Many of us have been in a job interview on one side of the table or the other during which this very common question is asked - “what are you currently making?” There is now, however, a growing movement questioning the legitimacy of inquiries regarding an applicant’s prior wages for the purpose of setting her rate of pay if she is hired. This includes an expanding body of judicial opinion holding that asking an applicant about her prior wages to set the amount of her pay once hired violates federal and state laws respecting equal pay.
In Our Judgment
More businesses are requiring their employees who regularly work with customers or who possess certain types of sensitive information to sign some form of contract restricting the employee’s ability to engage in competitive activity once the employment terminates.
One of the most difficult recurring problems for employment lawyers is the employee who requests an extended unpaid medical leave with the expectation that she be able to return to work when medically cleared months later. The common fact pattern involves an employer subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) being informed that an employee who is about to exhaust her 12 weeks FMLA leave still is not able to return to work due to a medical condition. The FMLA only guarantees to employees a maximum of 12 weeks unpaid leave within a 12 month period. It does not require an employer to extend that leave, nor does it penalize the employer for terminating an employee who is unable to return to work after exhaustion of FMLA leave.
On July 1, 2017, over 130 new laws recently enacted by the Tennessee legislature became effective. One of those imposes new reporting requirements on employers in the healthcare sector whose licensed healthcare employees test positive on a drug test or refuse to submit to a drug test when directed to do so.
As an employment lawyer, I tend to focus a substantial part of my time on the consequences that may follow employee terminations that are involuntary. From time to time, however, questions do arise in the context of voluntary resignations. For instance, I am occasionally asked whether an employer must allow a resigning employee to continue her employment for a limited period of time following a notice of resignation. The common situation is when an employee says, “I am giving you my 2-week notice.” Similarly, an employee may inform her supervisor on May 1, “I am leaving for another opportunity. My last day of work will be May 15.”
I am regularly asked by employees to review various types of employment contracts, including employee non-competition agreements. More often than not these employees are Tennessee residents who work in a Tennessee-based office (or home office) and whose job duties are typically performed in Tennessee. Despite those factors, the contracts presented to them often contain two terms quite troubling to lawyers, but which go unnoticed by our clients.
Public and private employers throughout the United States received an early holiday gift from a United States district court in Texas on November 22, 2016. As I have discussed previously in this blog, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued new rules earlier this year substantially changing the federal law criteria for determining which employees can be deemed “exempt” from overtime requirements. Those new rules were to go into effect December 1, 2016. Currently, to be considered exempt from overtime requirements, an employee had to perform executive, administrative, or professional duties (the “duties test”); had to be paid a set weekly salary that did not change based upon the number of hours worked (the “salary level test”); and, pertinent to the current discussion, had to be paid at least $455.00 per week ($23,660 annually). This last criteria is referred to as the “minimum salary test.”
In August 2016, I discussed a recent decision of the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals which held “that Title VII does not redress sexual orientation discrimination.” As I mentioned in that post, the 7th Circuit’s decision was the first federal appeals court opinion on that subject since the United States Supreme Court decision guaranteeing same sex marriage rights under the United States constitution. It is also the first decision of a federal appeals court on that subject since the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced its intention to file federal court lawsuits seeking extension of Title VII protection to claims of sexual orientation discrimination.
As fall approaches, many employers are preparing to offer flu vaccinations to their employees. In most work settings, this is a voluntary benefit that employees may choose to accept or not, based on their own personal beliefs regarding such vaccinations. In the healthcare sector and more particularly within hospital settings, there has been a growing movement to require flu vaccinations of all hospital personnel.
I have posted twice since the beginning of this year [February 18, 2016] and [May 20, 2016] concerning upcoming changes in federal wage and hour laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guarantees covered workers a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their base hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week.
In the last year, I have twice posted on the topic of whether federal statutory protections against discrimination on account of “sex” will be extended to claims of sexual orientation discrimination. [10/29/15 and 3/21/16 posts] This topic became a regular subject of discussion among employment law practitioners and their clients following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 requiring states to provide marriage rights to same sex couples.
In April 2016 Governor Haslam signed a bill that became effective September 1, 2016, which will likely increase the number of wage garnishments with which many Tennessee employers will have to contend. This is particularly true for employers that make regular use of independent contractor workers.
Before 2011, Tennessee employers only had to worry about federal immigration law requirements for verifying employee eligibility to work.
In a February 2016 blog post, I discussed an anticipated major change in the criteria for determining who can be exempt from payment of overtime wages.
It seems that the use, or more specifically, the over use and abuse of employee non-compete agreements is now in the crosshairs of several state legislatures and the federal government.
The reach of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) extends literally into every work place.
In an October 2015 post, I discussed whether the federal statute that prohibits discrimination on account of “sex” may be extended to protect employees who suffer discrimination or harassment due to their sexual orientation. Will Protections Against Sex Based Discrimination Be Extended to Sexual Orientation? There currently are no federal or Tennessee anti-discrimination statutes that expressly address sexual orientation as a prohibited basis for workplace discrimination or harassment. There also is very little likelihood of new legislation being enacted for that purpose either by the Tennessee legislature or United States Congress (at least as presently constituted). Consequently, a number of litigants, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), are asking the federal courts to extend the definition of discrimination on account of “sex” within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include workplace discrimination on account of sexual orientation. As I previously discussed, a number of federal appeals courts have in the past refused to extend the definition of “sex” beyond gender based considerations. Those decisions, however, pre-date the recent judicial victories achieved by the LGBT community on issues such as same sex marriage. Consequently, these litigants are hopeful that federal courts might be willing to undertake a fresh analysis of the issue given the significant gains achieved by the LGBT community in other areas of the law.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted in 1938 for the primary purposes of guaranteeing workers a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their base hourly rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week.
Winter finally arrived in Tennessee following repeated record high temperatures throughout December and the first few days of January. Once cold weather and the first instances of winter precipitation arrive, employers will often ask me if there are any employment law considerations to inclement weather and inclement weather policies. While there indeed are some legal considerations, this is an area where most employers should exercise a degree of common sense.
The laws addressing compensation for employee breaks are not that difficult to understand and properly apply. As one recent court decision reminded me, however, some employers unfortunately choose either not to learn those rules, or to simply ignore them until the United States Department of Labor becomes involved. Before discussing that decision, let's review the basic legal requirements.