Entries by Bill C. Berger

Supreme Court expands religious exemption from Obamacare contraceptive requirements to private employers

When passed, so-called “Obamacare” contained exemptions from its contraceptive-coverage requirements for religious organizations and other non-profits that hold sincerely held religious objections. Following a series of regulatory developments and judicial decisions, eventually, by 2018, the Trump Administration expanded the exemptions to include private employers, including even publicly traded companies, and secular universities, even with regard […]

EEOC expands mediation and conciliation opportunities

The EEOC has increased the mediation and conciliation opportunities available to employers as part of its charge-handling procedures. Mediation is the process employers are most familiar with. Some, but not all, charges are automatically eligible for mediation when a charge is filed with the EEOC. Employers will have noticed receiving a written offer to mediate […]

EEOC confirms coronavirus antibody testing not permitted as part of return-to-workplace program, although active-virus testing may be permitted

The EEOC updated its FAQ guidance with Q&A no. A7, advising that an employer may not require coronavirus antibody testing (which is the blood test done to see if the person’s blood suggests they were previously exposed to the virus sufficient to create antibodies) as part of a company’s return-to-workplace program. However the EEOC advised […]

OSHA issues updated FAQ confirming cloth face coverings and general masks worn re coronavirus are not PPE

OSHA issued an updated FAQ re cloth face coverings and the kind of masks commonly worn regarding coronavirus (called “surgical” masks by OSHA, as distinguished from what it calls “respirators (e.g., filtering face pieces)”). OSHA explains that cloth face coverings are worn, not to protect the wearer, but to reduce the expression of virus by […]

Arbitration agreement held enforceable despite impossibility of complying with governing-rules language

The Colorado Court of Appeals recently held that an arbitration agreement is enforceable even if complying with its governing-rules language is impossible. In the case, the parties entered into an arbitration agreement calling for any dispute to be governed by the rules of a particular arbitration company. One of those rules was that only that […]

OSHA believes some employers have a duty to investigate work-relatedness of coronavirus cases

If an employee tests positive, does an employer have an obligation to investigate whether it is “work-related”? OSHA thinks so, now, but investigating and determining “work-relatedness” may not be as easy — or as lawful — as OSHA believes. OSHA issued a revised enforcement guidance that now imposes on some employers a duty to investigate […]

Coronavirus-safety lawsuits against employers begin

Employees have begun filing lawsuits against their employers alleging inadequate safety measures in place to protect against coronavirus. So far, two lawsuits have reached an initial-decision stage: Rural Community Workers Alliance v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., case no. 5:20-CV-06063-DGK. See Order Granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss dated 5-5-2020. Massey v. McDonald’s, case no. 2020CH04247. See initial […]

Colorado unemployment agency continues trend of ruling in favor of workers who decline to return to work

A previous post addressed the requirement that workers return to work — or face loss of unemployment — when an offer to return (to comparable work) is extended, unless the worker is a “vulnerable individual” or otherwise unable to return due to coronavirus-related reasons. As noted there, the initial report was that the state was […]

Supreme Court reaffirms importance of “but-for” analysis in certain kinds of discrimination claims against private employers

An on-going issue in litigation is frequently the standard of causation and whether a plaintiff’s allegations and evidence are established to meet it. One of the more strict standards is the “but-for” test, meaning a plaintiff must show that the adverse employment action (such as termination or refusal to hire) would not have occurred “but […]

DOL expands availability of overtime exemption for commissioned-employees working for a “retail or service establishment”

The nation’s leading wage-hour law (FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act) has long recognized an exemption from overtime for employees who work on a commission. However, the exemption is only available if the employee is working for a “retail or service establishment.” To be a “retail or service establishment” the company “(a) (m)ust engage in […]

NLRB amends and republishes its final rule “to protect employee free choice”

As previously posted on this blog, the NLRB issued a final rule “to protect employee free choice” altering its approach to blocking charges, voluntary recognition and construction industry (section 9(a)) voluntary recognition. The Board has amended and republished its final rule. The Board explained its final rule, including the amendments, as follows: Blocking Charge Policy: […]

