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Workplace Initiatives and Strategies for Employers

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On August 8, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) released an Opinion Letter clarifying that parents of students with special education needs may take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to attend a meeting related to addressing those needs. Importantly, the DOL stated that its analysis and conclusion apply to “any meetings held pursuant to the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], and any applicable state or local law, regardless of the term used for such meetings.” The individual who requested the opinion letter stated that their two children had serious health conditions under the FMLA, and that their…
New York State Overhauls Harassment Laws Making it Easier to Bring Employers to Court Earlier this summer the New York State Senate and Assembly passed a bill aimed to amend the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the N.Y. Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) to combat harassment and provide substantial new protections for workers. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law on August 12, 2019. The following provisions highlight the major changes that employers should immediately prepare for: Lowering the Standard to Prove Harassment Traditionally courts have held that hostile work environment claims under the NYSHRL are…
New York Employers – New Pay Equity Laws and Hair Bias Ban May Require You to Update Your Policies The New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo have been busy in 2019 enacting laws that will have a lasting impact on employers and workers in the Empire State for years to come. Among these are bans on inquiring about salary history, and discriminating against individuals on the basis of their natural hairstyle. Employers should understand the implications of these laws, and if necessary, amend their policies and practices accordingly. Salary History Ban and Pay Equity Law Governor Cuomo made headlines…
On August 6, 2019, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed a bill (S-1790) imposing tougher penalties for “wage theft.” The law significantly increases penalties for employers, including potential imprisonment for employers who run afoul of its provisions, and provides added protections for employee retaliation claims. The law imposes a new joint and several liability provision for client-employers and labor contractors, specifically, it declares any waiver of joint and several liability as “void and unenforceable.”  Employers need to understand the implications of the new law and ensure compliance with the State Wage and Hour Laws.     Increased Fines and Penalties: The new…
On August 8, 2019, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, which reinforces safeguards for the city’s labor force. The Ordinance, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, prohibits employers from shortchanging paychecks, attempting to make it appear that wages paid were greater than the amount actually issued, or paying wages on days other days other than regularly established paydays. It also prohibits employers from demanding that employees give any rebate or refund from their wages. The new regulation incorporates recent amendments from the state legislature, which require employers to provide employees with written notice…
Chicago recently joined a growing trend when City Council approved one of the broadest predictive scheduling laws in the country. The Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance, which was passed on July 24, 2019, will go into effect beginning on July 1, 2020, and has the potential to cause headaches for companies that have workers in Chicago. The Ordinance requires employers in certain industries to provide a good faith estimate to new employees of their projected days and hours of work for the first ninety days of employment. Employers must also provide written notice of work hours by posting the work schedule…
A combination of New Jersey court decisions and legislative actions have expanded and clarified New Jersey employer obligations for employees who are registered qualifying cannabis patients. Both the New Jersey Federal District Court and the New Jersey State Appellate Division have weighed in, with the New Jersey Supreme Court recently announcing that it will review the Appellate Division ruling. Further, on July 2nd, New Jersey signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, now known as the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, which creates additional compliance obligations for employers. The Act takes…
On July 25, 2019, New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver signed a bill prohibiting employers from asking job applicants their previous salary history. The new law aligns with Governor Murphy’s first official act as governor in 2018, when he signed Executive Order No. 1 prohibiting state agencies and offices from asking job candidates their previous salaries. The new law applies to all employers in New Jersey. The new law takes effect in six months. The new law states it is an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer to (1) screen a job applicant based on the applicant’s salary history, which…
Last month, Maryland joined a growing list of states that restrict the use of noncompete agreements for low wage employees. This month, the list of states grew yet again with New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island joining the trend. Generally speaking, a noncompete agreement is a contract between an employer and employee that restricts the employee from working for competitor companies after their employment ends, subject to certain time and geographic limitations. The three New England states have now joined the trend by restricting the enforcement of these types of agreements for low wage employees. New Hampshire: On July 11,…
Undoubtedly, 2019 has been a year of change for Illinois employers, as businesses grapple with new minimum wages, legalized cannabis use, and a bevy of other legislative updates. Those changes are expected to continue, as the state legislature recently passed a comprehensive new anti-harassment bill, which is currently awaiting Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature. SB 75  includes several impactful provisions, some of which are outlined below. Yearly Sexual Harassment Training Requirements The bill requires all employers to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training. The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) will be tasked with developing a model training program…
New York City Adds “Sexual and Reproductive Health Decisions” as a Protected Class In December 2018 the New York City Council passed legislation adding “sexual and reproductive health decisions” to the list of protected classes under the City’s Human Rights Law. As NYC employers are already aware, the New York City Human Rights Law is the primary local law in NYC protecting individuals against discrimination and harassment on the basis of, among other things, their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, caregiver status or national origin. In the words of the law’s sponsor, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, the law’s purpose…
District of Columbia Council To Allow Some City Employees to Access Medical Marijuana (For Now) While the District of Columbia (D.C.) has had a medical marijuana program on its books since 2013, there has been some debate regarding whether or not city workers are allowed to participate in the program, even if they have a written recommendation from a physician. Since 2016, it has been up to individual city government agencies to decide whether or not their employees can participate in D.C.’s medical marijuana program.  This policy has led to disparate treatment of employees from one agency to another, even…
Does your parental leave or “bonding time” policy provide more time off to one gender over the other following the birth or adoption of a child? If so, it is time to revisit the policy as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)–the federal agency tasked with enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws–is actively pursuing policies that are not gender-neutral but instead provides more parental leave to women compared to men. Many companies offer “two-tiered” types of leave policies, where the birth mother is entitled to more “bonding time” or parental leave than the father. Other policies sometimes distinguish between a “primary” and…
On June 5, 2019, Nevada became the first state to make it unlawful for employers to reject job applicants who test positive for cannabis. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2020 and fits with existing Nevada law, which already prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who lawfully use “products” outside of the work premises which do not adversely affect job performance or the safety of other employees. However, there are exceptions for certain jobs and employers can still require that employees not engage in cannabis use while on-the-job. Nevada is one of nine states that have…
Maryland recently joined the growing number of states to enact laws that restrict the use of noncompete agreements for low wage employees with the passage of Senate Bill 328. A noncompete agreement is a contract executed between an employee and employer that typically states the employee is prohibited from working for a direct or indirect competitor of the company for a certain period of time, or within a certain geographic area, after the termination of employment. On May 28, 2019, the Noncompete and Conflict of Interest Clauses Act went became law and it will go into effect on October…
Last week, the Illinois legislature passed a landmark bill authorizing recreational marijuana. Shortly thereafter, Governor J.B. Pritzker tweeted that he looks forward to signing the bill into law. The bill, formally known as the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (the “Act”), will make it legal under state law for adults 21 and older to purchase and possess limited amounts of cannabis, beginning on January 1, 2020. As with the majority of state cannabis legislation, this bill also contains specific language that Illinois employers should review in order to understand their obligations under the new law.  While the legalization and regulation…