Don’t Slip Up: When Are California Employers Required to Pay for Employees’ Shoes?

A hot-button issue in California is whether an employer is required to pay for or reimburse an employee for shoes that are required as a condition of employment. A recent ruling by the California Court of Appeal highlights the complexity of the issue and lack of concrete guidance on a critical question: whether California workplace safety law requires an employer to pay for nonspecialty safety shoes, such as generic steel-toe boots, that the employer allows the employee to wear off the jobsite.

Substance, Not Form, Determines Whether Employee Meals Have Noncompensatory Business Reason, IRS Warns

In a technical advice memorandum (TAM 201903017) released on January 18, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided guidance on whether employer-provided meals and snacks are includable in employee income and subject to employment tax. The memorandum, which cites a number of IRS rulings on this topic, serves as a forewarning to employers of the limitations of providing free meals to employees.

August 2019 Visa Bulletin Shows Extensive Retrogression Across Employment-Based Categories

The August 2019 Visa Bulletin, released by the U.S. Department of State earlier this month, shows substantial retrogression affecting employment-based categories worldwide. The State Department expects the retrogression to be short lived and anticipates that the final action dates should return to those listed in the July 2019 Visa Bulletin by the start of fiscal year 2020 in October 2019.

Eighth Circuit Holds Independent Agreements for Attorneys’ Fees in FLSA Settlements Are Not Subject to Judicial Review

Last month, in Barbee v. Big River Steel, LLC, No. 18-2255 (June 20, 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that an independent agreement for attorneys’ fees in connection with a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) settlement does not require court approval—without intimating any position on the current circuit split as to whether FLSA settlements in general require judicial approval.

Texas Legislative Roundup: New Laws Impacting Employers

The Texas Legislature’s 86th session adjourned on May 27, 2019, and there is little likelihood that the governor will call a special session. The legislature primarily focused on educational reforms this year. Regarding employment matters, most observers expected the legislature to adopt laws preempting any attempt by municipalities to pass paid sick leave laws. While the legislature failed to pass any such law, they did pass other laws impacting the employer-employee relationship.

Bill to Exclude California Employees from CCPA Passes Senate Committee With Changes

On July 9, 2019, the California Senate Judiciary Committee passed Assembly Bill 25 (AB 25), but only after certain changes were made to quell opposition to the bill by labor groups. The bill  was originally drafted to exclude employees and job applicants from the definition of “consumer” under the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA).

Congress Considers Removing Country Caps for Employment-Based Immigrant Visas and Proposes Changes to H-1B Visa Program

On July 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, by a vote of 365 to 65. The bill is intended to reduce lengthy immigrant visa (green card) wait times by eliminating per-country caps for employment-based green cards. In addition, senators have reportedly reached an agreement on a version of a companion bill (S. 386) in the U.S. Senate that presently includes an amendment imposing tighter restrictions on recruitment and creating new reporting requirements for H-1B visa sponsors.

State-Law Ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis: Massachusetts and Rhode Island as Case Studies

In Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the requirement in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that an employee file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before commencing an action in court is not jurisdictional.

Supreme Court Rules on FOIA and the Protection of Sensitive Company Information

A recent Supreme Court case determined that private commercial and financial information that is transmitted to the federal government under an assurance of privacy is considered “confidential” and not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The decision could provide some valuable safeguards for employers concerned about protecting sensitive data from public disclosure.

Oregon Enacts Sweeping #MeToo Law

On June 11, 2019, Governor Kate Brown signed into law the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act (SB 726), which will significantly impact all Oregon employers. The Act addresses concerns of the #MeToo movement by imposing strict requirements on how Oregon employers respond to complaints of harassment and discrimination. The legislation also significantly increases the statute of limitations within which an employee may assert a claim of discrimination, from one year to five years.

New York Poised to Enact Tougher Laws on Pay Equity and Salary History Inquiries

Continuing the trend of substantial and expansive legislative changes in employment law, the New York State Senate and Assembly have passed Senate Bill 5248A and Senate Bill 6549. The first bill, S5248A, will prohibit wage differentials based on any protected class and will take effect 90 days after being signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The second, S6549, will prohibit private sector employers from asking for wage or salary history as a requirement for a job interview, job application, job offer, or promotion and will take effect 180 days after being signed by Governor Cuomo. The governor is expected to sign the bills into law.

Colorado Becomes 13th State to Pass “Ban the Box” Legislation

On May 28, 2019, Colorado governor Jared Polis signed into law the Colorado Chance to Compete Act (House Bill 19-1025), more commonly known as “ban the box” legislation. The recently signed Act is another example of pro-employee legislative change that has taken place since the Democrats gained control of the state legislature in 2018.

 

Supreme Court Keeps Auer, but Dilutes Its Power

On June 26, 2019, in Kisor v. Wilkie, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to overrule its prior decisions in Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997) and Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., 325 U.S. 410 (1945). These cases introduced the practice of judicial deference to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous regulation. Many courts and scholars criticize Auer deference for various reasons and believed that the Supreme Court’s decision in Kisor would overrule Auer. Instead, the Court upheld the longstanding precedent, but imposed new “guidance” on when to apply Auer deference.

Time’s Up: Connecticut Employers to Prepare for New Sexual Harassment Training and Protections

On June 18, 2019, Governor Ned Lamont signed into law Connecticut’s new sexual harassment prevention legislation, known as the Time’s Up Act. The law significantly broadens sexual harassment training requirements, extending them to all employers in the state, and toughens penalties for noncompliance. The law also enhances protections for employees who complain about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Supreme Court to Hear DACA Appeal

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the appeals over the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during its next term. In its order, the Court consolidated three pending DACA appeals and granted one hour for oral argument. The Court is expected to decide, once and for all, whether the Trump administration can end the DACA program.

A Welcome Expansion: IRS Resuscitates Determination Letter Program

Beginning September 1, 2019, employers that sponsor cash balance plans and certain merged plans can sleep easier. Revenue Procedure 2019-20, issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on May 1, 2019, opens the IRS’s determination letter program for individually designed “statutory hybrid plans” and certain “merged plans.” Plan sponsors will recall that beginning January 1, 2017, the IRS’s determination letter program for individually designed plans was significantly curtailed by Revenue Procedure 2016-37. Revenue Procedure 2016-37 provided that plan sponsors of individually designed plans could seek a determination letter from the IRS only for initial plan qualification, plan terminations, or other circumstances to be provided by the IRS at a later time.