The Office Holiday Party: Best Practices to Avoid Legal Trouble

shutterstock_holiday party glassesThe holiday season is here, and employees are looking forward to celebrating with their family and co-workers.  However, the office holiday party – an anticipated yearly tradition in many workplaces – has now become a cause for concern for employers, especially amidst the current national conversation about workplace sexual harassment.

What is the result?  Many companies are cancelling holiday party plans, or hosting alternative parties with less alcohol and more day light.

There is certainly nothing wrong with hosting a holiday party, and employers should not be discouraged from doing so.  Hosting a holiday party for your employees is beneficial, as it helps boost employee morale and demonstrates Continue reading

California Opportunity to Work Act Spells Trouble for Employers

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California Assembly Bill (AB) 5, the Opportunity to Work Act, was recently approved by the California Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment in April 2017.  The Appropriations Committee postponed a hearing on the bill that was scheduled for May 3, 2017.  Given the strong industry opposition to this bill and its harmful impact on employers, it is likely that the Appropriations Committee is taking a closer look at the bill and the negative Continue reading

Workplace Harassment 101

harassmentOne lesson companies of all sizes can learn from the sexual harassment claims that Uber is facing is that an employer needs to set clear restrictions on harassment and make a conscious effort to hold employees accountable to those workplace standards.  In particular, sexual harassment has been a significant issue in the workplace since men and women began working alongside each other.  However, it wasn’t until 1964, when Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, that discrimination and harassment in the workplace was explicitly prohibited at the federal level.  Since then, several more anti-discrimination laws at both the state and federal level have been passed and countless judicial opinions denouncing unrestrained work culture and impermissible acts have been published.  So why is this still a hot button issue in the workplace over 50 years later?

Some may be of the opinion one complaint of workplace harassment is not a big deal because it is not reflective of the entire workforce or the values of the company generally.  While this may be true in some cases, it is important to investigate any such complaints because the root of the problem may be broader, such as Continue reading

Whistleblower Retaliation Article Published in BLR’s HR Daily Advisor and Upcoming Webinar

whistleblower-articleBLR recently published a two piece article in the HR Daily Advisor by Kara Maciel and Daniel Deacon, of Conn Maciel Carey’s national Labor & Employment Law Practice Group, regarding government agencies increased focus on whistleblowers and retaliation, and how employers can avoid whistleblower and retaliation complaints from their employees.

Over the past year, there have been significant changes in both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) that make it easier for employees to demonstrate that an employer acted with retaliatory intent.  Given this increased focus on retaliation, it is prudent for employers to take steps to avoid whistleblower and retaliation complaints from their employees, and ensure that they have adequate workplace policies and complaint systems to address retaliation complaints before an employee complaint lands before the EEOC or OSHA.

Part 1 of the article, titled “Preventing Whistleblowers in the Workplace: EEOC Expands the Rights of Whistleblowers,” focuses on how the EEOC has modified the standard it uses to evaluate retaliation claims, and has become more aggressive in its whistleblower enforcement efforts. Continue reading

Texas Judge Blocks DOL Persuader Rule with Nationwide Permanent Injunction

persuaderOn November 16, 2016, a Texas federal judge permanently blocked the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) from enforcing its persuader rule in National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Thomas E. Perez, et al., Case No. 5:16-CV-066-C.  As we previously reported in a prior post, when the DOL published the final rule in March 2016, it imposed substantial reporting obligations on employers.  The old rule required disclosure of the use of an outside consultant if the consultant engaged in direct persuader activity, such as if the consultant directly communicates with employees about union representation.  The new rule, however, added reporting for indirect persuader activities; for example, providing communication materials to an employer to hand out to employees.  These types of activities typically, but not exclusively, arise in the context of a union organizing drive.

The DOL’s insistence on imposing stricter reporting requirements on employers stems from what the DOL perceived as a loophole in the Labor Management Reporting Continue reading

EEOC and State Legislatures Focus on Pay Equity and Transparency

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If there is one issue that has remained a hot topic in employment news throughout 2016, it is pay equity and transparency.  These topics have not only garnered attention at the federal level but at the state level as well.

The EEOC proposed significant changes to the EEO-1 report, a mandated compliance survey containing employment data, where it will begin collecting pay data based on certain demographic criteria in 2017.  Additionally, many states, including Maryland, are taking their own steps to ensure pay equity in the workplace.  These laws will likely trigger significant enforcement efforts by federal agencies and the states; thus, employers should be prepared to respond to investigations into their pay practices.  However, employers can take several steps to help limit potential liability over the next year.

New EEO-1 Report Requirements

In February 2016, the EEOC announced a major revision to the Employer Information Report (EEO-1) requiring all employers with more than Continue reading

States and Businesses Seek Injunction to Prevent DOL Overtime Rule From Taking Effect on December 1

gavelBy:  Kara M. Maciel and Dan Deacon

On September 20, 2016, business groups and states filed two lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas challenging President Obama’s new overtime rule that is set to take effect December 1, 2016 .   Twenty-one states banded together to challenge the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) new overtime exemption rule in States of Nevada et al. v. United States Department of Labor et al, Case No. 1:16-cv-004070., and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, leading a coalition of 50 national and Texas business groups, filed a similar lawsuit in Plano Chamber of Commerce et al. v. Thomas Perez et al. Case No. 4:16-cv-00732.  The two lawsuits argue that DOL unconstitutionally overstepped its authority to establish a federal minimum salary level to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) white collar exemption and violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).

The New Rule & its Impact on Employers

The long awaited controversial rule was released in May 2016 to the disdain of employers, as we’ve explained in prior blog posts.  The most significant change in the final rule is the new $47,476.00 minimum threshold salary required to qualify as an exempt employee, representing more than a 100% increase from the present level and a huge financial undertaking for employers.  All employers throughout Continue reading