Thursday, October 12, 2017

Employees Found to Have a Private Right of Action under Minnesota Tip Pooling Law

As previously reported, a Hennepin County district court judge ruled earlier this fall in a class action case against Surly Brewing that an employee tip-pooling agreement made with employer coercion or participation violates Minnesota’s wage and hour law. Now, the Minnesota Supreme Court has found that Minnesota’s wage and hour law expressly permits a private cause of action for an employee who is discharged for refusing to share gratuities.

The Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling was issued this week in Burt v. Rackner, Inc. d/b/a/ Bunny’s Bar & Grill. The plaintiff, Todd Burt, alleged that he was told by his restaurant employer that “to give more of his tips to the bussers, and that there would be consequences if that did not happen.” After refusing to follow the directive, Burt was terminated. Burt sued, claiming that his termination violated the tip-sharing provision of the Minnesota wage and hour law. More specifically, Minnesota law prohibits an employer from requiring an employee “to contribute or share a gratuity received by the employee” or to “contribute any or all of the gratuity to a fund or pool.”

Friday, September 29, 2017

It’s Budget Planning Time–Minimum Wage Adjustments are Coming to Minnesota in 2018

The last quarter of the calendar year is often a time when companies are busy with planning and budgeting for the following year. Minnesota employers doing budget planning for 2018 need to keep in mind that the state minimum wage rates will be adjusted as of January 1, 2018.

Under Minnesota law, the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry is required to determine and announce the inflation-adjusted minimum-wage rate each year by August 31. This year, the change in the price deflator is an increase of 1.56 percent.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Minneapolis Sick Leave Ordinance Survives Appeal, but Extraterritorial Injunction Remains

This past Monday, September 18th, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s refusal to enjoin the City of Minneapolis from enforcing its Sick and Safe leave ordinance as to Minneapolis employers while litigation challenging the ordinance proceeds.  The Court of Appeals did, however, affirm the lower court’s order prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance as to employers located outside Minneapolis.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Federal Judge Strikes Down Obama Administration’s FLSA Overtime Rule

Last Thursday, August 31, 2017, a federal district court judge in Texas struck down the Obama administration’s long-embattled federal overtime pay rule. The rule would have more than doubled the minimum weekly salary required to qualify for the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) white collar exemptions (from $455 per week to $913 per week). The rule was originally scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, but the same Texas-based judge enjoined its implementation late last year.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How Can Employers Better Prepare for Natural Disasters?

Hurricane Harvey has caused unprecedented damage in Texas, resulting in thousands of companies temporarily (or perhaps even permanently) closing down operations. While the main focus is—and should be—the safety of everyone affected by Harvey, this natural disaster brings with it a host of legal and practical issues for employers. Even if a company is not in the storm’s path, it should consider using Harvey as an opportunity to think through some of the preparations that can make disasters a bit easier to manage. Below are a few common questions employers may be faced with in an emergency.

Monday, August 28, 2017

EEOC Ordered to Reconsider Wellness Regulations

Last week a federal judge in Washington, D.C. directed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to revisit its regulations governing employee wellness programs but did not vacate the regulations.  The court noted that striking down the regulations until they could be revised may have “significant disruptive consequences” and it assumed that the EEOC could address the failings it identified in short order.  Nonetheless, the decision not to stay implementation or vacate the regulations creates confusion for employer wellness programs.

The EEOC’s wellness regulations took effect on January 1, 2017.  The regulations were used to address the conflict between the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Genetic Information Act (“GINA”), which permit employers to collect medical and genetic information from employees who participate in wellness program as long as the employees provide the information voluntarily, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)/Affordable Care Act (ACA) wellness regulations, which expressly permit the use of incentives in wellness programs.  In the regulations the EEOC reversed its previous position that in order for a wellness program to be voluntary employers could not condition the receipt of incentives on the employee’s disclosure of ADA- or GINA-protected information.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Federal Labor Law May Be an Important Factor in Your Decision To Terminate an Employee for Racist Conduct.

With the violent protest events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, it seems particularly timely to address a recent Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on potential labor law protections for racist behavior. While Judge Beam of the Eighth Circuit opined that “no employer in America can be forced to employ a racial bigot,” he did not persuade the rest of the Court’s panel in the recent Cooper Tire v. NLRB decision.

In the Cooper Tire case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals examined tensions between behavioral protections for picketing workers under the federal National Labor Relations Act and an employer’s Title VII obligation to provide a workplace free from behavioral harassment based on race. Cooper Tire involved the lock out of union employees after failed collective bargaining negotiations. During the lock-out, a picketing employee yelled racial slurs at a van carrying replacement workers of color to the workplace. Cooper Tire fired that employee.

Were those racial slurs protected?