EEOC updates Q&A, specifically re employees with an underlying disability that puts them at “higher risk” re coronavirus

The EEOC updated its prior Q&A re coronavirus, adding three questions (numbered G3-G5) to address the needs of employees who already suffer from an underlying disability that, now, puts them at “higher risk” related to coronavirus. First in questions G3-G4, the EEOC advises that an employer is obligated to consider whether a reasonable accommodation exists […]

Colorado unemployment disputes skyrocket as employers begin to offer returns to work that employees decline, with CDLE at least initially tending to rule for workers

As previously posted on this blog, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Unemployment created a new portal for employers to use to report when an employee refuses after being offered to return to work; the refusal will generally render the individual ineligible for further unemployment, unless the individual can prove they are “vulnerable” and […]

Looking for a short primer on which expenses are forgivable and how to maximize the forgiveness of a PPP loan?

Here’s a handy short primer on PPP loans, discussing which expenses are forgivable and steps employers can take to maximize the forgiveness of a PPP loan. Which Paycheck Protection Program Expenses Are Eligible for Forgiveness? — Read on www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/Paycheck-Protection-Program-Expense-Forgiveness.aspx

Trying to prepare your EEO-1 data filing in the midst of coronavirus pandemic? FYI, the EEOC just delayed EEO-1 data collection for 2020 due to coronavirus

The EEOC has delayed EEO-1 data collection for 2020 until 2021 due to coronavirus. In its press release, the EEOC explained the delay, as follows: The EEOC recognizes the impact that the current public health emergency is having on workplaces across America and the challenges that both employers and employees alike are now facing. Filers […]

OSHA publishes guidance for employers on how to establish a safe workplace in the coronavirus pandemic

As essential industries struggle to stay open and as more and more companies look to reopen, OSHA has published a “Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for Coronavirus.” The guidance provides specific recommendations for workplace structuring, cleaning, protective equipment, etc., broken down for different kinds of jobs, based on their risk of exposure to coronavirus. Employers will […]

Colorado Unemployment releases website to report an employee’s refusal to return to work

In Colorado, Governor Polis’ safer-at-home order remains in effect but permits certain employers to begin reopening subject to certain conditions at various times. What if an employer decides to reopen in accordance with that order, but an employee feels they would be “safer at home,” may that employee decline an offer to return to work […]

Colorado joins California, New York, New Jersey and Virginia by banning discrimination on the basis of hairstyles

Colorado will be adding to the list of protected classes against which discrimination is prohibited “hair texture, hair type, or a protective hairstyle that is commonly or historically associated with race.” Because the current legislative session has been extended due to the on-going coronavirus events, we do not know the precise date when this new […]

Wondering why the new coronavirus-related unemployment compensation (CARES Act unemployment benefits) are taking so long?

Visitors to Colorado’s unemployment page at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will see this update regarding the status of the new coronavirus-related unemployment benefits that will be available under the CARES Act: Update as of April 12, 2020: We are still programming our systems to begin accepting claims for workers who are eligible […]

Documentation and forms for requesting FFCRA coronavirus-related sick leave and coronavirus-related FMLA leave

In a prior post, it was noted that the DOL had issued its final rules regulating the FFCRA. As explained there, the DOL regulations summarize the documentation that employers should keep for coronavirus-sick and coronavirus-FMLA leave granted under the FFCRA. →Reminder: FFCRA-covered employers are reminded that in addition to this required documentation, they must have […]

NLRB published final rule revising employee representation procedures

The NLRB issued a final rule making “three amendments to its rules and regulations governing the filing and processing of petitions for a Board-conducted representation election and proof of majority support in construction-industry collective-bargaining relationships.” The Board has summarized the amendments to its regulations as follows: Blocking Charge Policy: The amendment replaces the current blocking […]

DOL issues regulations under the FFCRA regarding newly mandated coronavirus sick- and FMLA- leave

