HR Legalist

HR Legalist

Employment Law Updates
& Best Practices for Employers

Best Practices for Employers Hosting Halloween Office Parties

Posted in Workplace Policies

Jack-o-LanternNow that autumn is finally here, the smell of football tailgates, crisp leaves and pumpkin spice lattes fill the air. One cannot enter a corner store without encountering pumpkins, bags of candy corn and black cat and witch trinkets – Halloween is just weeks way!

According to the National Retail Federation (“NRF”), more than 157 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year. The NRF reports that last year Americans spent $7 billion on Halloween celebrations (costumes, decorations, candy, etc.). For kids, the whole concept of Halloween simmers down to two issues: (i) what costume(s) are you going to wear; and (ii) what neighborhoods give out the “best” candy? However, employers have very different concerns when deciding whether they should host a Halloween party in the workplace: (i) should the company sponsor an event in the workplace; and (ii) how can it best minimize risks associated with said party. Continue Reading

Shots or Not? The Pros and Cons of Mandatory Workplace Flu Vaccination

Posted in Workplace Policies

Flu season aheadWhile we continue to enjoy warm September weather, flu season (typically lasting from October through May) will soon be here. Many employers—health care providers in particular—are now considering or preparing to implement mandatory vaccination policies for their employees. Besides protecting patients, other employees, and the public, health care providers have an incentive to increase employee vaccination rates to comply with private accreditation agency requirements and meet a government and CDC target vaccination rate of 90% by 2020. Continue Reading

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses, but Take a Ticket First: U.S. Institutes Measure to Shorten the Wait for a Green Card

Posted in Immigration

iStock_000017693746_LargeStarting in October, 2015, an additional chart will be posted on the Department of State Visa Bulletin that provides new filing dates, or dates when applicants may be able to apply for permanent residence. This change was announced on September 9th and implements executive actions taken by the Obama administration in November 2014, detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015. The revised process aligns U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the procedures the Department of State (DOS) uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad. Continue Reading

Even Bears Need Visas: Immigration Law Stalls Kiwi’s Dream of Playing American Football

Posted in Immigration

grizzly bearNew Zealander, Paul Lasike, always dreamed of playing American football. This 5’11”, 232 lb. Auckland native came to the United States on a scholarship to Brigham Young University, where he played rugby, but his heart was on the gridiron. Though unselected in the 2015 NFL draft, Lasike joined the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. Unfortunately, he failed to make the Cardinals’ 53 man roster and was let go by the Arizona team. The Kiwi was given another chance to pursue his NFL dream when the Chicago Bears signed him earlier this week for their practice squad. However, just as Lasike was preparing for his grand welcome to the Windy City, U.S. immigration law forced the Bears to punt on their newest practice squader because Lasike’s visa does not authorize him to play for the Chicago team. Continue Reading

Wanna Bet? Third Circuit Puts the Kibosh on Sports Gambling Just Before Start of NFL Season

Posted in Gambling, New Jersey Law

Footbal roulette wheel 18115888_LargeFor the second time in three years, the Third Circuit has rejected New Jersey’s attempt to circumvent the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”). PASPA, which Congress enacted in 1992 and prohibits state sanctioned sports gambling outside Nevada. Ironically, PASPA specifically granted permission to New Jersey to legalize sports betting so long as New Jersey enacted a system by 1993. At that time, Atlantic City was amidst a ten year run that saw casino revenue more than double, and New Jersey lawmakers lacked the necessary motivation to fix what was not yet broken. Continue Reading

USCIS Memorandum on Specialized Knowledge Workers to Go into Effect August 31st

Posted in Immigration

Did you know chalkboard 52660386In my HRLegalist blog post on April 2, 2015 I shared with our readers the news of the USCIS draft Policy Memorandum (“L-1B Memo” or “Memo”) offering clarification on the definition of “specialized knowledge.” The Memo clarifies for USCIS officers how L-1B visa petitioners may demonstrate that an employee has specialized knowledge and offers a non-exclusive list of factors that adjudicators may consider when determining whether a beneficiary’s knowledge is specialized. These factors are: Continue Reading

Third Circuit Issues Employer-Friendly Ruling in Discrimination and Retaliation Case

Posted in Cat's Paw Liability, Discrimination, Retaliation

Train pulling into station 2013144_LargeOn August 12, 2015, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedential opinion in Jones v. SEPTA, a discrimination and retaliation claim brought by a former employee of the Philadelphia-area transit agency. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the employee’s claims, and addressed two key legal issues: (1) whether suspensions with pay are considered adverse employment actions under Title VII; and (2) whether an initial report made by an allegedly biased supervisor can lead to liability under the “Cat’s Paw” theory (for an overview of “Cat’s Paw,” see my post on HR Legalist earlier this year). Fortunately for employers within the Third Circuit (including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware), the court ruled in SEPTA’s favor on both issues. Continue Reading

OFFSIDES: NLRB Punts on Whether College Football Players Can Unionize

Posted in NLRB

Football Player ImageLast year, in what was lauded as a potentially game changing decision (pun intended), Peter Sung Ohr, the Regional Director of Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) ruled that the grant-in-aid scholarship football players at Northwestern University were “employees” of the university within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and were entitled to seek union representation for the purpose of collective bargaining. The unprecedented ruling was quickly appealed by Northwestern, who argued that the Regional Director’s decision undermined the very premise of collegiate varsity sports and ignored the necessary distinction between amateur and professional sports. Northwestern emphasized that the Regional Director’s decision did not give proper weight to the public policy ramifications and practical consequences of classifying college athletes as “employees” under the NLRA. Continue Reading


Posted in Parental Leave

PARENTAL LEAVENetflix, a pioneer in on-demand internet streaming, is well-known for its “Netflix Original” series—and has recently added “unlimited” parental leave to its line-up. On Tuesday, August 4, 2015, Netflix announced a new maternity and paternity policy that permits new parents to take an unlimited amount of paid leave during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. Under the new policy, employees are able to return to work on either a part-time or full-time basis following the birth or adoption of their child, and following their return to work employees can take additional time off, with pay, as needed. Employees who exercise their right to unlimited parental leave will receive their normal rate of pay and company-provided benefits. Continue Reading

Immigration and Taxation: Tools for Navigating Through Alien Territory

Posted in Immigration

gold compass 19340357_LargeA client recently asked if a foreign national employee was subject to federal withholding taxes. Naturally, since the question involved the U.S. tax code the answer, like the code, is complicated. Fortunately, the IRS has drafted a useful and surprisingly readable guidebook entitled U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.  In this book the IRS explains that for tax purposes, “aliens” are persons who are not U.S. citizens. Aliens are classified as Nonresident Aliens and Resident Aliens. Resident Aliens generally are taxed on their worldwide income, the same as U.S. citizens. Nonresident Aliens are taxed only on their income from sources within the United States and on certain income connected with the conduct of a trade or business in the United States. The designation of “resident” for tax purposes is completely distinct from one’s immigration status as a “permanent resident.” One might qualify as a resident for tax purposes while remaining a nonimmigrant alien for immigration purposes. Continue Reading