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United States Department of Labor Issues New Opinion Letters - Part 2

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Another notable opinion from the U.S. Department of Labor letters issued on March 14 is that workers are not required to be paid for community service they perform through an employer program unless they are forced into volunteering. An employer submitted a question to the DOL asking if it had to compensate employees who are allowed to pick their own or employer sponsored volunteer activities.  The employer pays them for activities that occur during the work day or on the employer’s premises, but much of the volunteer time falls outside of working hours. 

United States Department of Labor Issues New Opinion Letters - Part 1

Friday, March 15, 2019

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued three opinion letters. This is the first of a series of blog posts addressing the letters.

Notably, the DOL clarified that employers cannot allow employees to take paid leave in lieu of FMLA leave.  As you know, the FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for family members or receive treatment for their own illnesses.

That Free Lunch May be Taxable

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The IRS recently released Technical Advice Memorandum 201903017 (the TAM) providing guidance to IRS personnel as to whether the value of meals and snacks provided without charge by an employer to its employees constitutes taxable wages. 

The employer in the TAM provided free meals to all employees, contractors and guests.  No distinction was made as to the employee’s position, job duties, responsibilities or other circumstances.  Unlimited drinks and snacks were also provided to all employees, contractors and visitors in unrestricted snack areas. 

BREAKING NEWS: NYS DOL Not Implementing Call-In Pay Regulations

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Good news!  Last night, the New York State Department of Labor issued a statement that it would not pursue implementing the proposed call-in pay regulations we wrote about previously (click here for that blog post). This issue is likely headed to the New York State Legislature.

NLRB Narrows Standard for “Protected Activity”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Another recent NLRB decision narrows the standard for what constitutes protected activity.  In that case, a manager asked a group of airport baggage handlers to help unload the equipment of a soccer team. One of the baggage employees said they’d done a similar job previously and didn’t receive a tip.  When the equipment arrived, the baggage handlers didn’t help unload, and the employee who complained about the lack of tip was fired.  He filed a complaint alleging he was fired for complaining about the lack of tip, which he claimed was protected activity.

NLRB Changes Course on the Independent Contractor Issue

Friday, February 08, 2019

On January 25, 2019, the NLRB issued a Decision wherein it found that van operators at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport are independent contractors, not employees, and thus could not unionize.  In doing so, the NLRB overruled its own 2014 FedEx Home Delivery Decision that it said gave insufficient weight to workers’ entrepreneurship opportunities, and too much weight to right-to-control factors, in deciding the issue.  Going forward, where appropriate, all the traditional common law independent contractor factors will be evaluated “through the prism of entrepreneurial opportunity”. 

New York Passes Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law

Thursday, January 24, 2019

On January 15, 2019, the New York Legislature passed a bill that protects transgender people from discrimination and adds gender identity or gender expression as a protected class in employment, housing, places of public accommodations and other areas.  After more than a decade of attempts, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) awaits Governor Cuomo’s expected signature.  

Government Shutdown Continues to Affect Employers

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

As the government shutdown persists, private employers continue to be affected.  As we discussed earlier this month, E-Verify remains shut down.  Employers must continue to manually verify eligibility through the use of I-9 forms.  In addition, the EEOC is mostly shut down, other than a relatively small number of employees still in place to receive new charges so potential charging parties don’t miss the statute of limitations.  Federal courts remain open, but cases involving the federal government are stayed and court staff is reduced. 

Federal Government Shutdown Fallout: How Should Employers Who Use E-Verify Handle The System Being Down

Monday, January 07, 2019

Employers who use E-Verify to comply with their I-9 obligations have not had access to the system since December 22, 2018.  Crucially, however, those I-9 obligations do not cease just because the E-Verify system is down.  Thus, employers are advised to carefully examine new employees’ I-9 documents and complete I-9 sections 1 (by first day) and 2 (by third day) now, and then comply with the E-Verify 3-Day Rule as directed by the Division of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify website once it is back online. 

