With the final overtime rule for the “white collar” exempt employee minimum salary level issued by the United States Department of Labor (the “DOL”) on hold, the New York State Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rules may take precedence for New York employers. As we previously communicated, the DOL’s new overtime rule – which substantially increases the minimum salary that employers must pay to certain classes of employees to avoid the overtime pay requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“the FLSA”) – was scheduled to take effect December 1, 2016, but was placed on hold by a preliminary injunction issued by a Texas federal district court. New York State has now taken matters into its own hands independent of the now-suspended federal rule change.
Author: Mitchell Boyarsky
On November 22, 2016, in Nevada v. United States Department of Labor, et al., a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) from implementing and enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (“the FLSA”) final overtime rule that would otherwise become effective on December 1, 2016.
On August 22, 2016, in Morris v. Ernst & Young, LLP, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals joined the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in holding that class action waiver provisions in arbitration agreements governing employment disputes are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act) because these waivers interfere with the right of employees to engage in concerted activity protected by Section 7 of the Act (Section 7). The holdings of these courts are in indirect conflict with an opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the validity of such waivers in the face of a challenge under Section 7. Employers in jurisdictions whose courts have not yet decided this issue, and who employ such waivers in their arbitration agreements or otherwise, should be prepared for attacks on their arbitration agreements by employees seeking to bring class or collective actions or by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The United States Department of Labor (“the DOL”) has finally issued the long-awaited rules dramatically increasing the minimum salary level for the overtime-exempt classifications under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“the FLSA”). The new rules also incorporate mechanisms to adjust this salary level in the future. The effect of future adjustments will require an employer to pay wage increases unrelated to the employer’s financial condition or employee performance. The new rules will have the greatest impact on those employees currently classified as exempt but who will not meet the new minimum salary threshold. These rules go into effect December 1, 2016, a date later than DOL originally communicated, which gives employers an opportunity to conduct a self-analysis to prepare for these changes.
New York State recently passed the Paid Family Leave Benefits Law, which is among the strongest and most comprehensive leave statutes in the country. The new law amends the State’s current disability law, and imposes obligations on employers beginning in 2018. Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the NY law will provide both protected leave and paid benefits during the leave. The new law covers employers in the for-profit sector, with at least one employee, along with certain other employers in the public and not-for-profit sectors.
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) recently issued an Administrator’s Interpretation (“Interpretation”) on joint employer liability under the Fair Labor Standards, Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq. and the Migrant Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., that provides additional guidance to employers but also may demonstrate the DOL’s increased efforts to focus on joint employer liability for wage and hour compliance. According to the WHD, the workplace increasingly involves use of outsourcing, shared employees, integrated employers, and other forms of co-dependent business models. The WHD seeks to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws for entities that rely upon such alternative workforces. While the Interpretation is not binding upon the courts and constitutes guidance for employers, it lists factors extrapolated from court decisions, other DOL guidance, and related sources that should be considered where an employer utilizes alternative labor sources or has sister or related entities that share common operations or are interdependent.
Fifth Circuit Upholds Arbitration Agreement Prohibiting Class/Collective Actions and Cautions NLRB to Reconsider Board Policy
Last week, in Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld an arbitration agreement requiring employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis, thereby reaffirming its holding in D.R. Horton, Inc. v. NLRB, despite the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) aggressive attempt to find arbitration agreements unlawful. The case is noteworthy because the court rebuffed the Board’s effort to circumvent D.R. Horton and cautioned the NLRB “to strike a more respectful balance between its views and those of circuit courts” that review them. One wonders whether the NLRB will change its current stance against arbitration agreements that prohibit class/collective actions. Regardless, the Fifth Circuit’s decision helps to settle the current state of the law at the circuit court level that arbitration agreements and class/collective action waivers are lawful under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).
The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decided that an employer’s workplace investigations policy, which recommends employees keep an internal investigation confidential, violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) because it interfered with employees’ rights to communicate regarding matters affecting terms and conditions of employment. The ruling creates a quandary for employers to maintain effective workplace investigation policies and practices including confidentiality statements in anti-harassment policies.
Employers must be aware of the changes to the New York City Administrative Code effective October 27, 2015, which prohibits employers from asking applicants regarding their criminal histories (typically called “Ban the Box”) prior to a conditional offer of employment. Under the new law called the Fair Chance Act (the “Act”) – which affects employers of four or more employees – employers may not (1) ask the applicant during an interview, (2) include a question on an application, or (3) conduct a separate search using public sources, such as the internet, to elicit information regarding an applicant’s criminal convictions or arrest records. The Act contains limited exceptions for persons who apply for law enforcement positions or for licenses concerning the regulation of firearms and explosives. Also, the Act does not prevent an employer from conducting a background check required by state, federal or local law that mandates criminal background checks or that bars employment based on a criminal history. An example of such requirement is regulations of a self-regulatory organization such as FINRA.
In Lico v. TD Bank et al., a federal court in the Eastern District of New York upheld an employee’s right to bring claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against her employer, TD Bank (“the Bank”), for failure to provide adequate facilities and time for lactation breaks. The FLSA requires employers covered by the FLSA to provide employees (1) reasonable unpaid time at work to express breast milk for up to one year following childbirth and (2) a place, other than a restroom, that is not visible and is free from intrusion to do so.