Blog Posts: Workplace Compliance
In 2011, the US Department of Labor (DOL) instituted Misclassification Initiative to pursue employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. Recently, the new head of the Department, Thomas E. Perez, has vowed to continue this effort and make such misclassifications a top enforcement priority, asserting that they constitute “workplace fraud.”
Gay-rights activists applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal civil rights decision issued on June 26, 2013 in United States v. Windsor. The 5-to-4 opinion declared the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) restricting rights of married couples to opposite-sex couples to be unconstitutional. Accordingly, in states where same-sex marriages are legal, same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as opposite-sex couples under federal law.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit recently held that employers are not automatically liable for health and safety violations committed by a single supervisor. In order to hold an employer accountable, the court found that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must prove the company had knowledge of the supervisor’s misconduct and that the violative acts actually occurred. This ruling adds a unique spin to the widely accepted standard that a supervisor’s knowledge of employee violations is imputed to his or her employer.
The number of workplace injuries recorded by the federal government dropped 31% over the last decade. In the private sector, the number of non-fatal injuries dropped to 5.0 per 100 full-time workers in 2011 from 3.5 in 2003. The average cost of workers' compensation per $100 of payroll fell to $1.79 last year from $2.67 in 1994, according to a federal survey.
In 2009, Michelle Duprey went to a Bruce Springsteen concert expecting to see The Boss in action. Instead, she spent most of the three-hour concert "looking at the back of two young guys in front of me." When she tried to get a better view at the top of the aisle, "arena employees told me to move because I was causing a fire hazard," she recently told the Connecticut Law Tribune.
When an organization hires a worker, it must classify him or her as either an employee or an independent contractor. Proper classification is critical for the organization because employers have certain legal obligations toward employees that they don't have toward independent contractors, such as payroll taxes and overtime pay.
The requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) can be far-reaching and present challenges to employers who seek to comply with them. In assessing each unique circumstance and providing accommodations to employees, employers may find the following tips helpful:
Unpaid internships traditionally allow new and inexperienced workers to get the hands-on knowledge needed to gain entry into their field. The number of unpaid internships offered in recent years has mushroomed as employers attempt to minimize costs in a slow economy. Such cost-cutting tactics, however, are starting to turn against employers. Many unpaid internship programs require long hours or offer non-educational menial work lacking in any practical experience. Former interns instituted legal action against large employers like the Charlie Rose Show, Fox Searchlight Pictures and the Hearst Corporation in response to such programs. They also attracted the attention of the Department of Labor (DOL) and similar governmental agencies.
Employees returning from medical leave are often in a weakened emotional and physical state. Human kindness is not the only reason for keeping that in mind, according to a federal court in Illinois. An employer’s knowledge of an employee’s weakened emotional or physical state is a factor relevant to whether the employer is liable for damages arising from “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the court ruled.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued new guidance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. The revised materials explain what employees with these conditions must show to establish they have a disability and how employers should handle such situations. Specifically, each guide discusses the implications of harassing and/or discriminating against employees with these particular disabilities, when employers may use and disclose medical information relating to these disabilities, and how employers can accommodate employees with these disabilities.