HR Legalist

HR Legalist

Employment Law Updates
& Best Practices for Employers

More than Just a TV Show: How Bruce Jenner’s Story Sheds Light on the Importance of Workplace Policies for Transgender Employees

Posted in Discrimination, Workplace Policies

Jenner shutterstock_59443381Last month in a nationally televised interview, U.S. Olympic icon Bruce Jenner revealed to the world that he is a transgender woman.  While the coming out process for the rest of the nearly 700,000 transgender Americans may not garner the attention that Jenner’s announcement did, it is very likely that these individuals must come out to their employers at some point before, during or after their transition.  However, if these employees do choose to come out, they are not protected from workplace discrimination or harassment based on their gender identity or expression by any federal law, and only 20 states offer such protections to transgender employees.    Locally, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act and the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance do prohibit discrimination based on an employee’s gender identity or expression. Continue Reading

Employment Authorization Soon to Extend to Certain Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders

Posted in H-1B, Immigration

May 2616121257_LargeAs our readers are no doubt familiar, there has been much wrangling over the ruling of a federal judge in Texas who imposed an injunction on President Obama’s plan to expand employment authorization to an additional 300,000 people who entered the United States as minor children, the so-called DREAMers.   HRLegalist previously reported that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service would begin accepting applications for the expanded version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative as of February 18, 2015.  After the injunction was imposed on February 16, 2015, the administration declared the program suspended in order to comply with the injunction.  However, in recent days there have been reports that the administration violated the injunction and issued employment authorization documents to 100,000 new DACA applicants.  Continue Reading

Philadelphia’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is Effective on May 13th – Are you Prepared?

Posted in Paid Sick Leave

May 13th_FullOn February 12, 2015, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed a city ordinance requiring employers with 10 or more employees to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.  You can read HR Legalist’s summary of the ordinance here, and read the ordinance itself here.

Starting on Wednesday, May 13th, all employers subject to the law must allow their Philadelphia employees to accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour per every 40 hours worked.  For example, if your company has 15 employees (even if some of them are outside of Philadelphia), your Philadelphia employees could earn their first hour of paid time as early as the week of May 18th. Continue Reading

The 2015 STAPLE Act: Will Relief Finally Come for U.S. Employers in Need of Foreign Talent?

Posted in H-1B, Immigration

World map created with passport stamps, travel conceptUSCIS announced May 4, 2015, that it has completed data entry of all fiscal year 2016 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in its computer-generated lottery. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected.  USCIS received almost 233,000 H1B petitions; however, only 65,000 H-1B visas are available with an additional 20,000 for those with a U.S. Master’s degree.   Continue Reading

Anatomy of a (Big) Employment Verdict: Lessons from the Robertson Case

Posted in Discrimination, Retaliation

Discrimination again 886221

Last week, a federal jury in Pittsburgh awarded a former manufacturing employee, Sandra Robertson, over $13 million in damages in a gender discrimination and retaliation claim against her former employers, Hunter Panels LLC (“Hunter”) and its parent company (Robertson v. Hunter Panels, LLC et al.).  The bulk of this verdict was the $12.5 million that the jury awarded in the form of punitive damages. Continue Reading

EEOC Issues Proposed Rule on Employee Wellness Programs and ADA Compliance

Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Wellness Plans

Omeditation in officen April 20, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) officially published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) providing guidance to employers as to how they can craft and implement employee wellness programs without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which generally prohibits employers from making disability-related inquiries to employees or requiring that employees undergo medical examinations.  The ADA provides an exception to this prohibition, however, for medical inquiries and examinations that are part of an employee health program and in which the employee voluntarily agrees to participate. Continue Reading

More than Just a Fable – Why the “Cat’s Paw” Matters for Employers

Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Cat's Paw Liability, Discrimination, Retaliation, Terminations, Workplace Policies

La Fontaine's Fables - Monkey and the Cat

The Fable

“The Monkey and the Cat” is a fable (dating back to the 17th century or perhaps earlier) about a monkey who persuades a cat to pull chestnuts from the embers of a fire, only to take the reward for himself and leave the cat nursing a burnt paw.  The fable is the source of the English idiom “cat’s paw” – essentially, one who does another’s dirty work.  The story of the clever monkey and the unsuspecting cat has also worked its way into modern employment discrimination law.  “Cat’s paw liability” describes a scenario when an employee or supervisor, motivated by discriminatory intent, influences an otherwise unbiased decision-maker to take an adverse employment action against another employee.  In the end, the employer is still held responsible.  Employers should heed the moral of the story and take steps to avoid the fate of the duped feline. Continue Reading

USCIS Offers Additional Guidance on the L-1B Specialized Knowledge Visa Program

Posted in Immigration

Shakespeare using laptop.Tomorrow, Friday, April 3, 2015, is Good Friday on the Christian calendar (except for Orthodox believers), and sundown marks the beginning of the Jewish feast of Passover.  This rare coincidence of religious celebrations brings to mind Shakespeare’s observation that, “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”  And though it may well be true that knowledge is a means to immortality, it might not be sufficient for a foreign worker to obtain an L-1B visa, reserved for individuals with “specialized knowledge” of a company’s products, policy’s or procedures.  The L-1B visa has been mired in confusion, high denial rates, and inconsistent application for years, due in part to a lack of clarity as to what counts as “specialized knowledge.” The bard, and our readers, can now take some comfort in the fact that on March 24, 2015 USCIS released its draft Policy Memorandum (“L-1B Memo” or “Memo”) offering clarification on the definition of “specialized knowledge.”  The long awaited L-1B Memo is welcome news for employers and immigration practitioners who have seen an increase in the denial rates of L-1B petitions, an increase in the numbers of Requests for Additional Evidence (RFEs), and a lack of clarity and consistency on the part of USCIS adjudicators in reviewing L-1B petitions. Continue Reading

Supreme Court Sets New Standard for Pregnancy Discrimination Claims

Posted in Pregnancy Discrimination

stock-photo-56688182-pregnant-businesswoman-using-digital-tablet-in-office[2]In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court gave new life yesterday to former UPS driver Peggy Young’s claim of unlawful pregnancy discrimination when it vacated the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision affirming the dismissal of Ms. Young’s claim against her former employer.  The high court sent the case back to the court of appeals with the instruction that it should apply a new standard to determine whether or not Ms. Young has set forth a valid claim against UPS under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). Continue Reading

Reminder: New Jersey “Ban the Box” is Now in Effect

Posted in Hiring

Reviewing a Criminal RecordOn March 1, 2015, the Opportunity to Compete Act (the “Act”) went into effect in New Jersey.

Governor Chris Christie signed the Act into law last year in an effort to preclude public and private employers with 15 or more employees from asking about a job applicant’s criminal record until after the first job interview, unless the applicant voluntarily discloses such information. Continue Reading