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The “minimum wage” is the minimum hourly wage that an employer must pay to a covered nonexempt employee for work, and is set by federal, state, and local law. The current federal minimum wage, which was set in 2009 under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), is $7.25/hour. States are able to set their own minimum wages, independent of the federal government’s $7.25/hour, and frequently set that number at a higher rate than the federal…
Some employers operate under the assumption that “at-will” employment means that an employee does not have to be given any reason for termination of his or her employment. However, that theory may allow an employee to overcome an employer’s motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit, since in order to overcome such a motion, a plaintiff simply has to set forth facts sufficient to state a “plausible” claim for relief. That standard means that a plaintiff…
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities, including allowing modified work schedules when appropriate. One federal appellate court has addressed that issue, overlaid with the question of accommodating an employee’s postpartum depression after FMLA leave, and has held that a lower court wrongly concluded that full-time presence was an essential function of the employee’s position. Hostettler v. College of Wooster, 6th Cit., No. 17-3406, July 17, 2018. Heidi…
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became effective on May 25, 2018. Companies have been working to understand the significance of those new rules, and to determine their effect on US companies. The purpose of the GDPR is to harmonize certain data privacy laws within the European Union (including the UK, for now). But it also covers businesses outside of the EU to the extent that those businesses sell goods or services –…
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issues guidance to employers and individuals through Opinion Letters, Ruling Letters, Administrator Interpretations, and Field Assistance Bulletins. An “Opinion Letter” is an official written opinion by WHD of how a particular law that WHD enforces applies in specific circumstances presented by an employer, employee, or other entity requesting the opinion. In 2010, the DOL abandoned the use of Opinion Letters, and Administrative Interpretations…
The right to communicate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is protected by federal law. In fact, the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan identifies, as one of its six enforcement priorities, “preserving access to the legal system.” Recently, one employer learned that a letter from its in-house attorney to its workforce may be viewed as violating federal law  by “chilling” employees’ willingness to file discrimination claims. In September 2015, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in…
Is additional time off after a leave of absence a “reasonable” accommodation? The answer is unclear, and usually is “It depends.” Federal courts recently have disagreed with each other on the issue, and the question has received continued and increasing attention after the EEOC’s 2016 Guidance on medical leaves under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the shadow of that question is a more critical – and often overlooked – issue: the way in which an employee’s…
Does Title VII’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protect nursing mothers against post-pregnancy workplace discrimination? One federal court – the 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals – recently gave a resounding “Yes” to that question. Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 11th Cir., No. 16-13003, September 7, 2017. (With that decision, the Eleventh Circuit becomes the second federal appellate court to answer that question in the affirmative, with the Fifth Circuit having done so in…
Can an employer’s perceived preferential treatment of an alleged rapist create a hostile work environment for the female employee who reported the rape? The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a jury should determine the answer to that question. Fuller v. Idaho Dept. of Corrections, 9th Cir., No. 14-36110, July 31, 2017. On August 22, 2011, Cynthia Fuller, an employee of the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) was raped outside of…
After being sued for race discrimination, an employer/company filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that a single use of the n-word was not sufficient to state a claim for hostile work environment. The lower court agreed and dismissed the case. But in a decision of which employers should be aware, the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, clarifying the applicable standard for reviewing a hostile work environment claim.…