The DOL has issued regulations implementing the FFCRA’s newly mandated coronavirus sick- and FMLA-leave. The regulations address many topics, including the following highlights. Look for additional information as the new regulations are analyzed. The definition of “Telework,” which includes the statement that an employee is not “able to Telework” if there are any “extenuating circumstances […]

Midsized businesses applying for certain loan under the CARES Act should be aware that terms may include a union-neutrality obligation for the term of the loan

Companies employing 500-10,000 workers should be aware, when considering loans under the CARES Act that sec. 4003(c)(3)(D)(I)(X) will require, as a term of that loan, that they “remain neutral in any union organizing effort for the term of the loan.” That language (emphasis added) reads, as follows: (D) Assistance for mid-sized businesses.– (i) In general.–Without […]

BREAKING NEWS: DOL has issued the poster REQUIRED to be “posted” re coronavirus sick-/FMLA- leave

Employers who are subject to the new FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) sick-/FMLA- leave are required to post a poster by the FFCRA’s effective date, April 1, 2020. The EEOC has just issued the required poster along with a Q&A that answers common questions employers will have regarding the same, including explaining that, where […]

DOL issues enforcement guidance urging staff to recognize a “temporary non-enforcement period” for “reasonable” and “good faith” compliance

The DOL issued Field Assistance Bulletin no. 2020-1 urging its staff to recognize a “temporary non-enforcement period” for employers who are in “reasonable” and “good faith” compliance. To qualify for the benefit of this “non-enforcement period,” the employer must establish all of the following: The employer remedies any violations, including by making all affected employees […]

EEOC publishes YouTube webinar on ADA, Rehabilitation Act and coronavirus

The EEOC published a short 42-minute YouTube video on the ADA, Rehabilitation Act and coronavirus.  The webinar fleshes out the EEOC’s recent coronavirus guidance and identifies certain questions that it believes it is currently unable to answer, including the following: Whether coronavirus (COVID-19) is or could be a disability protected by the ADA? Questions addressed […]

CDLE issues revised Wage Protection Act Rules

On March 16, 2020, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) issued amendments, effective that same day, to its prior Wage Protection Act Rules. The amendments added language that articulated the CDLE’s opinion that Colorado state law on the Joint Employer doctrine is and, in its opinion, has always been contrary to federal law.

COMPS Order 36 takes effect with some changes

Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order 36 took effect March 16, 2020 with some revisions and additional commentary by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. First, in another Statement of Basis, Purpose, Specific Statutory Authority, and Findings for Adoption as Temporary or Emergency Rules, the CDLE issued a multi-page detailed explanation of […]

Common questions re WARN versus coronavirus

Thinking about layoffs, furloughs or reductions of hours? Wondering about the WARN Act’s 60-day notice requirements? Bloomberg BNA published a handy article discussing some of the common questions about the WARN Act and coronavirus layoffs, furloughs and hour-reductions. Source: The WARN Act: Top Coronavirus Questions Answered by Lawyers — Read on www.bloomberglaw.com/exp/eyJjdHh0IjoiRExOVyIsImlkIjoiMDAwMDAxNzEtMTI4NS1kMDlhLWEzNzMtOWE5N2ZiMTYwMDAwIiwic2lnIjoiODFXQlVIQjIzU3pRUnB1TzJaTHlLL3BXU0NJPSIsInRpbWUiOiIxNTg1MTYyNTE0IiwidXVpZCI6IkVuY0FVQkNZUnhxcjlOQ3AreU4xVHc9PWcwRnZ1MHVUMUNNQnQzbnEzMXcxRkE9PSIsInYiOiIxIn0=

BREAKING NEWS: Gov. Polis orders in-person Colorado workforce reduction of 50% – Denver Business Journal

The Governor’s order is not yet available, but the Denver Business Journal is reporting that “The order does not apply to critical, 24-hour businesses like health care, manufacturing, agriculture and public services such as trash collection and mail delivery.” In his press conference Governor Polis stated verbally the order will take effect Tuesday March 24, […]

