On May 2, 2022, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to Helix Energy Solutions Group Incorporated after Helix lost before the en banc United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a sharply-divided opinion last year.  In Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Grp., Inc., 15 F.4th 289 (5th Cir. 2021), the Fifth Circuit held 12-6 that employers must guarantee their day-rate workers a minimum weekly payment that is reasonably related to the amount those workers actually earn in that timespan for their workers to be exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements.  This minimum weekly payment must be a predetermined amount that does not change based on the number of days or hours actually worked, if the employer wishes to enjoy the FLSA’s exemptions to paying its day-rate workers overtime.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Will Consider Helix Day Rate Pay Case

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

On June 12, 2021, a federal judge sitting in the Southern District of Texas held that Houston Methodist Hospital could require its employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, dismissing the lawsuit brought by 117 plaintiffs who protested the requirement.  See Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital, No. 4:21-cv-01774 (S.D. Tex. June 12, 2021).  This opinion marks the first federal ruling on the topic of vaccine mandates, serving as an early indication of how courts may respond to the legal considerations involved in employers’ attempts to have their employees return safely to the office amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Mandatory Vaccination Requirement

The legal landscape for defining “employers,” “employees,” and “independent contractors” can be quite dynamic, as this past year has illustrated. In January 2021, the Department of Labor issued an employer-friendly independent contractor rule that would have departed from the agency’s typical balancing test, but it formally withdrew this rule in early May with the change in administration. The DOL’s independent contractor rule is intended to provide guidance to employers when determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. For employers, this is an important distinction because the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage protections apply only to employees, not independent contractors. Because courts and employers sometimes struggle to find this line using the economic realities test and its iterations, the Trump-era independent contractor rule aimed to provide a clearer definition of “employee,” as opposed to “contractor.” The DOL has not yet proposed a new independent contractor test, but employers should be mindful that the Biden administration may potentially announce a new rule on this topic.
Continue Reading Recent Shifts In The Independent Contractor v. Employee Classification Rules

Covid-19 has left employers who want their employees back in the office in a difficult position. With the pandemic still raging, many employees are fearful of returning to the office with unvaccinated peers. In order to ease their employees’ concerns and provide a safe work environment, some employers are offering incentives to get vaccinated.
Continue Reading Legal Considerations of Employer-Provided Covid-19 Vaccine Incentives