On September 9, 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued a 12-6 opinion in Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc., 15 F.4th 289 (5th Cir. 2021) that clarified the requirements for day rate workers to fall within one of the FLSA’s exemptions from overtime payment.  This ruling was hotly-contested because it made clear that employers must take additional steps to properly classify their day rate workers as exempt employees, even when those employees clearly exceed the financial threshold of the highly compensated exemption.  Many expect the decision to substantially affect the course of day rate FLSA litigation in the Fifth Circuit, especially misclassification disputes within the energy industry.
Continue Reading Cert Filed in Hope Supreme Court Will Reevaluate Fifth Circuit’s FLSA OT Ruling

On October 11, 2021, Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued Executive Order GA-40, which proscribes entities from compelling individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine who object “for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.” Offending entities can be fined up to $1,000 for failing to comply with this order.
Continue Reading Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order Prohibiting Vaccine Mandates in Texas

In the first four months of 2021, Virginia, New Mexico, New York and New Jersey passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing, in some form, recreational marijuana.  Exactly how these laws will affect employers in these states is still an open question, but for now, employers should understand the nuances of the laws so they can prepare for the emerging reality that is legal marijuana.
Continue Reading The Trend Towards Legal Recreational Cannabis: Considerations for Employers

Most employers know the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees to be paid time-and-one-half for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek unless an exemption applies.  But what some employers don’t realize is, for the most-commonly-used overtime exemptions to apply, employees must not only satisfy various “duties” tests, but they must also be paid on a “salary basis” at not less than $684 per week.  Payment on a salary basis means an employee regularly receives a predetermined amount of compensation each pay period on a weekly, or less frequent, basis.
Continue Reading Upcoming Fifth Circuit Hearing to Address FLSA Day-Rate Issues

The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued guidance to state unemployment insurance agencies, expanding the categories of workers that are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The PUA program was created in March 2020 to provide payments to certain people affected by COVID-19, as well as independent contractors and gig workers who do not usually qualify for unemployment insurance.  While funded by the federal government, states are responsible for administering it. 
Continue Reading Department of Labor Expands Unemployment Insurance Eligibility To Include Workers Who Declined Work Due to Pandemic Safety Concerns

On November 17, 2020 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released proposed updates to its Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination. The draft revisions are available for public input until December 17, 2020, after which the EEOC will consider the public’s input, make any changes, and publish the finalized Manual.
Continue Reading For the First Time in 12 Years, EEOC Releases Updated Proposals to Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination

A proposed rule  published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on October 9, 2020 offers the possibility of expanded information-sharing with respondents/employers in connection with the agency’s conciliation efforts.  The proposed expanded disclosures may enhance the value of conciliation to those parties.
Continue Reading EEOC’s Proposed New Procedures May Enhance Value of Conciliation

In a little-publicized move near the beginning of the U.S. coronavirus lockdown, the EEOC temporarily suspended issuing right-to-sue letters with respect to most charges of discrimination. the EEOC resumed sending out right-to-sue letters on August 3, 2020, and announced that any suspended notices would be sent out between that date and September 30, 2020.
Continue Reading As the EEOC Resumes Sending out Right-To-Sue Letters, Employers Should Expect an Increase in Discrimination Lawsuits

As Texas begins to reopen, some employers are recalling employees placed on furloughs or leaves of absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Labor recently issued guidance to clarify that an individual who is able and available to work, but refuses to take a job offer or return from a furlough, absent one of the COVID-19-related criteria, will not be eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit under the CARES Act. On April 30, 2020, the Texas Workforce Commission issued guidance stating that, depending upon the reason for refusal, these employees may remain eligible for receipt of state unemployment benefits. 
Continue Reading Texas Workers Who Refuse to Return to Work May Remain Eligible for Unemployment Benefits

This month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed several employment-related bills into law. The laws go into effect January 1, 2020, and include an extension to the deadline to file certain state discrimination claims and address harassment training and prevention, as well as mandatory arbitration agreements.
Continue Reading New California Laws Increase Employee Protections