IRS begins clarifying how employers can recoup coronavirus-related leave expenditures

As previously posted, Congress enacted this week two new forms of coronavirus-related leave: sick leave and coronavirus-FMLA leave. Today, 3-20-2020, the IRS issued a memo beginning to explain how employers will be able to recoup expenses for the same and advising that further explanation will be forthcoming next week: When employers pay their employees, they […]

DOL relaxes normal I-9 processes for businesses affected by coronavirus-absences/teleworking

Normally an employer must review actual physical documents to complete a new hire’s I-9. SHRM has published this article explaining the DOL’s announcement that, for businesses where that is impossible because workers are absent and/or teleworking, that requirement will be relaxed to permit remote review of such documents, retention of same, then review physically when […]

Stay-at-home orders and Essential Industry employers

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a memo identifying 16 industries as “essential critical infrasture.” Chemical Communications Commercial facilities Critical manufacturing Dams Defense industrial base Emergency services Energy Financial Food & agriculture Government facilities Healthcare & public health Information technology Nuclear reactors, materials & waste […]

Reminder: DOL Fact Sheet #70 re furloughs

Employers who are considering furloughs are reminded to consider DOL Fact Sheet #70 regarding federal wage-hour issues, in addition to related state wage-hour issues, such as under new COMPS Order 36. Of course, wage-hour issues are only some of the issues to be considered. Additional issues include possible WARN Act notices and benefits-related questions. Any […]

BREAKING NEWS: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment issues paid-sick leave rule regarding coronavirus testing

According to a verbally issued executive order by Colorado Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has issued a rule (the “Colorado HELP” rule, aka the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay rule) requiring certain employers to provide up to 4 days of paid leave for employees awaiting a coronavirus test result. Rule […]

BREAKING NEWS: COMPS Order 36

The Colorado Division of Labor and Employment has just advised as follows: The Division has posted the Colorado Overtime & Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order #36  Poster on our COMPS Order #36 – Informational Page. This is the “Poster” to use to comply with the “Posting and Distribution Requirements” COMPS Rule 7.4. As a reminder, Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay […]

Restaurants and other employers with tipped employees, beware relying on DOL opinion letter

As previously posted, the DOL issued an opinion letter in 2019, purporting to jettison the Obama Administration’s 80-20 rule and expanding the ability to claim tip credits for tipped employees, specifically, during time when they do not earn tips (example, while wait staff vacuum and clean). Bloomberg BNA reports that opinion letter has met with […]

COMPS Order 36, SOME of what you need to know

As previously posted here, the Colorado Division of Labor and Employment has issued its COMPS Order no. 36. Here’s some of what you need to know: It probably applies to your company. As previously explained, Colorado Wage Orders have historically been limited to certain industries, now their successor, this “COMPS Order” is generally applicable to all employers with only […]

The new I-9 form is here!

Ok, maybe it’s not that exciting, but still the DOL has released its new I-9 form. It will be mandatory May 1, 2020. It can be found here, with its various other forms and versions. SHRM’s article, if readers are interested, re same, can be found here. Thank you as always to SHRM for great […]

EEOC Harassment Charges Reflect #MeToo’s Relevance

Interesting article from SHRM on post- #MeToo statistics at EEOC for sexual harassment charges. On the one hand, there still has not been a flood of sexual harassment charges. In fact, their number remains lower than pre- #MeToo 2010-13 numbers but are slowly climbing back from their post- #MeToo 2014-17 dips. The number of sexual-harassment […]

DOL releases final joint employer rule

The DOL has issued a final rule regarding the Joint Employer doctrine. Analysis of a joint employer issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the DOL rule says, should start — and will generally end — with the following non-exclusive four factors (quoting the summary in the DOL’s Fact Sheet regarding its new rule): […]

NLRB returns to its historical standard for deferring to arbitration both before and after the arbitral award

