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Showing 24 posts in Employee Hazards.

Updated & Enhanced EEOC Enforcement Guidance – What Does it Mean for Employers and Pregnant Employees?

In 2013 alone, 5,342 discrimination claims were filed alleging pregnancy discrimination. The result – employers paid out over $17 million in monetary benefits last year. In fact, the EEOC’s statistics do not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation; thus, employers likely paid out a significant amount more than $17 million. To avoid adding to this figure, employers must pay particular attention to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, be mindful of what is required to comply with federal and state law, and take precautions to ensure that no discriminatory practices exist in the workplace. More >

EEOC Sues Companies for Transgender Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has just filed suit against two companies for alleged discrimination against transgendered employees. The suits were filed separately in Florida and Michigan, against Lakeland Eye Clinic and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., respectively. In both cases, employees alleged that they were fired after they disclosed they were undergoing gender transitions. More >

More Transparency on Horizon for Federal Contractors

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has issued a proposed rule that would bar federal contractors from firing or discriminating against employees or applicants who discuss their pay, or the pay of their co-workers. The proposal comes after President Obama’s executive order in April, which instructed the DOL to issue a rule requiring pay transparency among federal contractors. More >

Sixth Circuit Vacates Decision On Telecommuting Accommodation

In May, we wrote about the Sixth Circuit’s interesting decision in Equal Opportunity Commission v. Ford Motor Co., wherein the Court expanded the instances in which a telecommuting arrangement would be considered a reasonable accommodation for disabled employees in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).[1] More >

OSHA’s New Regulations Increase Employers’ Reporting Responsibilities

On September 11, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released a new rule which will significantly increase the type of injuries that must be reported to the agency. The new rule maintains the requirement for employers to notify OSHA of any workplace fatalities within eight (8) hours. Now, in addition, employers are required to report all hospitalizations, plus any injuries that result in amputations or loss of an eye within twenty-four (24) hours. According to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, the expanded reporting requirements for severe injuries will result in employers being “more likely to take the steps necessary to better protect the lives and limbs of their employees.” Michaels said OSHA will use the data they receive to better target industries that need to do more to prevent injuries. More >

Part II: What Is A “Micro-Unit” – and Why Does It Matter?

Earlier this week, the standard established by the NLRB in Specialty Healthcare was discussed. As a quick review, the Specialty Healthcare decision made it easier for small collective bargaining groups known as “micro-units” to form in the workplace. These micro-units are easier to unionize, and the employer is left with the burden of showing why excluded employees of the proposed unit should be included. Specialty Healthcare was decided by the NLRB in 2011 and affirmed by the Sixth Circuit in 2013, but it was not until this summer that employers learned how the NLRB would apply this decision to other industries. More >

What Is A “Micro-Unit” – and Why Does It Matter?

Employment law attorneys are abuzz with talk of “micro-units.” This term first surfaced in 2011, and has garnered attention once again in the wake of two recent decisions from the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). So, what is a micro-unit, exactly, and why should employers care about this legal catchphrase? More >

Employer Wellness Plan Under Attack by the EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has filed its first lawsuit directly challenging a wellness program under the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”). The case, EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The EEOC is alleging that Orion penalized an employee in 2009 after she declined to participate in the company’s wellness program by requiring her to pay her entire health care insurance premium, in addition to a $50-a-month nonparticipation penalty. Shortly thereafter, the employee was fired – a move that the EEOC believes was retaliatory. Further, the agency contends, Orion required medical examinations and made disability-related inquiries that were not job-related or consistent with business necessity.

The ADA limits the circumstances under which an employer may require physical examinations or answers to medical inquiries. Examinations and inquiries are permissible, but only if participation in an employee wellness program plan is voluntary. Orion’s program, according to the EEOC, was not voluntary because it penalized the employee when she declined to participate.

