First Year of NLRB’s New Election Rules – Employers Deflecting Union “Ambush”

One year has passed since the National Labor Relations Board issued its controversial “ambush” election rules, and as expected, the rules have caused a substantial reduction in the time between a union’s filing of a petition and the conduct of the election.

But in a surprise to many employers, the rules so far have produced virtually no change in the number of union election petitions and union victories. Many had predicted that the shorter campaign period would result in more unionization.

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NLRB Finds Code of Conduct Provisions Discourage Section 7 Activity

A recent National Labor Relations Board decision found that particular provisions of an employer’s Code of Conduct unlawfully discouraged employees from engaging in Section 7 Activity.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protects an employees’ rights to “self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  The Act further makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with these rights.  What qualifies as employer interference is frequently considered by both the Board and courts.

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Eleventh Circuit – Indefinite Light Duty Is Not A Reasonable Accommodation

The Eleventh Circuit confirmed that indefinite light duty is not a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and employers are not required to create a permanent light-duty position for an employee.

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Employers Face New and Expanded Paid Family Leave Programs

Several new and expanded paid family leave programs signed into law this month present employers with administrative challenges and concerns about business productivity.

California

California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) program, which took effect in 2004, was the first of its kind in the nation. Funded by employee contributions to the State Disability Insurance program, and administered through that program, PFL in California provides employees with partial wage replacement (currently 55%, up to a weekly maximum of $1,104 in 2015) for a period of up to six (6) weeks in order to bond with a new child, or to care for a parent, child, spouse or domestic partner with a serious health condition. This wage-replacement program does not guarantee job protection, so normally it is taken concurrently with job-protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or its California analog, the California Family Rights Act.

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San Francisco Enacts Fully Paid Sick Leave For Parents, California Comes Closer

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved six weeks of fully-paid leave for new parents, the first city-wide legislation of its kind in the nation. Parents are entitled to the benefit if they have been employed by the employer for at least 180 days, work at least eight hours per week within the city or county of San Francisco, spend at least 40% of their hours per week working within the city or county of San Francisco, and are eligible to receive paid family leave from the State of California under the California Paid Family Leave law for the purpose of bonding with a new child. The new law requires that employers make up the difference between the benefit provided by the California Paid Family Leave law and 100% of the employee’s normal gross weekly wage.

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California Supreme Court Provides Guidance on Suitable Seating Requirements

Last Monday, the California Supreme Court in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. clarified the meaning of California’s requirement that all working employees be provided with suitable seating “when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” Answering three questions raised by the Ninth Circuit, the Court ruled that:

(1) The “nature of the work” refers to an employee’s tasks performed at a given location for which a right to a suitable seat is claimed, rather than a “holistic” consideration of the entire range of an employee’s duties anywhere on the jobsite during a complete shift. If the tasks being performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting, and provision of a seat would not interfere with performance of any other tasks that may require standing, a seat is called for;

(2) Whether the nature of the work reasonably permits sitting is a question to be determined objectively based on the totality of the circumstances. An employer’s business judgment and the physical layout of the workplace are relevant but not dispositive factors. The inquiry focuses on the nature of the work, not an individual employee’s characteristics; and

(3) The nature of the work aside, if an employer argues there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to prove unavailability.

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Eleventh Circuit Nixes Disability Discrimination Claim Due to Employee’s Inability to Work Overtime

Employers increasingly feel that they are forced to bend, or sometimes even break, company rules to reasonably accommodate disabled workers under federal and state law. In a victory for employers, the Eleventh Circuit bucked this trend, holding that when mandatory overtime is established as an “essential function” of the job, a disabled employee who cannot work overtime is not a “qualified individual” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and, thus, need not be accommodated.

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New OSHA Rule Significantly Reduces Permissible Limits for Exposure to Silica Dust

On March 25, 2016, OSHA published a final rule which significantly reduces the permissible limits of silica dust to which workers can be exposed.  The rule will take effect 90 days after publication, and will be codified at 29 CFR Parts 1910, 1915, and 1926.

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D.C. Circuit Refuses to Rubber Stamp NLRB Finding

In Dover Energy, Inc., Blackmer Division v. National Labor Relations Board, the Board held that Blackmer violated section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) when it threatened Tom Kaanta, a Blackmer employee and United Auto Workers Union shop steward, with disciplinary action if he continued to make “frivolous” information requests to the company’s lead negotiator during collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) negotiations. On March 22, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed and held that the NLRB’s factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence.

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Second Circuit Outlines Test for Individual Liability of Human Resources Directors under the FMLA

On March 17, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, holding that sufficient evidence existed to find that the Culinary Institute of America’s (“CIA”) human resources director was an “employer” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and could therefore be held individually liable for violations of the FMLA. In reaching this decision, the court found that the economic-realities test used to analyze whether an individual is an “employer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) should also be used to determine whether an individual is an “employer” under the FMLA. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the Southern District of New York’s summary judgment decision on the question of individual liability for further consideration under the economic-realities standard. The application of this test likely means an increased risk of individual liability for human resources directors, supervisors, and other members of management charged with violating an employee’s rights under the FMLA.

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