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FMLA “Marriage Penalty” May be Going Away

Friday, November 15, 2019

A new Senate bill proposes removing the restriction on married co-workers’ ability to take time off to care for newborn or adopted children, parents, or military family members under the FMLA.  The FMLA provides job protected, unpaid leave for employees for certain purposes, such as the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member.   Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave during a one-year period.  Currently however, there is statutory language that only allows spouses to take a total of 12 combined weeks of leave.

Federal DOL Issues Proposed Rule Allowing Inclusion of Bonus Pay in Overtime Calculation for Fluctuating Workweek Half-Time Overtime Employees

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The fluctuating workweek half-time overtime option has been available for many years under federal law as a way for employers to reduce their overtime costs for employees who work different hours each week. The option requires that the employee be paid a fixed minimum amount weekly regardless of the number of hours worked. Then, if that number of worked exceeds 40, the employer may pay overtime on a half-time of the regular rate of pay basis (determined each week overtime is worked).

NY’s New Law Affecting Domestic Violence Victims Takes Effect in November

Friday, October 25, 2019

NY passed a new law this year that applies to employees that are victims of domestic violence.  This law requires employers to provide victims reasonable time off from work to seek medical attention for himself or herself for the injuries caused by domestic violence, to receive services from a domestic violence shelter or program or a rape crisis center, to obtain psychological counseling, to participate in safety planning or other activities to increase the victim’s safety in the future, to receive legal services, assist in the prosecution of the perpetrator, or to appear in court in rela

U.S. Supreme Court Argument on 10/8/19 Regarding LGBTQ Discrimination Coverage Under Title VII

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Observers noted a sharp divide among the United States Supreme Court Justices during oral argument of three cases before them on October 8, 2019. At issue before the Court was whether the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of “sex” in federal Title VII includes protection from discrimination for the LGBTQ community.

New Salary Levels for Federal Overtime Exemption Announced

Monday, September 30, 2019

The federal government has announced the new salary requirements for employees to be exempt from overtime pay under federal law.  The new salary threshold is $35,568 annually or $684 weekly.

Are Changes to Gig Worker Classifications Coming?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Historically, gig workers (think Uber drivers, InstaCart, Doordash) have been classified as independent contractors, allowing companies to avoid having to pay benefits or minimum wage and overtime.  This may change sooner than you think.  Just last week, California got one step closer to making it harder for companies to classify these individuals as independent contractors.  While the bill still must be signed into law, experts believe that this is inevitable.  New York Gov.

Federal DOL Set to Publish a Proposed Rule Regarding Fluctuating Workweek Pay

Friday, September 06, 2019

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers who agree with employees who work a fluctuating number of hours each week to pay them a base salary regardless of the number of hours worked, are then able to pay those employees half-time for their overtime hours.  This somewhat unknown, and not often used, structure generally saves employers money and gives employees the certainty of the salary during weeks working less than 40 hours.

PFL 2020 Rates Announced

Friday, September 06, 2019

The New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) Superintendent revealed the new Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) benefit and employee contribution rates on Friday August 30. By law, those on PFL will receive up to 60% of the New York State average weekly wage (which the DFS set at $1,401.17 for 2020), for the up-to-10 weeks of PFL taken during the year. Accordingly, most employees who take PFL in 2020 will receive $840.70 per week, up about $100 from 2019, and it will be interesting to see if more employees seek to take it.

Expanded NY Anti-Harassment Legislation Has Become Law

Friday, August 30, 2019

On June 25, we wrote about new anti-harassment legislation that we expected Governor Cuomo to sign into law.  On August 12, he did, in fact, sign that legislation and expanded the definition of what is considered legally actionable harassment in the workplace.  The traditional standard that harassment must be “severe and pervasive” will no longer apply.  Now, a complainant must show that the conduct in question rises above the level of “petty slights and trivial inconveniences.” 

 

Additional changes are:

NY Passes New Discrimination Laws

Friday, August 23, 2019

Continuing with its’ busy employment legislation season, New York has amended the Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on religious attire, clothing and facial hair.  The law becomes effective on October 8, 2019.   The law already prohibited employers from treating applicants or employees differently because of their religion, but the amendment makes clear that the definition of religion includes bias against any employee’s religious clothing, facial hair or attire.

Governmental Affairs
08

Federal Legislative Action Alert

YOUR ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED!  Save Employer Provided Education Assistance! Please email or write your representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor the Employee Educational Assistance Act of 2012, H.R. 4137, introduced by Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA).  H.R. 4137 will make employer provided education assistance (Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code) a permanent provision.

Please Take Action:
Ask your Representative to co-sponsor the Employee Educational Assistance Act of 2012, H.R. 4137 using SHRM’s HRVoice program by following these steps:

1.    Log onto the SHRM Advocacy Action Center by clicking HERE

2.    Personalize your message with your own story

3.    Be sure to include your complete home mailing address.

Background

Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code allows an employee to exclude from income up to $5,250 per year in assistance provided by their employer for any type of educational course at the associate, undergraduate and graduate level. Employers are not required to provide assistance under Section 127 to their employees. However, if an employer chooses to do so, the benefit must be offered to all employees on a nondiscriminatory basis that does not favor highly compensated employees. Congress has extended Section 127 nine times since it was created in 1978, most recently in 2010. Section 127 will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts to renew it or make it permanent.

Issue

Providing tax-free educational assistance is an important tool for employers. Section 127 helps to build and maintain an increasingly skilled workforce, and positions the United States to remain competitive in the global economy. Almost 20 percent of Section 127 recipients are pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. More than 35 percent of all degrees pursued by Section 127 beneficiaries are master’s degrees, and, according to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study of the most recent data, use of Section 127 benefits has doubled since 1994. Today, more than 1 million employees use Section 127 benefits.

Status

Over the past few years, there have been several attempts to make Section 127 benefits permanent. Attempts to extend or make permanent any tax reductions will be difficult in the current political environment due to concerns about the rising federal deficit. An extension of Section 127 would likely need to be part of a larger tax reform package. Until a larger package comes together, SHRM supports the Employee Educational Assistance Act of 2012, H.R. 4137.

SHRM Position

SHRM chairs the Coalition to Preserve Employer Provided Education Assistance, a broad-based collection of groups representing business, labor and education groups. SHRM strongly supports the permanent extension of Section 127 for associate, undergraduate and graduate degrees. We believe that providing tax-free educational assistance is an important tool for employers to attract the best employees, build a skilled workforce and position the U.S. economy to compete globally.

Should you have any questions regarding this resolution, please contact Kathleen Coulombe, SHRM’s Senior Associate, Government Relations at kathleen.coulombe@shrm.org.

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