On May 6, 2021, the Alabama legislature approved a medical marijuana legalization bill. Senate Bill (SB) 46, more commonly known as the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, will now go to Governor Kay Ivey for final approval. Governor Ivey has not indicated that she will veto the bill, although a spokesperson for Governor Ivey has stated that she “look[s] forward to thoroughly reviewing it.”
On April 20, 2021, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed into law a name, image, and likeness (NIL) bill, making Alabama the tenth state to enact such legislation.
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
On April 7, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its long-awaited opinion in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., reversing a trial court’s decision against Winn-Dixie, holding that websites are not places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and that Winn-Dixie’s website does not violate 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama recently granted summary judgment to United States Steel Corporation, finding that the company did not deny Raymond Carr III, a former employee with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a reasonable accommodation or constructively discharge him for requesting an accommodation and filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
On February 1, 2021, in an unpublished opinion resolving a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) attorney’s fees dispute, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Batista v. South Florida Womans Health Associates, Inc., struck another blow against unreasonable plaintiffs’ counsel seeking “reasonable” fees.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
On July 15, 2020, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued an amended “Safer at Home” order, adding a facial covering requirement. This facial covering order, which goes into effect on July 16, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., requires (1) facial coverings for individuals; (2) protections for employees; and (3) protections for customers.
On May 8, 2020, Governor Kay Ivey issued an amended Safer at Home order, lifting previous restrictions and providing additional guidance to Alabama businesses. The same day, Governor Ivey issued a separate executive order providing liability protection or immunity to businesses and health care providers.
On April 28. 2020, the City of Birmingham became the first municipality in Alabama to require face coverings in public places within the city. In response to questions from employers regarding the ordinance’s impact on employees, the city issued guidance on May 1, 2020, and updated that guidance on May 5, 2020.
Alabamians are currently under a stay-at-home order that Governor Kay Ivey issued on April 4, 2020,which shut down all non-essential business. On April 28, 2020, Governor Ivey announced at a press conference that she approved a “Safer at Home” order, which goes into effect on Thursday, April 30, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. The order will relax many of the restrictions found in the earlier order and should allow some Alabama employers to put their employees back to work.
On April 21, 2020, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey held a press conference that addressed business concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and included an update from the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL). As the governor eyes reopening Alabama’s economy, the disruptions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continue to cause an unprecedented number of unemployment claims to be filed in the state.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in critical changes to workforces across the United States. In the state of Alabama, there have been more than 306,000 unemployment claims filed since March 16, 2020. The Alabama Department of Labor has taken steps to respond to the situation, including modifying certain unemployment compensation eligibility requirements to better address the fluid needs of employers and employees during the crisis.
On April 17, 2020, the Alabama Small Business Commission Emergency Task Force and the Subcommittee to Reopen the Economy released “Reopen Alabama Responsibly,” a detailed report and series of recommendations on resuming business operations during the next stage of the fight against the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 24, 2020, upon the request and recommendation of Mayor Randall Woodfin, the Birmingham, Alabama City Council unanimously adopted a “shelter in place” order, “An Ordinance to Establish a ‘Shelter in Place’ Order for the City of Birmingham During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”
The Alabama Department of Labor announced this week that workers who are not able to work due to COVID-19 will be eligible to file for unemployment benefits starting on March 23, 2020.
The 2020 state legislative sessions are underway across the country and a hot topic in many states is medical marijuana. As discussed last year, Alabama was poised to become the first Deep South state to enact a medical marijuana law. The Alabama legislature ultimately tabled the issue until the 2020 legislative session.
In Allen v. Ambu-Stat, LLC, No. 18-10640 (January 16, 2020), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a Georgia district court’s dismissal of a former employee’s sexual harassment claim and delivered a strong rebuke to a plaintiff seeking to temporarily enjoin the district court’s use of summary judgment in Title VII claims. The decision may provide guidance for employers as to what behavior constitutes pervasive harassment in the workplace.
On December 13, 2019, a split Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (sitting en banc) ruled that several black plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the discriminatory intent behind an Alabama law that blocked the city of Birmingham from increasing its local minimum wage.
On November 22, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the court with jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, handed down a decision that invalidates certain provisions in arbitration agreements in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) wage and hour cases.
At what point does a company’s application of its anti-fraternization policy become sex discrimination? Last week, a federal court in Alabama found that the answer to this question may be determined by a jury.
Alabama became the 49th state to adopt equal pay legislation when Governor Kay Ivey signed the Clarke-Figures Equal Pay Act (CFEPA) on June 11, 2019. The CFEPA, effective September 1, 2019, prohibits an employer from paying an employee less than another employee of a different race or sex for equal work.
On June 11, 2019, Governor Kay Ivey signed Alabama House Bill 225, making Alabama the 49th state to adopt equal pay legislation. The act prohibits an employer from paying an employee a lower wage rate than an employee of another race or sex for equal work in the same establishment, where job performance requires “equal skill, effort, education, experience, and responsibility” and occurs “under similar working conditions.”
Federal law already prohibits employers from paying an employee less than employees of another sex for equal work, unless the employer bases the wage difference on statutorily defined factors. Alabama and Mississippi were the only two states without corresponding state-specific laws until Representative Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, introduced Alabama House Bill 225 on March 19, 2019.
On May 21, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed Act 2019-204. This legislation, introduced initially in the Alabama Senate, links an employee’s maximum weekly unemployment benefits and their duration to the state’s unemployment rate.
On March 20, 2019, House Bill 243 (HB243) was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives. HB243, a bipartisan bill with extensive support from both the majority and minority leaders, would create the Compassion, Access, Research, and Expansion Act (CARE Act) to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama for individuals with certain medical conditions. In its current form, HB243 lists 33 medical conditions and categories of conditions for which an individual would be eligible for a medical marijuana card in Alabama, including addiction, anxiety, autism, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, depression, glaucoma, epilepsy/seizures, irritable bowel syndrome, posttraumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, and terminal conditions.
On March 21, 2019, finding in favor of an employer seeking summary judgment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Lewis v. City of Union City, clarified the definition of “similarly situated” comparators for claims of intentional discrimination, jettisoning the commonly cited “nearly identical” and “same or similar” standards in favor of a test asking whether comparators are “similarly situated in all material respects.”
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.