On September 8, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down portions of a January 2020 Final Rule issued by the Department of Labor. The Final Rule provided a new test for determining whether an entity is a joint employer with another entity under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Final Rule, which became effective in March of 2020, severely limited the situations in which an entity can be considered a joint employer and held liable for violations of the FLSA in a “vertical” joint employment relationship. A vertical joint employment relationship is the variety of joint employment that exists when there is some sort of intermediary, like a staffing firm, PLA, or temp agency between the employee and the employer that ultimately benefits from the employee’s work. We discussed “horizontal” joint employment in a prior post.

Several states, including Illinois, filed suit challenging the Final Rule’s legality with respect to the Final Rule’s changes to the vertical joint employment determination. Historically, courts and the DOL have made clear that control over an individual’s employment is not the dispositive factor in determining whether an entity is a joint employer with another entity. Instead, whether a joint employment relationship exists depends upon whether the employee in question is economically dependent upon the potential joint employer.

Continue Reading DOL’s Joint Employer Test Ruled Illegal

In Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-4, issued June 26, 2020, the United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, recognized a number of ways an employee can establish eligibility for Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) leave based on the closure of a summer camp or program that the employee claims would have been the place of care for the employee’s child over the summer. In addition to proof of actual enrollment or application to a camp or program, if an employee’s child attended a camp or program in the summer of 2018 or 2019 and the child remains eligible for the camp or program for Summer 2020, that may be sufficient.  Likewise, if an employee’s child is accepted to a waitlist pending the reopening of a camp or program or the reopening of the camp or program’s registration process, that, too, may be sufficient. Although the DOL states that mere interest in a summer camp or program is not enough, this broad interpretation opens the door to many new requests for FFCRA leave for employees. Employers should continue to obtain as much information as possible from an employee regarding the reasons the employee considers a summer camp or program to be the provider for the employee’s child. Consider consulting with legal counsel if you receive a request where there is a question as to whether the provider is in fact the child’s provider, including requests related to a summer camp for which no application, acceptance, attendance, or enrollment has occurred.

Continue Reading DOL Broadly Defines When a Summer Camp or Program is a Child’s Place of Care for FFCRA Leave

I believe most would agree, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) interpretative guidance typically provides useful insight to employers navigating often tricky wage and hour laws. This was not the case with the DOL’s decades-old guidance regarding whether an employer was a “retail or service establishment” and could claim an overtime exemption for certain employees paid on commission under Section 7(i) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In its interpretative guidance, the DOL created lists of industries that were either not recognized as retail establishments, or could possibly be recognized as retail establishments. In an action that should be mostly applauded by employers, the DOL recently issued a final rule withdrawing these particularly unhelpful “industry lists” and will instead evaluate every industry according to its regulations.

Continue Reading DOL Withdraws Industry Lists from its Retail or Service Establishment Exemption Interpretative Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a final rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) expressly authorizing employers to offer bonuses, hazard pay, and other premiums to employees whose hours, and regular rate of pay, vary from week to week.

The final rule revises 29 CFR §778.114, which is the DOL regulation that specifies how overtime is to be computed for salaried, non-exempt employees who work a fluctuating workweek. The new rule clarifies that bonuses, premium payments, commissions, and hazard pay on top of fixed salaries are compatible with the fluctuating workweek method of compensation and that employers must include such variable compensation when calculating an employee’s regular rate for overtime purposes. The final rule includes example calculations to illustrate how to factor in such payments.

Continue Reading DOL Green Lights Bonuses for Employees with Fluctuating Work Schedules

For regular readers of this blog, you know that my colleague, Tracey Truesdale, gave you some tips for properly paying employees in the event of a pandemic. That was on February 26, 2020. Since then, we’ve heard of employers sending entire offices of employees home to telecommute, restricting travel, and cancelling social events in reaction to the spread of COVID-19. We’ve also heard about Italy’s decision to lock down the country by closing schools and restricting all forms of travel for 16 million people, and how mortgage payments have been suspended to help employees who are faced with sudden unemployment.  