The NLRB has reversed its 2014 Babcock & Wilcox standard for deciding when the Board will defer to arbitration, both before (“pre-arbitral” deferrals) and after (“post-“) the arbitration itself has occurred. Now the burden is on the party resisting deferral (typically a union) not the party urging deferral (typically an employer), and the question is only whether […]

NLRB returns to permitting employers to cease dues check-off collections during negotiations

Reversing its Obama-era decision, the Board has returned to its longstanding precedent of permitting employers to stop withholding dues, even as may have been required by a dues check-off clause in a collective bargaining agreement, once that agreement expires and the parties enter renewal negotiations. In sum, we find that a dues-checkoff provision properly belongs […]

NLRB reverses course on its expedited election rules

Effective April 16, 2020, the Board will jettison its 2014 expedited election rules. The expedited election rules were highly controversial and nicknamed, depending on the speaker’s perspective, either “quickie” or “ambush” election rules. The highly accelerated election period was intended to limit (or, depending on the speaker’s perspective, curtail) the ability of employer’s to speak […]

In another reversal, NLRB holds employers can issue so-called “gag orders” to protect the confidentiality of workplace investigations

The NLRB has ruled that employers can issue so-called “gag orders” to protect the confidentiality of workplace investigations. A typical “gag order” would be an instruction by the company to employees (and other witnesses) not to discuss matters relevant to an on-going investigation. The decision triggered a heated dissent from one Board member who argued […]

NLRB reverses course and holds employers can control emails

In a reversal of its Purple Communications decision, the NLRB held that employers can maintain sole control over their email and computer systems. Employers need not allow workers much less third parties like unions access to their email systems to, for example, further union organizing, collective bargaining, grievance administration or other non-work purposes. (E)mployees have no statutory […]

Expert testimony not required to prove a “disability,” some of the times

The Tenth Circuit held that a plaintiff doesn’t always need to have a medical expert to confirm the plaintiff’s medical condition rises to the level of a “disability” protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. When is a medical expert required? “(W)]here injuries complained of are of such character as to require skilled and professional […]

Colorado Court of Appeals clarifies unemployment eligibility rules related to marijuana use

The Colorado Court of Appeals has clarified how Colorado’s medical and recreational marijuana laws impact eligibility for unemployment. The case involved an unusual fact pattern that provided the court with a springboard to articulate four rules. The worker was on medical leave, but worked for a financial institution to which he personally owed money. Although […]

DOL issues proposed rule re tip-pooling

In a November 2019 opinion letter the DOL reversed position on tip-pooling. As explained there, the DOL lifted the Obama-era DOL’s 80-20 rule, making it easier for employers (like restaurants) to pool tips among tipped employees, including even those who perform some non-tipped work during their day (like waiters who vacuum, set up and clean up […]

President Trump limits informal agency guidances

Federal law requires administrative agencies to go through a rulemaking process before implementing regulations. To avoid that process, agencies have increasingly begun using informal “guidances,” often issued in the form of memorandums, letters and bulletins. By two Executive Orders, the President has ordered administrative agencies, among other things, to include in any such document a […]

Third Circuit rejects Uber’s ability to enforce arbitration agreement with its drivers

Applying the Supreme Court’s recent Oliveira decision, the Third Circuit held that Uber cannot enforce its arbitration agreement with drivers engaged in interstate commerce. In doing so, the Court held that the exception in federal law that prohibits arbitration agreements for drivers engaged in interstate commerce applies not only to drivers who transport goods but also drivers […]

California attempts to ban mandatory (even opt-out voluntary) pre-dispute arbitration agreements

On October 10, 2019, the Governor of California signed into effect California’s AB 51, which bans mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements. This new law continues California’s struggle to find a way to limit pre-dispute arbitration, in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s recent cases upholding such arbitration. AB 51 prohibits even otherwise-voluntary pre-dispute arbitration agreements are […]

NLRB loosens restrictions on an employer’s ability to modify wages, hours and working conditions during the term of a CBA

