On June 14, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB" or the "Board") issued a decision in UPMC and its Subsidiary, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, reversing long-standing precedent and holding that employers may bar non-employee union representatives/organizers from soliciting employees or promoting union membership in public areas within an employer’s facility.
On June 3, 2019, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the case of Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis that the requirement under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII") to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") is a non-jurisdictional claim-processing rule. In other words, the Court held that a plaintiff's failure to file an EEOC charge does not automatically preclude a federal court from exercising jurisdiction over the complaint; instead, an employer must "promptly" raise the defense that the plaintiff failed to satisfy the procedural requirement of filing an EEOC charge. An employer's failure to raise such a defense promptly could result in forfeiture of the defense, and a federal court may exercise jurisdiction over the complaint despite the plaintiff's failure to file an EEOC charge.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced it has made technical changes to the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") rights poster that federal contractors and subcontractors are required to display under Executive Order 13496, “Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Law.”
It just became a bit more difficult for plaintiffs within the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes New York) to succeed on disability discrimination claims brought against their employers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
The ADA prohibits employers from “discriminat[ing] against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to . . . the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees.” An employer also may face liability if it refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability and that employee can demonstrate that he or she can perform the essential functions of his or her job if provided with such an accommodation. A plaintiff advancing either type of claim is required to demonstrate a causal connection between his or her disability and the adverse employment action. Until now, the employee litigating his or her claim within the Second Circuit had that causal connection examined under a “mixed motive” analysis.
However, that recently changed in Natofsky v. City of New York, decided on April 18, 2019. In that case, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the same standard should be used to analyze disability discrimination claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (which applies to federal employers and employers operating programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance) and disability discrimination claims brought under the ADA. The Court determined that, under both statutes, a plaintiff must prove “that discrimination was the but-for cause of any adverse employment action."
The Court’s adoption of the “but-for” standard means that ADA plaintiffs now face the same hurdle that employees advancing ADEA claims and Title VII retaliation claims face.
On April 1, 2019, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") announced a proposed update to its joint employment regulations, which is the first significant revision to the DOL's joint employment rules since their promulgation in 1958. The proposed updates to the regulations attempt to clarify joint employer status for purposes of wage liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").
In the early morning hours of April 1, 2019, New York State passed its new yearly budget. Though the budget included several items of importance and interest, it was an under-the-radar provision revising paid voting time for employees that caught our attention.
On March 26, 2019, the New York State Court of Appeals issued a ruling that will have a significant positive impact on home care agencies across the state. In a five-to-two decision, the Court upheld the validity of the New York State Department of Labor’s “13 Hour Rule” for cases involving 24-hour live-in care. Under the “13 Hour Rule,” a residential employee assigned to work a 24-hour shift need only be paid for 13 of those hours, so long as he or she is provided with an 8-hour sleep break and three hours of meal breaks. (If the employee’s meal breaks are interrupted, or if the employee does not get five uninterrupted hours of sleep, the employer must pay for the entire break.) Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, participated in the case, representing amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State.
On December 11, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals issued a decision (over two dissenting opinions) addressing public access to police personnel and disciplinary records. The Court held that certain personnel records sought by the New York City Civil Liberties Union (“NYCLU”) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) are exempt from disclosure under New York Civil Rights Law § 50-a and New York Public Officers Law § 87(2)(a). In doing so, the Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division, First Department, and the broad applicability of Civil Rights Law § 50-a to requests for police personnel/disciplinary records.
On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor issued proposed regulations that would increase the minimum weekly salary to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act white collar exemptions from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $679 per week ($35,308 per year). These new proposed regulations are intended to replace the USDOL's 2016 regulations raising the minimum weekly salary to $913 per week ($47,476 per year), which were held by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to be invalid approximately one week before those regulations were set to take effect.
For those of you old enough to remember (and young enough to search YouTube), when Saturday Night Live was in its early heyday, one of its most popular skits was “Point/Counterpoint” starring Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. During this satire on news commentary, Mr. Aykroyd would start his “counterpoint” with “Jane, you ignorant slut,” a phrase that drew laughs in the 70s, but may not be so well received -- even in jest -- today. And, as we will see from a recent court decision discussed below, when sophomoric name-calling leads to the actual spread of rumors in the workplace, liability for sexual harassment can attach.
The New York State Department of Labor announced recently that it does not intend to implement its proposed regulations that would have imposed burdensome requirements on employers to provide call-in pay to employees under a variety of circumstances not currently covered under existing regulations. The regulations were initially proposed in November 2017, and then were revised in December 2018 after public comments were received and reviewed. The NYSDOL now intends to let the regulatory process expire with respect to the proposed regulations and potentially revisit this issue in the future.
On February 5, 2019, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that students at a for-profit cosmetology school who provided cosmetology services to the general public at the school's salon as part of the requirements to qualify for taking the New York cosmetology licensing exam were not employees who were entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act or the New York Labor Law. In Velarde v. GW GJ, Inc., the Court applied the "primary beneficiary" test established in its previous decision in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, and concluded that the students were the primary beneficiaries of the relationship because the practical experience they gained at the salon was a necessary prerequisite to becoming licensed cosmetologists.