Employers who want to implement an employee wellness plan must ensure that the plan is compliant not only with ADA requirements, but also with the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). See more on the ACA’s requirements, which are relatively new, here and here

The EEOC’s press release announcing the suit states that 94% of employers with over 200 workers offer some sort of wellness plan, as do 63% of smaller employers. That means that there is a lot of potential for liability when it comes to wellness plans. If you have questions about yours or would like to consult with legal counsel before implementing a program, contact McBrayer’s Employment Law attorneys today.

 Preston Worley

Preston Clark Worley is an associate with McBrayer law. Mr. Worley concentrates his practice in employment law, land development, telecommunications, real estate and affordable housing. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at pworley@mcbrayerfirm.com or at (859) 231-8780, ext. 1201.

This article is intended as a summary of  state and federal law and does not constitute legal advice.

“Do You Want Liability With That?” The NLRB McDonald’s Decision that could undermine the Franchise Business Model (Part II)

Monday’s post discussed the decision of NLRB’s General Counsel to hold McDonald’s Corp. jointly responsible with its franchise owners for workers’ labor complaints. The decision, if allowed to stand, could shake up the decades-old fast-food franchise system, but it does not stop there. The joint employer doctrine can be applied not only to fast food franchises and franchise arrangements in other industries, but also to other employment arrangements, such as subcontracting or outsourcing.

This decision could also impact the pricing of goods and services, as franchisors would likely need to up costs to offset the new potential liability. Everything from taxes to Affordable Care Act requirements could be affected if the decision stands.

If you are a franchisor and are currently in what could be determined to be a joint employer relationship, consider taking steps to further separate and distinguish your role from that of your franchisee. While franchisors should always take reasonable measures to ensure that franchisees are in compliance with applicable federal and state employment laws, they should take care to not wield such force over them to give the appearance of a joint-employer relationship.

We will be following the NLRB decision and keep you updated as the issue progresses.

Luke Wingfield

Luke A. Wingfield is an associate with McBrayer law. Mr. Wingfield concentrates his practice in employment law, insurance defense, litigation and administrative law. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at lwingfield@mcbrayerfirm.com or at (859) 231-8780, ext. 1265. 

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice

“Do You Want Liability With That?” The NLRB McDonald’s Decision that could undermine the Franchise Business Model

On July 29, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) General Counsel authorized NLRB Regional Directors to name McDonald’s Corp. as a joint employer in several complaints regarding worker rights at franchise-owned restaurants. Joint employer liability means that the non-employer (McDonald’s Corp.) can be held responsible for labor violations to the same extent as the worker’s “W-2” employer.

In the U.S., the overwhelming majority of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees (as is the case with most other fast-food chains). The franchise model is predicated on the assumption that the franchisee is an independent contractor – not an employee of the franchisor. Generally, the franchisor owns a system for operating a business and agrees to license a bundle of intellectual property to the franchisee so long as on the franchisee adheres to prescribed operating standards and pays franchise fees. Franchisees have the freedom to make personnel decisions and control their operating costs.

Many third parties and pro-union advocates have long sought to hold franchisors responsible for the acts or omissions of franchisees – arguing that franchisors maintain strict control on day-to-day operations and regulate almost all aspects of a franchisee's operations, from employee training to store design. Their argument is that the franchise model allows the corporations to control the parts of the business it cares about at its franchises, while escaping liability for labor and wage violations.

The NLRB has investigated 181 cases of unlawful labor practices at McDonald’s franchise restaurants since 2012. The NLRB has found sufficient merit in at least 43 cases. Heather Smedstad, senior vice president of human resources for McDonald’s USA, called the NLRB’s decision a “radical departure” and something that “should be a concern to businessmen and women across the country.” Indeed it is, but it is important to note that General Counsel's decision is not the same as a binding NLRB ruling and that it will be a long time before this issue is resolved, as McDonald’s Corp. will no doubt appeal any rulings.

For more about the potential effects of this decision, check back on Wednesday.

Luke Wingfield

Luke A. Wingfield is an associate with McBrayer law. Mr. Wingfield concentrates his practice in employment law, insurance defense, litigation and administrative law. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at lwingfield@mcbrayerfirm.com or at (859) 231-8780, ext. 1265. 

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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