Blog Posts: Workplace Compliance
Workplace stress is the number one risk to employee health, according to a survey conducted by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. Stress can significantly affect an individual's physical health and emotional well-being, harm workplace performance and hamper overall business performance. Yet even though employers understand the connection between stress and productivity, only 15% make improving the emotional/mental health of employees a top priority of their health and productivity programs.
Beginning January 30, 2014, employers with more than four workers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and new mothers under the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (NYCPWFA). The amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) broadens existing employer accommodation requirements with respect to employee pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
Wage-and-hour class-action lawsuits have taken the lead in workplace litigation, according to the latest trends report issued by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. Between 2007 and 2012, wage-and-hour settlements reached almost $2.7 billion, with $467 million in settlements in 2012 alone. Statistics released by the Federal Judicial Center show the trend continuing into 2013 with a 10% increase in wage-and-hour litigation over a 12-month period ending in March 2013.
A Tennessee company will be paying almost $144,000 in back wages and penalties for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Sitel Operating Corp. has agreed to pay 486 employees $68,901 in back wages and pay civil money penalties of $74,900, for repeat violations of the FLSA uncovered in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination based on employees' disabilities. In doing so, it requires that employers provide "reasonable accommodations" — modifications to the workplace or the job — to allow employees with disabilities to perform their jobs. Generally, the ADA has been interpreted to require that employers provide only those accommodations with a connection to the essential functions an employee's job. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a ruling with a much broader interpretation of "reasonable accommodation" that should have employers taking a closer look at accommodation requests.
More and more employers are taking workplace violence seriously and making changes in human-resource policies and employee training to address possible workplace violence. Yet in states that have passed so-called "Bring Your Gun to Work" laws, employers may find themselves in the middle of the gun debate when they attempt to ban firearms on the work site. While these laws vary by state, they essentially allow employers to prohibit employees from bringing firearms into the office or factory, but do not allow employers to ban firearms from workplace parking areas. This year Illinois became the latest state — bringing the total to 23 — to pass this type of law.
Ever since the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) took effect in 1983, employees have had the right to know about chemical hazards in their workplaces. However, since HCS allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to convey information in whatever format they wanted, confusion often ensued.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take time off from work to care for themselves, a spouse, child or parent with a "serious health condition." What, exactly, is a "serious health condition"? The answer is not entirely clear, and — despite numerous cases and Congressional hearings on the matter — there is no list of qualifying illnesses. This can cause uncertainty among both employers and employees as to whether a particular condition qualifies for FMLA leave.
Worker misclassification — that is, when an employer improperly classifies a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee — is a major priority for the US Department of Labor (DOL). Recently, DOL indicated that it most often sees misclassifications of workers as independent contractors in certain industries and jobs, including janitorial, restaurant, delivery drivers, gas station attendants, nurse temps, security guards and cable installers. Worker misclassification implicates a broad range of laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, and a variety of agencies.
Employers of many direct-care workers are not subject to the Fair Labor Standard Act's (FLSA) minimum-wage and overtime protections due to an exemption for "companionship services." Courts have interpreted the exemption to include virtually all workers, both skilled and unskilled, who provide service in the home to elderly people or people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities.