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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
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Second Circuit Rules Reasonable Accommodation Must Be Provided, Even if Not Requested by Employee

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers are required to provide disabled employees with a reasonable accommodation when necessary to allow that employee to perform the essential duties of their position. Generally, it is the responsibility of an employee with a disability to advise the employer of the existence of the disability and the need for a reasonable accommodation. After such a request, the employer and the requesting employee should engage in the interactive process—a discussion between the employer and the employee to identify a suitable accommodation.

An important exception to this general rule has developed, due to a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued on July 2, 2008. In Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Second Circuit considered whether an employee with an “obvious disability” must first request a reasonable accommodation before the employer is obligated to engage in the interactive process with the employee. Plaintiff Patrick Brady has cerebral palsy, which manifested itself in several known and visible manners. Indeed, the trial testimony revealed that Brady’s disability was clear and obvious to anyone who observed him. Despite his obvious disability, Brady did not believe that he needed any accommodation to perform the essential duties of his job and, therefore, never requested that his employer provide him with a reasonable accommodation.

Considering Brady’s claim that Wal-Mart failed to accommodate his disability, the Second Circuit first re-confirmed the general rule that a disabled employee must advise the employer that they have a disability and request a reasonable accommodation. However, the Court concluded that an exception to this general rule exists—“an employer has a duty reasonably to accommodate an employee’s disability if the disability is obvious—which is to say, if the employer knew or reasonably should have known that the employee was disabled.” The Second Circuit held that, when an employee’s disability is obvious, the employer has the obligation to initiate the interactive process and determine whether a reasonable accommodation exists that will permit the employee to perform all of the essential duties of their position.

The Court reasoned that the notice requirement of the general rule (requiring a request from the employee) is “rooted in common sense” and, therefore, an employer need not receive a notice from the employee where the disability is obvious or otherwise known to the employer. Clearly, an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of disability if it does not know of the disabling condition; similarly, the notice requirement prevents an employee from keeping their disability a secret but nevertheless filing a claim for failure to accommodate their disability. The Court found that both of these concerns are obviated and irrelevant when the disabling condition is obvious or otherwise known to the employer.

Due to this new exception to the general rule requiring that an employee request that the employer provide a reasonable accommodation, employers must be extra vigilant in working with disabled employees. If you have an employee with an obvious disability, it is now incumbent on the employer to approach the employee and commence the interactive process—the employer must initiate the conversation about whether the employee requires a reasonable accommodation. Similarly, the same obligation would seem to exist if the employer otherwise knows of the employee’s disabling condition—for example, where the employer knows of the condition because the employee took a Family and Medical Leave Act leave due to their own serious health condition, or the employee has submitted a workers’ compensation claim concerning their own disabling condition. In these circumstances, it would seem prudent for an employer to initiate the interactive process with the employee, determine whether a reasonable accommodation is appropriate and identify that accommodation.

If you have questions concerning your compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or this new requirement of that statute, contact Chapter Legislative Representative Paul F. Keneally, Esq. at 585-258-2882 or at keneally@underbergkessleer.com.

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