Transgender” is a general term that refers to a person whose gender identity differs from the person’s sex at birth. A transgender person may or may not have a gender expression that is different from the social expectations of the sex assigned at birth. A transgender person may or may not identify as “transsexual.”

A woman/female disabled by pregnancy includes a transgender employee who is disabled by pregnancy;

Clarification of what constitutes actionable harassment and the basis for co-worker liability;

A new rule permitting the DFEH to recover “non-monetary preventative remedies” against an employer, regardless of whether the agency prevails on an underlying claim for discrimination, harassment or retaliation; and

A prohibition of discrimination against a non-citizen applicant or employee who holds a driver’s license issued under Section 12801.9 of the California Vehicle Code. Specifically, the regulations now allow employers to require an applicant or employee to hold or present a driver’s license as part of employment only if it is required by: (a) state or federal law, or (b) the employer’s policies for a legitimate business purpose (and permitted by applicable law).

 

We recommend that California employers take the following immediate steps:

  • Ensure you have written policies that comply with the new regulations and that the policies are disseminated in one or more of the approved methods (in addition to Form DFEH-185).
  • Ensure proper complaint and investigation procedures are in place.
  • Ensure supervisors and human resources personnel receive proper training on the new regulations so that all inquiries and potential complaints can be addressed in a compliant manner.

 

California Labor Code is Amended, Provides Employers Small Reprieve.

On October 2, 2015, Governor Brown signed AB 1506, legislation that immediately amends the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA).  The purpose of the amendment is to address increased civil litigation alleging technical violations of itemized wage statements employers are required to deliver to employees.  AB 1506 provides employers with a 33 day period to cure certain violations before an employee may bring a civil cause of action under PAGA.

So what is PAGA?  And what is so important about this amendment? 

Continue reading “California Labor Code is Amended, Provides Employers Small Reprieve.”