HR Legalist

HR Legalist

Employment Law Updates
& Best Practices for Employers

Sixth Circuit Rules that Gender Identity Discrimination is Not Religious Freedom

Posted in Gender Identity, Religious Discrimination

On March 7, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a gender identity discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  against a Michigan funeral home under VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).  The EEOC brought the case, EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, on behalf of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, and claimed that the funeral home’s owner terminated Ms. Stephens’ employment for religious reasons after she disclosed her intention to transition from male to female and dress as a woman at work. Continue Reading

US Department of Labor Still Actively Investigating Per Diem Payments in the Energy Industry

Posted in Fair Labor Standards Act, General Labor and Employment News and Updates

Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has investigated the misuse of per diem payments as a substitute for compensation in a number of industries. At a recent event for employment lawyers in Pittsburgh, an attorney with the DOL indicated that this is still an issue that they were actively investigating, especially within the energy industry where a strong demand has led to increased incentives to attract workers. This issue leads to possible non-compliance with the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Continue Reading

Second Circuit Holds That Sexual Orientation Claims are Permissible Under the Civil Rights Act

Posted in Civil Rights, Discrimination, LGBTQ Employees

While the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has made a number of important legal advancements over the last decade, it still amazes many people to learn that, under federal law, an employee can be fired because they are gay.  Politicians, advocacy groups and courtroom litigants have worked for decades to change that.  And while explicit legislative pronouncements have not come, some courts are nonetheless instituting protections. Continue Reading

Does My Business Need an Employee Handbook?

Posted in Harassment, Workplace Policies

While your business is not required to have an employee handbook, handbooks do offer many legal and non-legal benefits.

A well-drafted and regularly updated employee handbook can provide employees and their supervisors with the “rules of the road.” A handbook with clear rules can help ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently across different supervisors and departments. Consider the morale issues that could develop in a workplace where, for example, supervisors of different departments or groups treat employees differently when they call out sick. Continue Reading

Employer Alert – The Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Visa Season is Almost Here

Posted in H-1B, Immigration

Employers who hire foreign workers may already be familiar with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. USCIS is also responsible for determining which foreign workers will be approved for the highly coveted H-1B skilled worker visa. Among all categories of temporary working visas, the H-1B is the most common.  However, in the past decade, H-1B visas have become increasingly difficult to obtain because of the strict annual cap on the number of visas issued. Continue Reading

New Tax Act Bars Deductions for Settlements Related to Certain Sexual Harassment Claims

Posted in Harassment

The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the Act) has been touted as the largest tax reform since 1986. Among its many provisions, the Act adds a new section to the Internal Revenue Code (Section 162(q)) targeting confidentiality agreements in sexual harassment cases. The new section is in response to a realization, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and recent high-profile sexual harassment allegations, that these agreements can silence harassment victims and enable perpetrators to continue their abusive behavior. Continue Reading

Department of Labor Adopts More Employer-Friendly Standard for Unpaid Internships

Posted in Unpaid Interns, Wage & Hour

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) mandates the payment of minimum wage and overtime to employees in most US workplaces.  However, when it comes to unpaid educational internships, the FLSA does not include a helpful definition or standard to determine when an employer is excused from paying wages.  In the absence of guidance from Congress, the task has fallen to the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the courts to determine when interns must be paid. Continue Reading

Department of Homeland Security Plans to End Employment Eligibility of Spouses of Highly Skilled Foreign Workers

Posted in Immigration

For years, the spouses of highly skilled foreign workers holding visas under the H-1B program weren’t authorized to work in the United States, absent separate approval through a separate program. However, in 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain spouses of H-1B visa holders seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (commonly referred to as green card holders).  Under the Obama-era rule, intended to encourage H-1B workers to remain in the US during the lengthy green card approval process, these spouses (also known as H-4 dependent spouses) could legally work in the US.  Now, the Trump Administration is considering ending that rule. Continue Reading