How to treat missed work time during the COVID-19 crisis is something that American employers are grappling with. Walmart, the U.S.’s largest private employer, issued a memo to its employees just three days ago substantially revising its attendance and leave policies in response to COVID-19. Walmart advised employees that:   

  • If employees are unable to work or are uncomfortable at work, they may choose to stay home, and Walmart will waive its attendance occurrence policy through the end of April.   
  • If an employee or their work location is required to quarantine by a government agency or by Walmart, the employee will receive up to two weeks of paid leave to cover the absence.   
  • Employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive up to two weeks of paid time off. If an employee cannot return to work after that period, her or she may be eligible for up to 26 weeks of pay replacement.  

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve also seen several tech giants, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft, direct their employees to telecommute or recommend that they avoid working in shared office spaces. While this approach may not work for every employer, it provides examples of how some employers are responding to the anticipated spread of COVID-19.   

For recommendations on how you can prepare for and respond to COVID-19, see our FAQ guidance. 

 

The anticipated spread of coronavirus in the U.S. has many employers revisiting their emergency response plans. Depending on guidance from public health officials, some employees may be directed to work from home, temporarily furloughed, or work a reduced schedule. Some managers and executives may be pressed into service to perform more manual or routine tasks.

To paraphrase a favorite sign in my office, this is not the Department of Labor’s first rodeo, and there is existing guidance under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) implementing regulations on how employees must be compensated in these situations. Let’s look at some of the wage/hour issues presented when a business must alter its operations due to a public health emergency.

Continue Reading Coronavirus: How to Properly Pay Employees in the Event of a Pandemic

Screen clip from Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
U.S. DOL Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

On November 5, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor published a proposed rule that would make it easier for some employers to apply the “Fluctuating Workweek” method of calculating overtime pay for certain non-exempt employees.

Background

For those not familiar with the concept, the fluctuating workweek method is one way of calculating overtime pay for non-exempt employees who are paid a fixed salary but whose hours fluctuate from week to week. The fluctuating workweek method can be extremely advantageous for employers because it allows an employer to pay a non-exempt employee a fixed salary covering all of the employee’s straight-time work, regardless of the number of hours worked. If an employee works overtime, they still receive premium pay for each hour worked, but the rate is one-half of the employee’s regular rate instead of 1.5 times the regular rate. For a full explanation of this method and the conditions under which it can be used, check out our earlier explanation here.

Under the current rules, several conditions must be met before an employer can use the fluctuating workweek method. These include:

Continue Reading DOL Proposes Rule to Make Bonus and Incentive Pay Compatible With Fluctuating Workweek

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its final rule concerning overtime exemptions. The rule increases the salary threshold for employees exempt under the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions (the “white collar exemptions”) from $455 per week (or $23,660 annually) to $684 per week (or $35,568 annually). Additional changes include:

  • Increasing the total annual compensation threshold for highly compensated employees (“HCEs”) from $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year;
  • Permitting employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy up to 10% of the increase salary threshold; and
  • Committing to updating the salary threshold more regularly.

The new rule is set to take effect on January 1, 2020 and increase the number of overtime-eligible employees by 1.3 million. No changes to the duties test have been made.

Continue Reading New Minimum Salary For Exempt Employees Takes Effect January 1, 2020

On June 11, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a new law that prohibits wage discrimination based upon sex and protects workers who decline to share their salary history with a prospective employer. The new law takes effect August 1, 2019. Unlike laws in some other states, the Alabama law does not bar employers from asking for salary history information, but prohibits employers from refusing to interview or hire applicants who decline to provide such information.

Alabama joins a growing list of jurisdictions to ban or limit the use of salary history inquiries in the hiring process, including:

  • California (statewide and in San Francisco)
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois (awaiting Gov. Pritzker’s signature)
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New York (Albany, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, and NYC)
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Philadelphia (subject to legal challenge)
  • Vermont
  • Washington