On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) issued proposed regulations regarding the determination of whether an individual is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or an independent contractor who is not subject to the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements. The proposed regulations are expected to be published in the Federal Register on September 25, and comments can be submitted for 30 days after publication. If the proposed regulations are adopted, it will likely be easier for businesses to classify employees as independent contractors under the FLSA.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed employers in a difficult position when it comes to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. New protocols for maintaining workplace safety necessitate inquiries about employees’ health that present privacy pitfalls. Moreover, widespread teleworking early in the pandemic has created new questions about reasonable accommodations as workplaces have reopened. On September 8, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supplemented its existing FAQs to provide additional guidance on some of these issues. The full guidance, including the recent additions, is available here. The most notable points from the September 8 additional guidance are summarized below.
This past Labor Day, Governor Cuomo signed legislation which requires all New York State public employers to adopt a plan for operations in the event of a declared public health emergency involving a communicable disease. The new legislation will constitute New York State Labor Law Section 27-c, and clearly serves as a political response to the effects of the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this past Spring. Such a plan must be finalized and published by April 1, 2021.
On September 11, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) issued revisions to the Temporary Rule it issued on April 1, 2020, implementing the employee leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The revisions respond to the August 3 decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (District Court) that invalidated certain parts of the Temporary Rule. The revised regulations took effect on September 16, 2020.
In its August 3 decision, the District Court ruled that four parts of the Temporary Rule were invalid: (1) the requirement that an employee may only take FFCRA leave if there is work available from which to take leave; (2) the requirement that an employee may take intermittent FFCRA leave only with employer consent; (3) the definition of a “health care provider” whom an employer may exclude from taking FFCRA leave; and (4) the requirement that employees who take FFCRA leave must provide certain documentation to their employer prior to taking leave.
The Department reconsidered the portions of the Temporary Rule that the District Court held were invalid. It reaffirmed the regulations in part, revised the regulations in part, and provided further explanation of its rationale for its regulations.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Labor (“USDOL”) issued new regulations regarding joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Seventeen states (including New York) and the District of Columbia subsequently filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to challenge the USDOL’s adoption of its new joint employment regulations. The Court recently issued a decision in that lawsuit, holding that the USDOL's joint employment regulations relating to vertical joint employer liability should be vacated because they conflict with the definitions contained in the FLSA and are arbitrary and capricious.
On August 24, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance to assist employers in complying with their obligation to track compensable hours of employees working in remote or telework arrangements. While this guidance was issued in response to the increase in remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it applies to all employees working remotely for any reason.
Following nationwide protests, federal, state and local lawmakers across the country have considered adopting legislation aimed at addressing racial inequalities in policing and modernizing longstanding police strategies, policies and procedures. In June 2020, the Governor of New York signed an executive order mandating police reform, and the New York Legislature correspondingly passed a series of laws which will have a significant impact on police operations throughout the State – ranging from small, local police departments to large, regional agencies.
On June 12, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order 203 (the Order), entitled New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. The Order requires every local government that has a police agency employing police officers (as defined under the Criminal Procedure Law § 1.20) to conduct a comprehensive review of its department’s force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices.
In addition, Executive Order 203 requires each local government to develop a plan to improve deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices of its police departments to address the particular needs of the community and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, legitimacy and address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.
On August 3, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") exceeded its statutory authority by promulgating certain regulations implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ("FFCRA"). The FFCRA, which was enacted on March 18, 2020, is one of the major relief statutes passed by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It contains two major provisions: (1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act ("EFMLA"), which grants paid leave to employees who are unable to work because they must care for a dependent child due to the closure of the child's school or place of child care; and (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act ("EPSLA"), which requires covered employers to provide paid sick leave to employees for one of six qualifying COVID-19-related reasons.
The State of New York brought suit against the DOL pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, challenging several features of the DOL's regulations on the ground that they unduly restricted the paid leave available to employees under the statute. The Court, in large part, agreed with the State.
On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court analyzed the ministerial exception for employees who allege employment discrimination claims for the first time in nearly a decade when it issued its decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru. The decision, which was issued in two combined cases on appeal before the Court, confirms the general principle under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that religious institutions must retain the right to select, supervise, and, if necessary, remove an employee who qualifies as a "minister" without interference by secular authorities. The Court construed the definition of “minister” broadly in holding that the ministerial exception applied to two teachers at religious schools who had filed employment discrimination claims pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) respectively.
Last week, the New York State Department of Labor formally adopted an amendment to the Minimum Wage Order for Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations that cuts the tip credit for all miscellaneous industry workers in half effective June 30, 2020. The amendment also eliminates the tip credit completely for miscellaneous industry workers effective December 31, 2020. As we previously reported on this blog, the NYSDOL recommended the elimination of the tip credit for miscellaneous industry workers after holding multiple hearings across the state regarding the impact of tip credits and Gov. Cuomo announced in January that the NYSDOL's recommendation would be implemented in two phases.
On June 24, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 205 (EO 205), which sets forth restricted travel areas within the U.S. for New Yorkers and those traveling to New York. If an individual arrives in New York after having spent more than 24 hours in a restricted area, the individual could be subject to a 14-day quarantine. This quarantine must be carried out in accordance with New York Department of Health (DOH) regulations for self-quarantining, and violators are subject to penalties of up to $10,000. The DOH reports that it will update the list of restricted states weekly. For more information on EO 205 and the DOH guidance, please see our earlier client alert.