As the #metoo and #timesup movements continue gaining momentum, Connecticut employers should not be surprised that the start of the 2018 Connecticut General Assembly session saw the introduction of a bill to increase workplace harassment prevention training in Connecticut. Should HB 5043 pass in its current form, it would be the first substantial revision to Connecticut’s workplace harassment prevention training requirements since their enactment in 1992.

Connecticut, one of only three states with similar mandates, currently requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide two hours of workplace sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors within six months of the supervisor being hired as a supervisor or promoted to a supervisory position. The new bill seeks to significantly expand this training requirement increasing the number of employers covered, the topics that must be addressed and the frequency of the training.  Additionally, the bill would increase the content and frequency of information employers must post regarding workplace harassment. Continue Reading More Connecticut Employers May Have To Provide Workplace Anti-Harassment Training. Will Your Company Be One Of Them?

Workplace Investigations – and the need for them – have been in the news a lot lately.  So it seems like a good time to review some basics, such as what triggers them, who should conduct them, and why are they important.

A workplace investigation can be triggered by myriad reasons, including a complaint or report of a policy violation or other employee misconduct; employee injury; complaint filed with EEOC, CHRO, NLRB or other agency; lawsuit; or compliance audit.  Upon the occurrence of any one of these triggers, the employer, often with the assistance of counsel, should assess the allegations or issues involved and make a determination as to whether an investigation is warranted. Some situations, such as alleged violations of non-discrimination laws, or workplace accidents, require an investigation be conducted. Continue Reading Back to Basics: Workplace Investigations

At the end of 2017, the NLRB issued a decision reversing the enhanced “overwhelming” community of interest standard and its much derided “micro units” in determining the appropriate unit for representational purposes. In its 3-2 decision in PCC Structurals, Inc., 365 NLRB No. 160 (2017), the NLRB re-adopted the traditional test, which considers factors such as functional integration, employee skill, employee interchangeability, working conditions, wages and benefits, common supervision, and bargaining history to determine whether a proposed unit of workers shares a community of interest. The PCC decision overturns the NLRB’s 2011 decision in Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, which had allowed the unionization of “micro-units.”

In returning to the traditional test, the NLRB may have made it more difficult for unions to organize by compromising the union-organizing strategy of “getting a foot in the door” with a smaller bargaining unit as a prelude to organizing more employees at a later date.

On February 26, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, a case which should be watched by public employers and union officials as the fate of agency fees hangs in the balance. Agency fees are paid by non-union members to compensate the union for its services such as negotiating contracts and grievance representation. In this case, an employee claimed the union’s requirement that he pay an agency fee was unconstitutional as it violated his rights of freedom of speech because he disagreed with the union’s political message.

Agency fees have been found to be constitutional since the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.  The Supreme Court took up the issue of agency fees again in 2016 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which, with the passing of Justice Scalia, resulted in a 4-4 tie.  This time, the Court will have a new justice in Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Trump in 2017.

The ramifications of a decision in favor of Janus has unions nervous since a decision prohibiting their ability to collect agency fees from persons who do not join the union would affect their ability to maintain staff and officers, as well as negatively impact their lobbying efforts.

We will be sure to keep you posted on this case and others.

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