The importance of training supervisors on how to recognize and deal with employee leave issues cannot be overstated. And here’s a painful example of why…

Grace, an employee at a group home where she provided support to residents with mental impairments, was unexpectedly hospitalized due to a mental health condition. Grace had her son call her employer to tell them that she was in the hospital and could not report to work. Grace’s son called the employer at least four times over the next week to advise that his mother was still in the hospital. He spoke with Grace’s direct supervisor, as well as the program manager and the HR department. Such notifications should have sounded alarm bells that Grace might have a “serious health condition” and may be entitled to leave under the FMLA. Which it did – sort of; an HR department staff person prepared an FMLA packet acknowledging that the employer had been informed Grace was on a medical leave. However, when Grace’s son informed her supervisor that Grace was able to speak, the supervisor became angry and said it was inappropriate for him to be calling on his mother’s behalf and told him not to call again. The supervisor did not ask the son any questions regarding Grace’s condition or whether there was something preventing Grace from calling herself. Continue Reading FMLA: A Painful Reminder of the Importance of Supervisor Training

In a victory for employers in Connecticut and across the country, a federal district court in Texas last week invalidated the Obama Administration’s Department of Labor overtime regulation which sought to increase the salary threshold for the overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually) with the thresholds increasing every three years.  For employers who have exempt employees receiving salaries below the proposed increased threshold, this decision allows them to continue to keep those employees exempt at their current salary.  The court’s decision follows its injunction last November to enjoin the rules from being implemented. Continue Reading Increased Salary Threshold for Overtime Exemptions Struck Down By Federal Judge

UPS recently agreed to pay a $2M to settle a disability discrimination suit brought by the EEOC relative to its maximum leave policy. The company’s policy required “administrative separation” if an employee was unable to return to work after 12 months.  The EEOC said this inflexible leave policy violated the ADA. In addition to the $2M, UPS agreed to update its policies on reasonable accommodation to include extended leaves of absence; improve implementation of its interactive process; conduct ADA training for management; and submit reports regarding its compliance for 3 years. Continue Reading Maximum Leave Policies Can Cost Employers – Big Time

In response to Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas and Louisiana, employees may wish to take time off from work to participate in the cleanup efforts.  Employers may wonder what their obligations are when faced with requests for leave.

Public Sector

State employees who are certified disaster service volunteers with the American Red Cross may, with approval of the employee’s supervisor, serve for up to 15 days per year without loss of pay or paid time off.  Municipal employees have a similar opportunity for leave, with an allowance for 14 days per year with approval of the legislative body of the municipality.  Notably, the statutes authorizing this service limit it to the American Red Cross upon the agency’s request, and this leave is available only to certified disaster service volunteers. Continue Reading Responding to Requests for Employee Leave for Disaster Relief Efforts

A tuition reimbursement program can be a very attractive employee recruitment and retention tool, while simultaneously providing employers with the benefit of a more educated workforce.  Launching a tuition reimbursement program sends employees the message that you value them and their growth enough to invest in their futures.

Such programs can be tax-favored as well.  If you design your program to meet the Internal Revenue Service’s requirements for an “educational assistance program,” the first $5,250 of tuition assistance is excluded from wages for federal tax purposes. Continue Reading Back to School for Employees – How to Design a Successful Tuition Reimbursement Program

Starting September 18, 2017, all employers will be required to use a new I-9 Form, the form used to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States.  The most recent change to the I-9 was less than a year ago, so it is important to ensure that you are using the edition dated 7/17/17.  The date appears in the lower left-hand corner of the form.

I-9s must be completed on all new hires who will perform work in the United States.  Employers may switch to the new form now or may continue using the old one until September 18.  The new form is available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.  (The Spanish form is available as an aid, but outside of Puerto Rico, the English form is the one that must be completed.)

The changes to the form are technical in nature.  The only change of consequence for employers is that the Consular Report of Birth Abroad was added to List C, meaning that it can be used to establish an employee’s identity.

The following is a basic explanation of the I-9 process, which is not changed by the issuance of this new form. Continue Reading Employers Must Update Their New-Hire Paperwork By September 18th – Again

The United States Department of Justice recently filed a friend of the court brief with the Eastern District Court of New York arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover sexual orientation.  However despite what is taking place at the National level, Connecticut has a separate statute which governs discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual orientation.  Connecticut General Statute 46a-81c states that:

It shall be a discriminatory practice in violation of this section: (1) For an employer, by himself or his agent, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment any individual or to discriminate against him in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual’s sexual orientation or civil union status, (2) for any employment agency, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, to fail or refuse to classify properly or refer for employment or otherwise to discriminate against any individual because of the individual’s sexual orientation or civil union status, (3) for a labor organization, because of the sexual orientation or civil union status of any individual to exclude from full membership rights or to expel from its membership such individual or to discriminate in any way against any of its members or against any employer or any individual employed by an employer, unless such action is based on a bona fide occupational qualification, or (4) for any person, employer, employment agency or labor organization, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, to advertise employment opportunities in such a manner as to restrict such employment so as to discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation or civil union status. Continue Reading Connecticut Discrimination Statutes Still Cover Sexual Orientation

Just before the end of the legislative session, Public Act 17-118: An Act Concerning Pregnant Women in the Workplace, passed and is expected to be signed by the Governor.  Effective October 1st, this Bill amends Connecticut’s existing Pregnancy Discrimination Statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60 by expanding the employment protections provided to pregnant women and requiring employers to provide a reasonable workplace accommodations unless the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would be an undue hardship. The bill also prohibits employers from (1) limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy or (2) forcing a pregnant employee or applicant to accept a reasonable accommodation if she does not need one. It also eliminates certain employment protection provisions related to transfers to temporary positions for pregnant workers. Continue Reading Legislature Expands Pregnancy Protections, Malloy Set To Sign

A pharmacist was terminated after he claimed he was unable to administer vaccinations to customers.  Christopher Stevens sued Rite Aid for discrimination, retaliation and failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other state non-discrimination laws.  The jury awarded him $2.6 million, including $900,000 in non-economic damages.

By way of background, Rite Aid revised the job description for its pharmacists to require an immunization certification and made administering vaccinations an essential function of the job. Stevens, who suffers from trypanophobia (fear of needles), claimed he was disabled under the ADA and requested a reasonable accommodation excusing him from giving injections.  Rite Aid determined that Stevens was not disabled under the ADA, and therefore, it was not required to offer him reasonable accommodation. Instead, Rite Aid informed Stevens that if he did not comply with the vaccination requirement, he would be terminated. Stevens was thereafter discharged for refusing to perform an essential function of his job. For full text of decision click here. Continue Reading 2d Circuit Court of Appeals reverses $2.6 million jury verdict in disability discrimination case

What is an Oxford comma? The Oxford comma is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list: for example, “lions, and tigers, and bears… (oh my)”.  While use of the Oxford comma has long been the subject of debate, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston has determined its absence was critical in resolving the appeal in favor of a group of truck drivers in a class action suit in Maine.  The drivers sued the company, Oakhurst Dairy, claiming the company had improperly denied them several years of overtime pay. The company claimed the drivers were exempt from overtime under state statute.  The District Court agreed with the company and granted its motion for summary judgment.  The drivers appealed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

The sole issue on appeal hinged on whether the phrase “packing for shipment or distribution of” foods referred to a single activity involving packing or two separate activities – packing for shipment and packing for distribution.  The statute in question excluded from overtime “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.” Continue Reading The importance of punctuation: Missing Oxford comma benefits drivers in overtime case