Historically the Board has permitted an employer to change wages, hours and working conditions during the term of a CBA if it can prove a “clear and unmistakable waiver” by the union permitting the change. An example of a “clear and unmistakable waiver” would be contract language expressly authorizing a company to modify the cost […]

A union that isn’t a union? The New York Times on the growing presence of “solidarity unions”

Interesting lunchtime read today for HR and labor-employment law professionals, in the New York Times. The article discusses the growing presence of non-union unions called “solidarity unions,” especially in the tech industry. These groups are simply informal associations of two or more workers in a workplace. The article is a good reminder for employers that, […]

NLRB reverses micro-unit rule

The NLRB has reversed its 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision, which in turn reversed its 2017 PCC Structurals decision, meaning the NLRB will no longer permit a union to try to organize only a sliver of a workforce (a so-called “micro-unit”). Now an employer (or workers) may defeat a union’s effort to organize a micro-unit by proving […]

NLRB permits employers to eject non-employee union agents from their property

Reversing a 1999 decision, Sandusky Mall Co., the Board upheld an employer’s right to eject non-employee union agents from its premises, even though it had routinely granted other non-employees’ permission to solicit on the same premises for “civic, charitable and promotional activities.” In doing so the Board held that a union’s presence to solicit customers to […]

DOL releases final overtime rule

The DOL has released the final overtime rule that has been discussed as far back as the Obama Administration. As anticipated, the new rule includes multiple changes to current overtime laws, including increases to the minimum guaranteed salaries for most overtime exemptions, an increase to the minimum requirement for so-called “highly compensated” employees, and permitting […]

NLRB implements Supreme Court’s 2018 decision on arbitration agreements

In 2018, the Supreme Court rejected, in a decision titled Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, the argument that Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act’s protections for protected concerted activity somehow encompass a right to file class action and collective action lawsuits. There the Supreme Court held that, accordingly, employers can require pre-dispute arbitration agreements, […]

Colorado trial courts are not required to blue-pencil non-compete and non-solicit covenants

Even where an agreement says that covenants “shall be” blue-penciled (meaning, rewritten if determined to be unenforceable and narrowed to whatever the court rules would have been enforceable), a trial court in Colorado is not required to do so. In a recent decision, 23 LTD v. Herman, case no. 16CA1095 (Colo.App. 7/25/19), the Colorado Court […]

Three issues in Colorado regarding vacation pay

Colorado law, CRS 8-4-101 defines vacation to be a part of “wages” when “earned in accordance with the terms of any agreement. If an employer provides paid vacation for an employee, the employer shall pay upon separation from employment all vacation pay earned and determinable in accordance with the terms of any agreement between the […]

Supreme Court rules arbitrator should, depending on language, decide arbitrability, but Colorado law might say otherwise?

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court held, in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc., held that, depending on the language of the parties’ arbitration agreement, it is for an arbitrator, not a judge in court, to decide questions of arbitrability. The decision involved relatively common language saying, “Any dispute arising under o […]

Colorado criminalizes wage theft

Effective January 1, 2020, Colorado has criminalized wage thefts. This new law applies to “employers,” a term defined to be commensurate with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s coverage, and protects “employees,” as defined to exclude independent contractors. Under this new law it will be a crime to: willfully refuse to pay or “falsely” deny “the […]

EEOC releases additional information for filing EEO-1 pay information for 2017 and 2018 — reminder, the deadline is September 30, 2019

Employers are reminded that the deadline for filing EE0-1 Component 2 information for 2017 and 2018 is September 30, 2019. As a follow-up to the EEOC’s recent information for doing so, the EEOC has released additional information and resources on its EEO-1 website and on the website of EEOC’s contractor. There, employers can find a […]

Reminder, Colorado employers, new ban-the-box law will take effect soon

Colorado employers are reminded that Colorado’s new ban-the-box law will take effect September 1, 2019 for employers with more than 10 employees (then September 1, 20121 for all other employers). Together with the crop of other new Colorado employment laws this year, Colorado employers should: Review and revise their handbooks, workplace policies, and hiring documents […]