Friday, July 22, 2016

FLSA Fundamentals: The Taxing Taxonomy of Exempt Classifications (Part 2)

*In honor of the Fair Labor Standard Act’s 78th birthday and in light of the important changes to the DOL overtime regulations going into effect December 1, 2016, the Modern Workplace is running a special multipart series entitled “FLSA Fundamentals.” The series has covered some basics of this important law and includes a discussion of the DOL’s new regulations. This is the fourth post in that series.*

As discussed in previous posts, determining the proper FLSA classification of an employee can be taxing. In addition to the “white collar” exemptions (e.g. Executive Employees, Administrative Employees, and Learned Professionals) discussed in a prior blog post in our FLSA Fundamentals series, employers often apply (or rather misapply) two other common exemptions to avoid overtime costs: Computer Employees and Outside Sales Employees.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

EEOC Continues Focus on LGBTQ Rights with New Lawsuit Alleging Transgender Discrimination

As we’ve discussed in prior posts, a top strategic enforcement focus of the EEOC is protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed its first Title VII lawsuits alleging sex discrimination against transgender individuals in late 2014, and the EEOC’s efforts in this area continue to make headlines.

The EEOC’s most recent suit, filed last week, is against Bojangles Restaurants, Inc., which operates a chain of fast food restaurants in the Southeast portion of the United States. In the lawsuit, the EEOC claims that a transgender woman, Jonathan Wolfe, was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her gender identity and fired from her biscuit maker job at a North Carolina Bojangles restaurant in retaliation for reporting the harassment. According to the suit, the alleged harassment included restaurant managers making offensive comments about Wolfe’s appearance and repeatedly demanding that she engage in behavior and grooming practices that are more stereotypically male. The EEOC also alleges that the restaurant’s management forbade Wolfe from visiting the restaurant off-duty while dressed as a woman and that an assistant manager made harassing remarks about the need “to pray.” In addition, the EEOC alleges that the restaurant’s director prohibited Wolfe from wearing makeup, fake fingernails, or her hair in braids while at work and threatened to terminate her if she did not remove her braids. According to the suit, Wolfe complained on more than one occasion, with no relief, and then was fired on the same day that she called an employee hotline to complain about the restaurant director’s treatment of her.

Monday, July 11, 2016

New OSHA Worker Protections Are Around the Corner: Are You Ready to Comply?

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a final regulation in May that establishes new electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirements. The overall purpose of the new regulation is to reinforce anti-retaliation protections for employees who report workplace injuries and illnesses. Electronic reporting requirements under the new rule go into effect on January 1, 2017, but employers must comply with the rule’s anti-retaliation provisions by August 10, 2016.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Take Care with Required Tip Sharing: MN Court of Appeals Holds that Wrongful Discharge Claim Based on Refusal to Share Tips Can Proceed

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently clarified that an employee who is fired for refusing to comply with an employer’s unlawful tip-sharing practice can sue for wrongful discharge under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (“MFLSA”) and seek monetary damages, including back pay. In Burt v. Rackner, an employee of Bunny’s Bar & Grill (“Bunny’s”) was told that he “needed to give more of his tips to the bussers, and that there would be consequences if that did not happen.” That did not happen and Bunny’s fired the employee for not sharing his tips with other staff.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You Can't Make This Stuff Up: The Unintended Legal Issues with Spanking Employees

A Chinese employer made news last week for an unusual workplace discipline episode after a cellphone video revealed employees receiving public spankings for poor performance. The cellphone video shows a man with a wooden stick spanking eight employees four times each. The employer, a bank, claimed the spankings occurred during a team-building exercise facilitated by a corporate coach.

Corporal punishment is illegal in China, and, not surprisingly, a spanking policy or “team-building” endeavor of this kind would raise serious legal issues for U.S. employers as well. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

News Anchor Files Discrimination Lawsuit After Losing Her Job because of Comments Made on Social Media

A white news anchor has filed a race discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, a Pittsburgh television station. Wendy Bell made headlines earlier this year when she was let go from her anchor position after posting controversial comments on a Facebook page sponsored by the television station. Now, Bell is making headlines again for her unusual race discrimination claims.

Earlier this spring, the Washington Post reported that Bell was fired after she posted comments on Facebook about a mass shooting that Bell had recently covered on air.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The New DOL Overtime Rule - Does it Apply to Nonprofits?

As we reported last month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released the long-awaited Final Rule on white collar exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which will go into effect on December 1, 2016. The Final Rule significantly increases the minimum weekly salary amounts required for the white collar exemptions. Many nonprofit employers are concerned about the impact the salary changes will have on their organizations.

Neither the FLSA nor the regulations provide an exemption from the overtime requirements for nonprofit organizations. However, some nonprofit organizations are not covered under the FLSA because they are not an “enterprise” under the law. Nonetheless, nonprofit organizations must be careful in determining coverage under the FLSA because individual employees may still be eligible for overtime pay.