On January 11, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision narrowing the scope of what qualifies as “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act. With this decision, the Board reversed course on a long line of Obama-era cases expanding  the scope of when an employee’s complaints could be considered to be protected concerted activity, under the Act. The Board also stated its desire to overrule other cases that previously expanded the definition of protected activity.

Continue Reading NLRB Narrows Definition of “Protected Concerted Activity” in a Decision that Benefits Both Union and Non-Union Employers

On January 25, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed an Obama-era decision addressing the standard for distinguishing between independent contractors and employees. The prior NLRB held that if a worker is economically dependent on the business providing the work (i.e., the business provides most or all of the work done by that worker), then that person is most likely an employee, not an independent contractor. The Trump-appointed NLRB majority reversed that “economic dependence” standard in its recent Super Shuttle decision, 367 NLRB No. 75 (Jan. 25, 2019), holding instead that it will analyze independent contractor vs. employee status using the traditional 10-factor common law test viewed through the prism of “entrepreneurial opportunity.”

That means the Trump Board will likely find independent contractor (and not employee) status if the putative contractor has the independence to make more or less by doing more or less either within the contractual relationship at issue or with other businesses (i.e., a broad “scope for entrepreneurial initiative”). The more control a single business exercises over a putative contractor, the narrower the scope for enhanced money-making initiative, and the more likely the NLRB will find employee status.

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor issued an opinion letter ending the “80/20 rule” for whether employers could take a tip credit on employees who performed both tipped and non-tipped work. (FLSA2018-27.) The rule prohibited employers from taking a tip credit on the minimum wage if the employee’s non-tipped work consumed more than 20 percent of the employee’s work. In the opinion letter, the DOL stated that it would not “place a limitation on the amount of duties related to a tip-producing occupation that may be performed, so long as they are performed contemporaneously with direct customer-service duties and all other requirements of the [Fair Labor Standards] Act are met.”

Continue Reading DOL Eliminates 80/20 Rule for Tipped Workers

Two recent settlements between employers and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) highlight the complex interplay between U.S. immigration and export control laws in the hiring process. The settlements provide a reminder to employers of the potential employment discrimination pitfalls for companies trying to comply with export control laws.

In late August 2018, the DOJ’s Immigration and Employee Rights Section (IER) reached a settlement agreement with international law firm Clifford Chance US LLP, which the DOJ accused of violating the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by refusing to consider employment-authorized non-US citizens and dual citizens for a document review project. Just two months earlier, the DOJ found that engineering company Setpoint Systems, Inc. violated the INA by limiting certain positions to U.S. citizens only.  In both cases, the unlawful employment practices stemmed from a mistaken understanding of the requirements of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

In this blog, we provide an overview of the overlapping laws and summary of key compliance practices for employers.

Continue Reading Export Control Hiring Practices Continue to Challenge Employers

On September 25, 2018, the Ninth Circuit granted Uber’s motion to compel arbitration and decertified a class of 160,000 drivers alleging violations of California state law, including misclassification of the drivers as independent contractors. The decision does not come as a great surprise given the court’s 2016 ruling compelling arbitration in a related case, but it serves as a reminder to companies everywhere to re-examine their independent contractor agreements.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Decertifies Class of 160,000 Alleging Misclassification as Independent Contractors

On August 28, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage Hour Division issued six new advisory opinion letters offering employers guidance on a range of leave and wage issues under federal law, including the application of the Family Medical Leave Act to organ donors and a no-fault attendance policy.

Continue Reading DOL Guidance on FMLA, No-Fault Attendance Policy, and Wellness Screenings

Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, No. 16-285 that employers could lawfully require employees to waive their rights to pursue employment-related class actions through arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that such waivers do not violate the National Labor Relations Act.

Continue Reading Of Elephants and Mouseholes: Supreme Court Holds Employers Can Lawfully Require Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

Human Resource and Labor Relations professionals (HR/LR) normally take the lead on workplace investigations of employee misconduct. Given that, they may also bear the blame for investigations that result in adverse employment actions that do not withstand litigation scrutiny. If a current or former employee challenges an adverse employment action via an EEOC or NLRB charge, a DOL complaint, a CBA grievance, or court action, the employer incurs significant expense and disruption simply defending the action. The employer’s exposure increases exponentially if the employer loses the case on the merits before a regulator or court. Consequently, HR/LR should devote sufficient time and attention to workplace investigations to avoid challenge in the first place, where possible, and to ensure the best chance of winning on the merits if a challenge does take place. But where to look for guidance? This blog answers that question and provides a checklist for HR/LR to follow to conduct employee misconduct investigations that will withstand litigation scrutiny.

Continue Reading Checklist for Workplace Investigations that Survive Litigation Scrutiny

On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court substantially narrowed the class of individuals who qualify as independent contractors under California wage-hour law and paved the way for a new wave of class actions. In Dynamex Operations West, Inc., the Court adopted the restrictive “ABC test” used in other jurisdictions for determining when a worker qualifies as an independent contractor under California’s Industrial Wage Orders.

Under that test, the court presumes‌ all workers qualify as employees. A hiring entity can prove that the worker qualifies as an independent contractor only if it can show that the worker:

A) is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and

B) performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and

C) is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Continue Reading California Narrows Definition of Independent Contractor; Upends 30-Year Old Test