Cuomo Vetoes Addition of Bereavement Leave to Paid Family Leave

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Governor Cuomo vetoed the bill we described in our last post that would have added bereavement leave to the list of acceptable reasons to take NY Paid Family Leave.  Cuomo indicated that he generally supports increased bereavement leave but felt that the bill, as written, would lead to an “extreme expansion” of Paid Family Leave.  Cuomo argued the bill would necessitate an increase in employee contributions, and felt the financial burden of increased contributions might be too much for some low-wage and middle-class workers. 

Governmental Affairs
29

 

YOUR ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED! Please e-mail your senators to OPPOSE S. 3220 <http://msg.shrm.org/site/R?i=MTjvtqw_LsVHXyHx4E3oZw> because it would significantly restrict the way employers of all sizes compensate their employees.

 

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 3220 <http://msg.shrm.org/site/R?i=RtT7Sk0m8Jd81Vmze41gYQ> , the so-called "Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA)," during the week of June 4-8. If enacted, the bill would:

 

*                       significantly restrict the factors HR professionals use to compensate their employees,

*                       authorize the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor to collect wage information from employers, and

*                       encourage employees to publicly disclose their colleagues' wages.

 

Please Take This Action:

Write your U.S. Senators using SHRM's HRVoice program by following these steps:

 

1.                     Log onto the SHRM HRVoice Advocacy Action Center by clicking HERE <http://msg.shrm.org/site/R?i=QDYTTmdd8f2fWjP-HZhnFg>

2.                     Personalize your message with your own story

3.                     Include your home mailing address.

 

Issue

 

HR professionals who manage compensation use their professional judgment to consider a number of legitimate factors in creating fair and equitable compensation systems. These include experience, profitability, merit, productivity, prior salary history and location.  But the PFA would allow the Federal government to second-guess employer pay practices in three primary ways. The PFA would:

 

1.                     Restrict employer flexibility in pay decisions – The PFA would effectively prohibit employers from using many legitimate factors to compensate their employees, including professional experience, education, training, employer need, local labor market rates, hazard pay, shift differentials and the profitability of the organization. The PFA would permit employers to base pay decisions only on production, merit and seniority.

2.                     Require collection of employer wage data – The PFA would authorize the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor to collect compensation data from compensation managers.

3.                     Reduce employee privacy – The PFA would effectively encourage employees to discuss or publicize their co-workers' wages by preventing employer retaliation against an individual who publicly discloses the wages of other employees.

 

Outlook

 

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness Act, on May 22, 2012. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, but it has not been the subject of a hearing or markup during the current Congress. The Senate plans to vote on S. 3220 during the week of June 4-8.

 

SHRM Position

 

SHRM and its membership are committed to preventing and resolving any form of workplace discrimination, including pay disparities between women and men. SHRM strongly supports the two federal laws that already protect employees from gender-based pay inequity: (1) Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and (2) the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). The proposed Paycheck Fairness Act would amend the Equal Pay Act, which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

 

SHRM believes that compensation programs should be designed to ensure fair treatment of employees, but should be determined by the market and employer needs, not by the government. Instead, SHRM encourages organizations of all sizes to regularly perform compensation or job evaluation audits to ensure such systems do not discriminate based on gender in order to comply with current federal law.

 

SHRM believes the Paycheck Fairness Act, however well-intentioned, would be an unnecessary expansion of the Equal Pay Act. By significantly restricting the factors used in setting compensation, the Paycheck Fairness Act would threaten the tools that HR professionals use to reward and retain their employees. The bill could lead to employers cutting back on incentive pay programs, because of the pay disparities between employees that would naturally result. The bill would also have a negative impact on employee privacy by encouraging employees to publicize their colleagues' wages.

 

Should you have any questions regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act, please contact Michael Layman, SHRM's Government Relations Senior Associate, at michael.layman@shrm.org.

 

If you encounter any problems with the advocacy site, please contact David Lusk, SHRM's Senior Associate, Member Advocacy, at 703-535-6158.

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