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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
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Below please find an interesting article about a case finding for an employer where the employee was an alcoholic with attendance problems. This thorny ADA issue is not uncommon-please contact GVC SHRM Legislative Representative Paul F. Keneally, Esq., Partner and Chair Labor & Employment Practice Group at Underberg & Kessler LLP, if you have any questions-258-2882 or keneally@underbergkessler.com

2nd Circuit: No Call/No Show Termination Survives Alcoholic’s ADA Claim

1/15/2010 By Roger S. Achille


The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) did not protect an employee from termination for absenteeism resulting from alcoholism where reliable attendance at scheduled shifts was an essential function of the job.
Bruce VandenBroek, a boiler utility operator for PSEG Power Connecticut LLC (PSEG), alleged that the district court erred in finding that he was terminated because of his violation of PSEG’s “no call/no show” policy rather than because of his alcoholism. The district court stated that the ADA specifically permits employers to “hold an employee who is an alcoholic to the same qualification standards for employment or job performance and behavior that such entity holds other employees, even if any unsatisfactory performance or behavior is related to the alcoholism of such employee.”

Among the criteria necessary to establish a prima-facie case of discrimination under the ADA, one must show that he was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. “Essential functions” are duties that are fundamental to the job in question, and considerable deference is accorded to an employer’s judgment in determining which duties are fundamental.

While “ ‘regularly attending work’ is an essential function of virtually every job,” the 2nd Circuit emphasized that it was especially important for a boiler utility operator who had to be present at the power plant to monitor the boiler and respond to alarms to ensure against a power outage or explosion. The 2nd Circuit pointed out that it was for this reason PSEG’s employment rules made those who violate the “no call/no show” policy subject to discharge for the first offense. Although the plant general manager testified that VandenBroek “was a good operator” when he showed up for work, the 2nd Circuit contended that this evidence would not permit a reasonable jury to find that PSEG could rely on VandenBroek to appear for his shifts at the time he was terminated.

The 2nd Circuit noted that “absenteeism resulting from alcoholism is a factor that bears on whether an employee is ‘otherwise qualified.’ ” Whereas reliable attendance at scheduled shifts was an essential function for a boiler utility operator, the 2nd Circuit affirmed that VandenBroek had not presented sufficient evidence that he was “otherwise qualified” to perform his job.

VandenBroek v. PSEG Power CT LLC, 2nd Cir., No. 09-1109 (Dec. 11, 2009).

Professional Pointer: Although an alcoholic is a person with a disability under the ADA and may be entitled to consideration of accommodation, any substance abuser may be required to meet the same standards of performance and conduct that are set for other employees.

By Roger S. Achille, an attorney and associate professor at Johnson & Wales University, Graduate School of Business, in Providence, R.I.

Editor’s Note: This article should not be construed as legal advice.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 3:41 AM
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